In 2014, Danish Demining Group (DDG) moved to start up programming focusing on border communities in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Tunisia in order to address the trans-national character of armed violence and crime in the Sahel-Sahara Region. As one of the first initiatives under this umbrella, DDG began a border security and management project in July 2014 in the city of Ben Guerdane in Tunisia (located on the border with Libya).
Due to a range of factors, mainly its location near the Libyan border, lack of development, and high unemployment as a consequence of the economic and social marginalization for many years, people in Ben Guerdane took advantage of their proximity to Libya by building close economic ties. Cross-border trade became the main source of income and the youth population was often engaged in these activities.
The context of potential violence in this border area coincided with the deterioration of the political and security situation in Libya. Ben Guerdane has been put under increasing stress as a result of the large flow of people across the border in July and the threat that the conflict in Libya could spread to the communities near the Tunisian border.
During DDG’s initial pilot project addressing the safety and security of communities in this border area, the organisation aims to improve communication channels between the local community, civil society, and security providers through a participatory community-based approach involving all parties in dialogue. This process is designed to identify the root causes of conflict that lead to armed violence and prescribe realistic plans for action. It is hoped that the dialogue and trust fostered in this process can then act as the foundation for the stabilisation of Ben Guerdane.
In the lattar part of 2015, DDG will continue its activities in Ben Guerdane and expand into Dehiba in order to focus on community police dialogue, community safety and conflict management education.
DDG´s parent organisation DRC is also coordinating with the Tunisian government to help support its emergency planning capacity in preparation for possible large influxes of people from Libya (as occurred in 2011).