Mapping Early Warning and Early Response Systems in one Nigerian State

By Tim Receveur & Helena Puig Larrauri (published May 20, 2015)

Anyone who follows events in Nigeria understands that the conflict environment is complex. Extremist violence affects the northeastern part of the country and increasingly the Middle Belt as well. In the Niger Delta, conflict dynamics are complicated by economic interests and community demands related to oil extraction. Across Nigeria, inter-communal conflicts are fueled by access to resources and complicated by issues of ethnic or religious identity.

With these difficult issues at play, Build Up and PeaceTech Lab partnered on two workshops with participants from Jos, Nigeria (Plateau State) last summer to identify gaps in existing early warning and early response (EWER) systems and to look for potential entry points to support groups working in this area.

An Imam received a call from an Emir who had taken in a local Chief being threatened by a neighboring community. The Emir tried to call security to escort and protect the Chief but was not getting a response. The Imam called security who went out to help the Emir. — Story from EW/ER organization in Plateau State, Nigeria

Why Plateau State? Much of the data collection for early warning databases focuses on a few critical geographic areas: Plateau State and the Niger Delta. Although we have found that the databases that do exist are not clearly connected to early responders. The workshops focused on trying to establish reasons and find opportunities to improve that connection.

The first event included early responders and mediators who helped us better understand the information they receive and how it informs their actions and decision-making. The second workshop focused on practitioners working on conflict data and technology. This session looked at the data they provide, its sources, gaps or overlaps in the EWER environment, and new technology tools for data collection, visualization and dissemination.

We found that numerous local and international groups currently track violence and implement early response to conflict in Nigeria. Many of these groups are starting to use new technologies like crisis mapping to visualize how violence unfolds. However, a number of logistical, technical and strategic challenges limit the impact of these efforts.

Here’s a full report on the outcome of the workshops. It features these five recommendations for improving and strengthening EWER for conflict prevention, management and resolution in Plateau State:

  1. Enhance horizontal coordination of EWER actors on verification — There is a clear need for horizontal coordination of data collection and response between actors working in early warning and early response at the local level in Plateau State as well as vertical coordination with State authorities and bodies.
  2. Support technology design for key EWER actors — Support to design the right technology could be combined with a review of data quality and analysis training that would ensure any new system can adequately support the operational needs of early responders.
  3. Support a pilot system that utilizes perceptions data — Piloting a system that utilizes perceptions data to make recommendations for prevention activities could provide proof of concept for this approach, making it easier to integrate it into existing EWER activities.
  4. Support a pilot system that focuses on farmer-pastoralist disputes — A pilot system that uses simple technology to enhance community response to farmer-pastoralist disputes could be an important addition to the Plateau State EWER information ecosystem.
  5. Build capacity of EWER actors to undertake basic trend analysis — A short group training introducing a few basic technology tools and analysis techniques could significantly enhance the work of these EWER actors.

The recommendations are a logical starting point for anyone considering implementing EWER in Nigeria, and building upon the important work that has already begun. We’d like to extend our deepest thanks to Mercy Corps for hosting us and making the workshops possible.

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