This year the annual review of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) focuses on how it does its work; the skills and activity making the ISS as effective as it is.
It starts with a corps of dedicated staff, predominantly African and based on the continent. “Our staff are skilled and committed to human security,” is how Anton du Plessis, ISS Executive Director, describes it.
The working experience of ISS staff is directly relevant to their roles. ISS training of police for peace operations is by former officers who led police on African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) missions. Bomb disposal training is by seasoned officers schooled in real terrorism incidents. This is how the ISS passes on skills and experience to officials across the continent.
“We’re not academics trying to match theory with security challenges,” noted Jakkie Cilliers, ISS founder and Chair of the ISS Board of Trustees. “We understand the continent from our direct experience and bring a working knowledge of conditions on the ground”.
Another key factor in the ISS approach is building long-term partnerships. “The ISS doesn’t offer occasional advice from afar. We are here for the long term. When ISS develops strategies for police and prosecutors, the staff stay involved and make sure things are working,” according to Du Plessis.
The ISS brings an African perspective to global debates about terrorism, migration and development. It is a trusted source making Africa accessible through public seminars and private briefings.
These help decision makers and the public interpret developments on issues as diverse as the International Criminal Court, maritime security and weapons of mass destruction.
“The ISS is able to shine a light on how Africa works,” said Said Djinnit, president of the ISS Advisory Council. This is because ISS staff invest in relationships at the highest levels of the UN and the AU and in national governments.
“We spend time building connections across Africa. We understand the complexities and approach problems in a constructive way. The ISS is a working part of Africa’s security ecosystem,” according to Du Plessis.
ISS insights are distributed through digital and social media. “The ISS features in hundreds of radio discussions and news reports every year, helping to educate the public and encourage accountability among our leaders,” Djinnit said.
The findings of unique empirical research enable the ISS to correct misperceptions and steer strategies on migration and radicalisation.
“We propose solutions based on informed analysis reviewed by our peers,” Cilliers said.
Collaboration is core to ISS success. “We can’t improve human security on our own. The ISS works well with others in the common interests of Africa,” is how Du Plessis described this aspect of the Pretoria-headquartered think-tank.