Police Reforms in South Asia - Creating demand for democratic policing
Empowering the citizenry to demand better policing as a matter of right is a daunting challenge for civil society working in the field of police reforms. Changing laws dating back to the late 19th century requires sustained efforts.
The Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) recently concluded a three years partnership with the European Union (EU) on police reforms in South Asia. The implementing partners have been: Bangladesh Legal Aid & Services Trust (Bangladesh), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India), Centre for Peace & Development Initiatives and Individualland (Pakistan) and Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN). They embarked on the project with the objective of building capacity of civil society and human rights mechanisms while, at the same time, engaging with the police to demand for and bring about institutional change.
In India, also digital technology enabled an increase in awareness on better policing through cinematic slides presentation at the movie theatres and amongst students. The Virtual Police Station, a first-of-its kind training tool, has been created painstakingly in cooperation with the police. The unique tool allows the audience - be it a constable or a member of public - to acquaint themselves to procedures of arrest, detention, registration of complaints etc. Police academies in India are looking at formally adopt this training tool into their curricula. Efforts are also on in Pakistan to emulate this model of training.
One of the successes of the program has been the outreach to various stakeholders, be they from civil society, politicians, academia, legal experts, youth, and media. Key publications, some of which dealing with topics not published before a regional report on women in policing, an empirical crime victimization survey, a mapping study of police stations on resources and budgetary allocation from the State, to give you just the most important themes.
Importantly, the project allowed the partners to not only work within the national boundaries of their countries but also to reach out an share experiences and best practices: “We believe that rule of law is the underpinning factor to ensure human rights. We will continue to support partners on police reforms in South Asia” said Dona John, Programme Executive at the Regional Office who spearheaded this ground breaking project.