Security Sector Reform & Governance: Key Debates & Implementation Challenges
According to the International Peace Academy, "Both policy and academic debates face a common problem: how to define development and security, which are broad and elusive concepts. Development has multiple dimensions from human rights to environmental sustainability, from economic growth to governance. Similarly, the concept of security has gradually expanded from state security to human security and now includes a range of military as well as non-military threats that recognize no borders. This naturally leads to a dilemma: What should be integrated with what? As a result, there is a panoply of theory, policy, and practice on the interplay between security and development."1
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) guidelines provide a general framework for understanding SSR, the concept of SSR they outline is hardly universally embraced. The main problem is that the document is tailored to development donors, and thus rather evidently leaves out the perspective of the stakeholders. Despite mentioning concepts such as local ownership, the document portrays SSR as an activity that needs to be done rather than as an interactive partnership between stakeholders and donors.
The second problem is that aside from development issues, the military, law enforcement, and justice aspect of SSR are simply not elaborated. Therefore, it is questionable to what extent the approach can be 'holistic,' irrespective of calls for a 'whole-of-government approach.' The third problem is related to bridging the policy-to-practice gap. At present, the guidelines do not provide any operational guidance on how to plan SSR activities from start to finish.2
SSR requires effective sequencing and identification of priorities relevant to the country. Yet, as Michael Brzoska and Andreas Heinemann-Grüder note, "While much has lately been produced in terms of suggestions for instruments and policies of security sector reconstruction and reform, there is still very little knowledge about the effects of priorities and sequencing in particular constellations." In most cases, the development of SSR activities will take place concurrently, with different priorities throughout the reform process. In addition, little effort has been made to collect data from past practices and to come up with more coherent standardized practices.
Armed actors may continue to use violence irrespective of a peace settlement or ceasefire. Heiner Hänggi and Vincenza Scherrer point out that there has been a lack of SSR strategy in United Nations (UN) field missions and from headquarters. SSR strategies tend to evolve on an ad hoc basis within the field mission and without much guidance from headquarters.3 For instance, the UN disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and SSR unit in Burundi developed its own mission-specific understanding of the process from the outset of its mission. In contrast, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kosovo, the UN's SSR strategy was developed toward the later stages of the mission.4 The absence of a cohesive and clear SSR strategy has often led to duplication of work and a lack of coordination among the various actors and organizations (e.g., in Bosnia).
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Smaller projects related to collecting small arms and light weapons (SALW) and police reform have contributed to short-term gains in the security situation; however, the climate for reform in Cambodia has been extremely weak.5 A similar situation developed in East Timor when external donors attempted to replicate SSR activities in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina there without actually taking the security needs of the state into consideration.
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To help make analyzing post-conflict environments somewhat more manageable, several analysts and policy makers have proposed a variety of approaches. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini and Camille Pampell Conaway suggest a quasi-structural framework in which SSR can be conceived in terms of political, institutional, economic, and societal categories.6 Herbert Wulf articulates a scale in which he identifies seven categories of states where the potential for SSR ranges from "impossible" (e.g., countries at war) to "major" (societies in transition to peace and post-conflict societies).7 The UN Development Programme (UNDP), in 2001 to 2002, proposed that countries should be assessed according to their position along the conflict continuum. Finally, Nicole Ball proposes a contextual approach based on seven categories (political, psycho-social, normative, economic, institutional, societal, and geopolitical).8
It remains to be seen which methodological approach will be more pervasive. While the general tendency has been to avoid strict methodological guidelines to enable SSR activities to be tailored to local circumstances, the lack of any concrete operational guidance has had adverse effects at the field level.
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[Back to Top] 10 SSR programs are initiated and funded by donor states or multilateral organizations that generally also provide the bulk of implementation expertise and, more often than not, the political pressure to mobilize and move the process forward. SSR experts Alan Bryden, Timothy Donais, and Heiner Hänggi assert, "Given this reality, the natural tendency is for external actors to promote their own reform models, which rarely fit neatly with the prevailing political and cultural circumstances of the reforming state. In practice, however, externally-generated reform prescriptions inevitably collide with the unique 'framing conditions' present in each post-conflict context, which can include the extent to which the conflict continues (through non-military means) in the post-war period, the nature of the pre-conflict security sector, and the relative strength of inclusive, pro-reform political forces within the domestic political sphere. In most cases, these conditions impose real limits on the scope, speed, and depth of SSR, and limit the willingness of local political actors to support such initiatives."11
The tensions between the perception of external imposition and the desire for local ownership are fraught with difficulties. The notion of 'security' differs in various groups. Security as understood by most development donors is grounded in western norms and values, and is often different from security as conceived in other non-western cultural contexts. Therefore, the goal of how to go about achieving 'security' in post-conflict environments when the objectives may be divergent or contradictory remains a complex issue.
In some cases, local actors consider international actors unaccountable for their actions or decisions, particularly to the local population. In contrast, local authorities may be either incapable or ineffective in responding to security threats because of their ties with specific constituencies. Many donors point out that in situations where the state has collapsed or is in transition, local leadership is difficult to identify and legitimacy is uncertain, making local ownership a complex issue. Some international actors feel that allowing local ownership at the initial stages of SSR can cause a 'political trap' that may lead to inertia.12
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[Back to Top] Herbert Wulf poses the questions: To what extent is cooperation for reform possible with the former military responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, and can cooperation in the judicial sector with Islamic fundamentalists work?13 In some cases, cooperation may not be possible if, at a minimum, the recipients do not consider democratic control of the security sector a desirable outcome of the process.
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In countries such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Sierra Leone, fiscal sustainability and the provision of adequate security cannot be achieved simultaneously. Scarce national resources often lead to the under-provision of security. Furthermore, the foundations for reforming or rebuilding the security sector in post-conflict environments are determined largely by the political settlement and subsequent transitional arrangements. At times, force establishment decisions gain political buy-in prior to any assessment of the implications of their costs. Thus, agreed-upon political commitments can be financially unattainable, causing mid-course and ad hoc downward revisions.
In Sierra Leone, for instance, army forces were decreased from 17,000 to 10,500 troops, and further cuts are expected to 8,500 troops in the medium term. Some analysts argue that the ad hoc approach to planning yields unrealistic projections that divert limited financial resources from other development priorities.15
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Otwin Marenin notes, "At the beginning the goal is to disengage non-state actors from the security field and at the later stages the issue is how to re-articulate non-state actors back into a cohesive and comprehensive national security sector and police reform strategy and process. For one, non-state actors will continue to exist and be available for work in the security field and, secondly, non-state actors are a basic element in rethinking forms and models of policing, such as community based policing. What is likely to happen is that the non-state actors who will be asked and expected to participate in the more mature stages of reform, as regular policing capacities and dynamics kick in, will be the same people who were threats to security at the beginning stages. Reform, as related to non-state actors, hence should set in motion a process which de- and re-articulates non-state actors from formal institutions of policing rather than a process which leaves non-state security actors out in the cold (or, more properly in most cases, out in the heat)."16
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Private security companies (PSCs) are a specific type of non-state actor that occupies arguably a controversial place in conflict and post-conflict environments. On one hand, the danger of sub-contracting security provisions to PSCs is that the move can off-set the long-term SSR process by ignoring the need to build capacity of the domestic security forces. On the other hand, PSCs can contribute to bringing in resources and expertise in the short term, which can be valuable in stabilizing a country (although in Iraq, PSCs have contributed to enclaves of insecurity).
External donors and local governments have increasingly relied on outsourcing some External donors and local governments have increasingly relied on outsourcing some or all SSR activities to the private sector. Management consulting firms can often operate with more flexibility than governments or international organizations. In addition, the use of contractors permits the employment of external military or police expertise without tapping into overcommitted and precious resources of the national army or police service.
At this time, the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID) is the only main development agency that relies on management consultants to coordinate and run its reform programs. For example, in the Balkans, consulting companies contracted by the UK governments conflict prevention pool led a program to reform the security and justice sector of five countries. None of the national and multinational organizations that has used private sector services has commissioned a study to analyze the impact and effects of private sector services on SSR activities.18
In September 2008, 17 states and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) finalized the Montreux Document on Pertinent International Legal Obligations and Good Practices for States related to Operations of Private Military and Security Companies during Armed Conflict, a text containing rules and good practices relating to private military and security companies operating in armed conflict. The initiative for this document, which is the first of its kind, was launched jointly by the government of Switzerland and ICRC in 2006.19
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In the post-conflict environment, CSO are lacking and, when they do voice challenges to state policies, they are often perceived as a threat. In addition, CSOs often become dependent on external donor funding and tend to reflect donor agendas and priorities that do not necessarily reflect the interests of their constituents.20
For a number of reasons, CSOs are sometimes not perceived as legitimate actors in the field of national security. As Nicole Ball notes, "The first is the lack of expertise in security matters that can be seen in many countries around the world, including [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries. Additionally, civil society actors frequently lack the confidence in their ability to engage with representatives of the security institutions on an equal footing. Both of these are in large part a legacy of years of authoritarian, non-democratic rule that have made security off-limits not only to civil society actors but also to many within government who should have been involved in the development and implementation of security policies. Civil society's efforts to build capacity are growing and bearing fruit; nonetheless, capacity remains thin. At the same time, there often is capacity within countries that is not being tapped."21 Go to Democracy & Governance: Civil Society
[Back to Top] 22 For example, women's organizations provide shelter and support to female and male victims of torture and domestic or sexual violence. Often these organizations have a more detailed understanding of the security needs of individuals and communities. They also serve as crucial bridges between local communities and security institutions.23
At the same time, gender roles undergo massive changes during conflict, with men and women taking on new responsibilities and opportunities. In the post-conflict environment, there is often pressure to return to traditional gender roles. However, opportunities can open the space for a call for the greater involvement of women in public life.24 For instance, following pressure from the Nicaraguan womens movement in the 1990s, women have been integrated in the modernization of the national police force of Nicaragua through special initiatives backed by the German development organization GTZ. Approximately 26 percent of Nicaraguan police officers are now women. Nicaragua's modernization program has also set an example for other state institutions, and the reforms have helped the police gain legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of local communities.25
In addition, the UN and Liberian officials hoped that a 103-strong all-female Indian peacekeeping unit policing Monrovia would encourage Liberian women to join the police force. Indeed, the Liberian National Police Force received three times as many women applicants in the month following their deployment.26
According to OECD DAC, "Two complementary strategies can be used to integrate gender issues"the particular needs and roles of men, women, boys and girls"into SSR and security institutions: gender mainstreaming and promoting the equal participation of men and women. These strategies can be applied both to the SSR process itself (e.g. by ensuring gender training for personnel responsible for SSR policy and planning) and to the institutions undergoing SSR (e.g. by including gender training for new recruits as part of a police reform process)."27
Go to DDR: Key Debates and Implementation Challenges: A lack of understanding of the experience of women and girls in DDR processes and Psycho-social Recovery: Empowerment of Under-represented Groups
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Yet, no operational blueprint is available to help actors plan SSR activities. Alan Bryden, Timothy Donais, and Heiner Hänggi posit, "Pursuing these linkages in policy and programming terms is essential in order to address the consequences of coordination and cooperation problems, as well as to inform priority-setting in current and future interventions. For example, decisions on demobilisation of former combatants will have a significant impact on the parameters for security sector reconstruction so the composition and numbers of the different post-conflict security forces would be best dealt with at the outset of DDR activities rather than later. Clearing schools of landmines is only meaningful if teachers have been trained and are ready to take up their duties. A key issue of sequencing concerns the question of when to hand over responsibility to local actors. There are no fixed answers to this question but the tendency to date has been to hand over responsibility too soon as part of a politically driven exit strategy rather than a planned transfer based on a clear assessment of the governance capacities of the state in question by the international community."29
This does not mean, however, that peace and justice should not be pursued side by side, if at all possible. According to Marenin, "The argument sometimes made by reformers and local actors, that justice or due process or concern for human rights and fair treatment needs to be placed on the backburner, at least temporarily, while effective, harsh and draconian solutions to insecurity are being pursued, that argument is misleading in any case. Security and justice are not a zero sum game. It is just as easily argued that effective policing requires fair policing to be sustained, an argument that is supported by empirical evidence."30
In terms of justice and rule of law, the focus of SSR has been on writing constitutions, reforming laws and penal and criminal codes, and strengthening institutions through training, assistance, and mentoring programs. Yet, a vital problem in SSR involves the implementation of new laws, norms, and values. Changing attitudes toward the acceptance of reform usually takes some time.
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The concept of measurement is poor, if not absent, in SSR. In general, there is a distinct lack of understanding of the impact of the reform activities implemented, what is being achieved, and whether these reforms are effective. This has been most evident in the area of policing, where there are no reliable metrics to get a handle on whether the activities are progressing toward the creation of an efficient and institutionally robust police force.
In their study of police reform, Ylber Bajraktari, Arthur Boutellis, Fatema Gunja, Daniel Harris, James Kapsis, Eva Kaye, and Jane Rhee note, "Part of the problem lies in the fact that missions often substitute quantitative output measures as their objectives. For instance, establishing internal security through the development of local police services is a key outcome in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and Timor-Leste. However, donors have been measuring internal security by the number of police officers trained and the number of uniforms and equipment issued instead of measuring the quality of the training, improvements in security, or the effectiveness of the new police in controlling crime and violence. . . . In Kosovo, initial measurements of progress on police reforms have largely been concerned with quantitative outputs such as the number and composition of officers trained, deployed, promoted, and retained and the number of police stations and regional commands transferred to local authority. To measure progress towards outcomes, UNMIK [United Nations Mission in Kosovo] relies on proxy criteria such as crime data and public opinion polls. While crime statistics are collected meticulously, it is difficult to discern which crime rate trends have been affected by the performance of the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) and which by the performance of UNPOL [United Nations Police], which retains executive authority in Kosovo."32
1. International Peace Academy, The Security-Development Nexus: Research Findings and Policy Implications (New York: International Peace Academy, 2006), 2.
2. Sean McFate, Securing the Future (Washington, DC: USIP, 2008), 8.
3. Heiner Hänggi and Vincenza Scherrer, Towards a Common UN Approach to Security Sector Reform: Lessons Learned from Integrated Missions (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), 2007), 22.
5. Dipanker Banerjee and Mallika Joseph, "Security System Reform in Asia-Pacific," in Security System Reform and Governance (Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2005), 102.
6. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini and Camille Pampell Conaway, "Security Sector Reform," in Inclusive Security, Sustainable Peace: A Toolkit for Advocacy and Action (London: International Alert/Women Waging Peace, 2007), 32.
7. Herbert Wulf, Security Sector Reform in Developing and Transitional Countries (Berlin: Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management, 2004).
8. Ball, Dilemmas of Security Sector Reform: Response to "Security Sector Reform in Developing and Transitional Countries" (Berlin: Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management, August 2004), 49-51.
9. Dipanker Banerjee and Mallika Joseph, "Security System Reform in Asia-Pacific," in Security Sector Reform and Governance (Paris: OECD, 2005), 61; Dylan Hendrickson and Andrzej Karkoszka, "Security Sector Reform and Donor Policies," in Security Sector Reform and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, eds. Albrecht Schnabel and Hans-Georg Ehrhart (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2005), 35.
10. The South Africa SSR program stands out because of the sheer comprehensiveness of the reforms implemented within a highly participatory process and a low level of external involvement. See, Dylan Hendrickson, "Overview of Regional Survey Findings and Policy Implications for Donors," in Security System Reform and Governance (Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2005).
11. Alan Bryden, Timothy Donais, and Heiner Hänggi, Shaping a Security Governance Agenda in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, November 2005), 9.
12. Ibid., 5-6.
13. Ibid., 9; Wulf, Security Sector Reform in Developing and Transitional Countries, 20.
14. Peter Middlebrook and Gordon Peake, Right-Financing Security Sector Reform (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute, February 2008).
16. Otwin Marenin, Restoring Policing Systems in Conflict Torn Nations: Process, Problems, Prospects (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, June 2005), 65.
17. Bryden, Donais, and Hänggi, Shaping a Security Governance Agenda in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding,11-12.
18. Francesco Mancini, In Good Company? The Role of Business in Security Sector Reform (London: Demos, 2005).
19.Swiss Initiative, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, "Swiss Initiative on Private Military and Security Companies."
20. Marina Caparini, "Enabling Civil Society in Security Sector Reconstruction," in Security Governance in Post-Conflict Peace-Building,ed. Alan Bryden and Heiner Hänggi (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, 2005).
21. Nicole Ball, "Civil Society, Good Governance, and the Security Sector," in Civil Society and the Security Sector, ed. Marina Caparini, Philipp Fluri, and Ferenc Molnar (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, 2006).
22. OECD DAC, Security System Reform and Governance, 18.
23. Kristin Valasek, "Security Sector Reform and Gender," in Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit, ed. Megan Bastick and Kristin Valasek (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces/Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights/United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, 2008), 6.
24. Ibid., 6.
25. Ibid., 5.
26. Ibid., 8.
27. Ibid., 4.
28. Marenin, Restoring Policing Systems, 62.
29. Bryden, Donais, and Hänggi, Shaping a Security Governance Agenda, 6-7.
30. Marenin, Restoring Policing Systems, 64.
31. OECD DAC, Security System Reform and Governance, 59-60.
32. Ylber Bajraktari, Arthur Boutellis, Fatema Gunja, Daniel Harris, James Kapsis, Eva Kaye, and Jane Rhee, "The PRIME System: Measuring the Success of Post-Conflict Police Reform," report prepared for the United Nations Police (January 2006), 14-15.