Security Sector Reform & Governance: Case Studies

East Timor: Integrating former combatants into the national military

The challenge of integrating former combatants into the national military has been exemplified in the case of East Timor. The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) did little in the early stages of its tenure to address the former guerrilla opposition force, the Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL). This neglect created resentment not only among former members of FALINTIL but also among the Timorese leadership and throughout East Timor, as the FALINTIL fighters were much revered by the Timorese public.

When the United Nations (UN) began to address the reintegration of former combatants, it gave full authority to the High Command of the new East Timor Defense Force (F-FDTL) in selecting which former combatants would be recruited into the force and which would participate in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programming. While most were demobilized, this structure caused the process to be highly politicized and resulted in tensions among former members of FALINTIL, as well as within FDTL. Discontented veterans groups have now become a destabilizing force in the country, and F-FDTL also continues to lack discipline and strength. In early 2006, one-third of the defense force mutinied and was subsequently dismissed.

Finally, this instability has had consequences for ongoing efforts to further reform and develop the defense forces. Edward Rees states that "UNTAET and UNMISET's [United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor] efforts to generate donor interest and support for defence force development were ultimately unsuccessful as the donors' [sic] were wary of supporting a potentially politicised defence force, without adequate civilian control, and a publicly articulated defence policy."1

For more information:


Amnesty International. Timor-Leste: Briefing to the Security Council Members on Policing and Security in Timor-Leste. London: Amnesty International, 6 March 2003.

Hood, Ludovic. "Security Sector Reform in East Timor, 1999-2004." International Peacekeeping 13, no. 1 (March 2006): 60-77.

Rees, Edward. Security Sector Reform (SSR) and Peace Operations: 'Improvisation and Confusion' from the Field. Geneva: United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, March 2006.

Yasutomi, Atsushi. "Linking DDR and SSR in Post-Conflict States: Agendas for Effective Security Sector Reintegration." Central European Journal of International and Security Studies 2, no. 1 (2008).


East Timor Ministry of Defense and Security

United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste

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South Africa: Political participation of women in SSR

The strong role that women played in the anti-apartheid movement placed them in a unique position to be key actors in the security sector reform efforts that occurred during South Africas transition to democracy. Women had been involved not only in the peaceful and political protests against the apartheid government but also in the armed resistance forces, including the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), Umkhonto we Sizwe. This experience and expertise, and the position of women as leaders in the ANC, gave women a degree of influence they have enjoyed in few other transitional contexts.

Female politicians insisted that the National Defense Review (carried out from 1996 to 1998) be conducted as a process of nationwide public consultation. Measures were taken to ensure that a diverse set of voices would be heard during this process. Military planes were used to transport representatives of non-governmental and women's organizations, as well as religious and community leaders, to the consultations. The involvement of grassroots women's organizations resulted in a shift of the notion of security from military to human. Women focused attention on often overlooked issues, including the environmental impact of military activities, the seizure of poor people's land by the military, and sexual harassment of women by military personnel. As a result, sub-committees were formed to address these issues.

During the development of a new security sector for South Africa, women participants were united and tenacious in their effort to maintain this focus on human security. Women who had been members of Umkhonto we Sizwe fought, based on their own experiences of harassment, for equal representation, protection, and participation for women in the new South African security structure. Within the Department of Defense, a Gender Focal Point position was created to "monitor and support the implementation of affirmative action and gender-equality policies."2 A Gender Forum was created to implement policies at the lower levels of the Department of Defense.

The case of South Africa not only highlights the role that women can play in transforming the meaning of security and security sector reform but also demonstrates a means of creating significant local ownership and buy-in to the process through consultative means that prioritize and address the real concerns of citizens.

For more information:


Anderlini, Sanam Naraghi. Negotiating the Transition to Democracy and Reforming the Security Sector: The Vital Contributions of South African Women. Washington, DC: Women Waging Peace, August 2004.

Anderlini, Sanam Naraghi, and Camille Pampell Conaway. "Security Sector Reform." In Inclusive Security, Sustainable Peace: A Toolkit for Advocacy and Action, 31-40. London: International Alert/Women Waging Peace, 2007.

Valasek, Kristin. "Security Sector Reform and Gender." In Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit, edited by 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.


Institute for Security Studies: "Gender and Security"

Republic of South Africa Ministry of Defense

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Afghanistan: Ethnic tensions in the Afghan National Army

Afghanistan's security sector reform needs were divided into five pillars, with each assigned to an international donor at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 2002. The United States was put in charge of the military reform pillar, Germany in charge of police reform, Japan in charge of DDR, Italy in charge of judicial reform, and the United Kingdom in command of counter-narcotics activities.

The challenge of creating the Afghan National Army (ANA) highlights the role that ethnic tensions can play in security sector reform (SSR) and the need to pay critical attention to local politics. Ethnic imbalance led to the dominance in the security sector by Panjshiri Tajiks. Tajiks accounted for 90 of 100 generals appointed by the interim administration defense minister and for 50 percent of the recruits enrolled in the ANAs first battalion. Mark Sedra points out that this situation "fed the suspicions of the majority Pashtun population, as well as members of minority groups, that the new army will be used as a tool to solidify and expand Tajik control of the government."3

Part of the challenge lay in the recruitment difficulties faced by a country with virtually no communications infrastructure. Information on recruitment was not widespread and it was often inaccurate. While the ANA struggled to recruit soldiers, former combatants who wished to join were not permitted under the DDR process.

Recognizing the fact that this situation could inflame ethnic tensions and jeopardize the legitimacy of the ANA, the government and international actors have attempted to address this dilemma. Their attempts have included the appointment of four members of under-represented ethnic groups as deputies to the army chief of staff, reforms in the ministry of defense, efforts to have more equal representation, particularly among mid-level officials, and the creation of new recruitment centers around the country.

For more information:


Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan 2000-2005: From Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom: A Joint Evaluation. Denmark: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 2005.

Giustozzi, Antonio. 'Good' State vs. 'Bad' Warlord? A Critique of State-Building Strategies in Afghanistan. London: Crisis States Research Centre, October 2004.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC). OECD DAC Handbook on Security System Reform: Supporting Security and Justice. Paris: OECD, 2007.

Rubin, Barnett R. "Peace Building and State-Building in Afghanistan: Constructing Sovereignty for Whose Security?" Third World Quarterly 27, no. 1 (2006): 175-85.

Sedra, Mark. "Challenging the Warlord Culture: Security Sector Reform in Post-Taliban Afghanistan." Bonn: Bonn International Centre for Conversion, 2002.

Sedra, Mark. "Security First: Afghanistans Security Sector Reform Process." Ploughshares Monitor 24, no. 4 (2003).


Afghan National Army

Afghanistan Watch

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Iraq: Reconstructing a security sector in the face of radicalism

Iraq is a unique case because SSR efforts have had to be carried out with an eye to long-term peacebuilding even while dealing with a violent insurgency and extremist violence from numerous sources. As a result, the usual trade-offs between short-term security and long-term institution building have been amplified in Iraq.

Initial decisions made regarding demobilization of the Iraqi army and a failure to deal with small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein enabled an environment in which radical groups could capitalize on the power and security vacuum. The extended presence of Coalition troops has created an environment in which radical groups can exploit mistreatment or human rights abuses"either by Coalition troops or by the Iraqi security forces they train"to generate support and recruit followers. At certain stages of heightened insecurity in Iraq, radical groups may have seemed a more trustworthy source of protection for some citizens.

Extremist acts that targeted those Iraqis who joined the new security forces also made it more difficult to recruit and train soldiers and police and enable the handover of security from Coalition to Iraqi forces. Without a clear SSR strategy in place at the beginning of the transition period, extremists groups were inadvertently strengthened and challenges for the current and future Iraqi security sector only increased.

That said, Iraq provides a lesson for how SSR can be used as a means of controlling radicalism and extremist violence. Increasing local ownership of the reform process and the security sector itself can prevent extremists from using discontent over outside influence to win supporters. Michael von Tangen Page and Olivia Hamill also point out the need to consider the regional security situation so as to avoid the involvement of groups from outside the country that wish to create further instability--another challenge in Iraq. Finally, Page and Hamill emphasize the need to ground any reform strategy in a 'conflict assessment' that considers the local context and tailors reform efforts to meet the appropriate security needs of the people.

For more information:


Duffield, Mark. "Human Security: Linking Security and Development in an Age of Terror." Paper prepared for the panel, "New Interfaces between Security and Development" at the 11th General Conference of EADI, Bonn, Germany, September 21-24, 2005.

Perito, Robert M. The Coalition Provisional Authoritys Experience with Public Security in Iraq. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, April 2005.

Rathmell, Andrew, Olga Oliker, Terrence K. Kelly, David Brannan, and Keith Crane. Developing Iraqs Security Sector: The Coalition Provisional Authoritys Experience. Santa Monica, CA: RAND National Defense Research Institute, 2005.

Slocombe, Walter B. "Iraqs Special Challenge: Security Sector Reform 'Under Fire.'" In Reform and Reconstruction of the Security Sector, edited by Alan Bryden and Heiner Hänggi. Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, 2004.

Von Tangen Page, Michael, and Olivia Hamill. Security Sector Reform and Its Role in Challenging Radicalism. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies, 2006.


Global Security: "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq"

United Kingdom in Iraq: "Security Sector Reform"

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Nepal: Public perceptions of security forces and rebuilding trust

In Nepal, the army and the police have little credibility as forces of protection for the public. During the years of the monarchy, the security forces were understood to serve the purposes of the king, often at the expense of the safety and security of the people. The security forces were "a mechanism largely mobilized by the state to suppress the civil and political rights of the people and to repress activities of political parties."4 The civil war that ran from 1996 to 2006 only worsened the human rights situation in Nepal. Today, the question of rebuilding public trust in the security forces is central to successful security sector reform in Nepal.

Several steps have been taken to change the orientation of the security forces and improve human rights awareness among police officers and soldiers. The first of these includes efforts to 'de-link' the military from the king and make it accountable instead to parliament. These measures include changing the military oath-taking procedure to declare allegiance to parliament instead of the Crown, and granting the power to appoint the chief of army staff to the prime minister. In addition, women's groups have worked with the army to provide training to senior commanders on international human rights pertaining to the rights of women and children.

In 2004, a steering committee was set up that included representatives from Save the Children and the armed forces police, the general police, and the prime ministers office to oversee the development of a manual for military personnel working in the field and to monitor progress. Human Rights Cells have been established in the Nepal police force, the Nepal Army, the armed police force, and the Ministry of Home Affairs with the objective of supporting increased respect for human rights and the rule of law within these institutions.

These measures must not only focus on awareness building around human rights; they also must provide security sector personnel with alternatives to the means of establishing order to which they have become accustomed. It has been suggested that the police see all citizens as "potential criminals"5 and that they "cannot imagine criminal investigation without torture."6 The question has also been posed whether political elites are hesitant to reform the military"especially with regard to integrating former Maoist guerrillas"because they fear a breakdown of the peace process and wish to be able to call on the army for their own protection.7 These issues must be addressed before the security forces can be said to be providing real security to the Nepali people.

For more information:


Anderlini, Sanam Naraghi, and Camille Pampell Conaway. "Security Sector Reform." In Inclusive Security, Sustainable Peace: A Toolkit for Advocacy and Action, 31-40. London: International Alert/Women Waging Peace, 2007.

Friends for Peace and International Alert. Nepal at a Crossroads: Strengthening Community Security in the Post-Conflict Context. Philadelphia, PA: Friends for Peace/International Alert, July 2007.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC). Security System Reform and Governance. Paris: OECD, 2005.

Saferworld. Policing in Nepal: A Collection of Essays.London: Saferworld, September 2007.


National Human Rights Commission, Nepal

Nepal Army

Nepal Police

WATCHLIST on Children and Armed Conflict, CARE Nepal

1. Edward Rees, Security Sector Reform (SSR) and Peace Operations: 'Improvisation and Confusion' from the Field (Geneva: United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, March 2006), 17.
2. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Negotiating the Transition to Democracy and Reforming the Security Sector: The Vital Contributions of South African Women (Washington, DC: Women Waging Peace, August 2004), 26.
3. Mark Sedra, Challenging the Warlord Culture: Security Sector Reform in Post-Taliban Afghanistan (Bonn: Bonn International Centre for Conversion, 2002), 30.
4. Subodh Raj Pyakurel, "Human Rights and Policing in Nepal," in Policing in Nepal: A Collection of Essays (London: Saferworld, September 2007), 89.
5. Dhruba Kumar, "Police Reform and Military Downsizing," in Policing in Nepal: A Collection of Essays (London: Saferworld, September 2007), 16.
6. Pyakurel, "Human Rights and Policing in Nepal," 91.
7. Kumar, "Police Reform and Military Downsizing," 20.

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