What can be learned from field experiences of Security Sector Reform (SSR) to help improve future SSR implementation? This book is based on research by the International Peace Academy Security-Development Nexus Programme and explores nine case studies. The studies cover foreign countries conducting SSR in other states plus nationally-led programmes and the roles of multi-lateral organisations, multi-lateral development banks and private contractors. Findings suggest two main obstacles to the implementation of SSR programmes: managerial deficiencies and insufficient awareness of the political context in which such programmes are designed and implemented.
SSR in the context of violence and insecurity is a task of daunting managerial complexity, yet the organisations undertaking it lack appropriate structures and capacity. Many international personnel in the field – the link between policy goals and policy achievement – lack the necessary skills. Key findings from the case studies are:
- The implementation of SSR programmes is usually badly managed. Programmes are rarely coordinated and short-term activities are seldom reconciled with long-term goals. As a result, the multiple tasks involved in changing the structure, purpose and practice of a security institution can engulf other reforms in the sector, or the effort of improving basic operational capacity prevents consideration of long-term issues such as the creation of oversight institutions.
- Weak management results in poor communication within the institution carrying out the reform – for example, between headquarters and field personnel. In the cases from Iraq, Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea, policy guidance on SSR either did not exist or was not communicated to practitioners.
- Programmes overestimate the financial and institutional capacity of the institutions concerned, leading to questionable durability. The upkeep of newly reformed institutions is beyond the revenue-generating capacity of most host countries, and few have the necessary personnel.
- International support is too state-centric; it focuses on building the capacity of formal institutions even when the informal sector enjoys greater authority and legitimacy.
Organisations designing and implementing SSR must be better organised themselves if they are to improve, let alone reform, indigenous management practices. In addition, political context must inform programme design and implementation.
- Donors must address organisational issues and flawed communications practice such as: high personnel turnover resulting in the loss of information; and the presentation of advice by staff at headquarters as non-specific and unrelated to the practical challenges of fieldwork.
- Context must be considered so as to help address: the resistance to reform within security institutions; the insufficient attention given by donors to non-state actors in security provision; and the overly-ambitious nature (largely prompted by short-term donor cycles) of international attempts to use SSR as a conflict-management tool.
- Field practice should be meaningfully evaluated and measured. The measures used should focus on impact, not just outputs, so as to enable cost/benefit analysis.
- Policymakers must consider financial and institutional sustainability.
- The case of UK-led SSR in Sierra Leone, where reform has not led to the achievement of broader development goals, raises the question of whether SSR can presage wider economic, political and social improvement.
- Implementing agencies must be highly flexible in transitioning from one type of SSR programme to another and responsive to changing political realities within recipient countries.