Safety, security and justice are priorities for citizens and are associated with development outcomes, including the prevention of violent conflict, accountable and effective states, economic growth and service delivery. However, support to security and justice sectors can inadvertently contribute to tensions by exacerbating drivers of conflict, reinforcing patterns of exclusion through unrepresentative reforms, introducing competition over aid resources, challenging vested interests, and building the capacity of security institutions that may prey on communities (Goldwyn, 2013).
In order to avoid this, Goldwyn (2013) advocates conflict sensitivity – in particular the need to determine the potential effects of interventions on command and control and accountability, civilian oversight, and exclusion, and how these could contribute to tensions.
Unintended consequences of police reform in Guatemala
A police development project in Guatemala sought to strengthen recruitment by developing standards for selection. Police authorities chose criteria of minimum height and Spanish literacy, which were not questioned by the designers and implementers of the programme. These standards had the unintended consequences, however, of excluding almost all Mayans, which resulted in an unrepresentative police force, a decline in Mayan access to justice, safety and security, reinforcement of Mayan marginalisation, and increased tensions between communities (Goldwyn, 2013).
Goldwyn, R. (2013). Making the case for conflict sensitivity in security and justice sector reform programming. Care International
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For further discussion on security sector reform, see the GSDRC topic guide on safety, security and justice.