Sustainability

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One of the ways the success of SSR programmes can be measured is based on whether the principles of good governance of the security sector are likely to be respected beyond the timeline of the projects and programmes. Envisioning and implementing this sustainability remains a major challenge for SSR practitioners and donors. There are countless examples of projects and programmes that have not survived once donor assistance has come to an end. In this article we mention lessons and examples of what works to help set the conditions for future security and justice sector reform to become and remain sustainable. The level of applicability and value of these lessons depend of course on the context. 

Lesson 1 – Work towards a nationally and locally owned process.

Lesson 2 – Incorporate principles of good governance to reinforce sustainability.

Lesson 3 –Build in mechanisms for flexibility and continuous revision to help the programme stay connected to the real situation on the ground.

Lesson 4 – Understand politics as an enduring dimension of SSR.

Lesson 5 – Consider time to work as one of the primary enablers.

Lesson 6 - Link programmes to (longer term) in-country strategies.

Lesson 7 – Make SSR programmes gender responsive and inclusive.

Lesson 8 – Re-establish contact and build trust between state and non-state actors.

Lesson 9 – Establish support for SSR programmes in the donor country.

Lesson 10 - Develop proper handover and exit strategies of programmes, as well as outcome indicators that focus on systemic and behavioural change.

Lesson 1 –Work towards a nationally and locally owned process.

There are no blueprints; contexts differ in place and time. Understanding the challenges and difficulties in detail and being capable of thoroughly analysing the changes over time and the consequences of events is impossible for an outsider. What works elsewhere is not necessarily productive in another context. More than that: home-grown solutions are more credible, more legitimate and are likely to receive more local support. These local initiatives will most likely be easier to be handled and managed by the concerned parties than ”imported” and (partly) unknown approaches which come from abroad.

Special attention should be given to non-state actors, especially forms of traditional ways to provide justice and security. Although incorporating the traditional institutions in to a more formal system is a difficult endeavour, it should be done where these institutions are considered legitimate in the eyes of the people while state actors are not.

Examples

Lesson 2 – Incorporate principles of good governance to reinforce sustainability.

Changing the justice and security sector is all about changing attitudes and behaviour of all concerned parties, state and non-state. SSR is about another way of dealing with the provision of justice and security in a way that respects internationally agreed principles of good governance. The primary principles of good governance concern: rule of law, human rights, inclusiveness, accountability, integrity, responsibility and capacity. The growing development of these principles is what SSR aims at.

Being able to convince the members of the security sector that respecting the above stated principles is a necessity, and an obligation, will lead to behavioural change. A change in behaviour and attitude means the SSR process has arrived at a certain level of sustainability. Parties and individuals who are convinced that this change is necessary and important will most likely continue dealing in this new way after the donor assistance has come to an end.

SSR programmes which only deal with “train, build and equip”, without introducing issues like rule of law, responsibility, and integrity, will not easily contribute to lasting changes. So the normative part of SSR is necessary in order to be able to achieve a certain level of sustainability.

Examples

Lesson 3 – Build in mechanisms for flexibility and continuous revision so help programme stay connected to the real situation on the ground.

SSR is a process of change of important parts of society and will therefore not follow a linear development. The context is sufficiently complex that the answers, and indeed the real problems, will not be immediately obvious. It is almost guaranteed that some of the challenges, and some of the solutions, will be unknown or overlooked. Their relevance or importance will occur at a certain moment. Some will occur unexpectedly.

SSR is about discussing principles of good governance and trying to combine these principles of good governance with existing cultural and traditional approaches. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to predict the moment when people will start being convinced. Once people are convinced windows of opportunity for further progress or deeper success might present themselves.

Trying to combine traditional approaches to other principles will lead to results which might not directly fill the need. Almost invariably an iterative process is needed to arrive at the best fit solution.

Not all progress in the process of SSR will be positive. It is very likely there will be setbacks and it will be nearly certain that there will be resistance.

All this means that analysing the process is a continuous process, and that the results of this analysis might require changes to the SSR programme. The more flexible, the more capable of dealing with the situation on the ground, the more credible the programme will be. This flexibility should be managed, to ensure that it does not harm strong supervision of the programme in question.

Not only the contents of the SSR-programme should be flexible but also the management structures of the programme itself. In this way the SSR-programme is able to pay tribute to the growing sentiment and capacity of local and national ownership.

Examples

Lesson 4 – Understand politics as an enduring dimension of SSR.

Putting the means of justice and security into a framework of the rule of law might lead, in certain countries, to reducing the ability of a government to use repressive means. Reinforcing accountability and responsibility will put more pressure on the government.

In fragile or post-conflict settings the justice and security institutions are likely to belong to the power basis of the political elites. Changes within the justice and security system can easily lead to changes of the relationship between the political elites and the justice and security institutions. They will be analysed and monitored closely. As a result all changes within the security and justice sector need political back-up in order to become feasible.

This connection makes it certain that SSR will be, in essence, a political process. In order to increase the sustainability of a SSR-process it is recommended that the SSR-process will not only deal with the issues visible on the surface but also deal with the political heart of the justice and security sector. The political dimension of SSR demands political engagement of all players at all levels.

Examples

Lesson 5 – Consider time to work as one of the primary enablers.

SSR-processes cannot be pushed and there are no shortcuts. The speed of the process is decided upon by the local circumstances only. As said earlier the process is not linear, is likely to meet resistance and or setbacks, is difficult to predict and the process needs to deal with and respect the heart of the society: the existing and traditional norms and values. An iterative learning approach will be required.

Ownership, certainly in fragile or post-conflict settings, needs time to grow. The more capable and willing the local counterparts are, the more responsibilities and tasks can be handed over, and the more the presence of the donor and its influence can be reduced. Reinforcing capacity means not only dealing with reinforcing individual capacities or capacities of groups but also with institutions and beyond.

All this is time consuming. Time should be available in order to respect good practices. This does not mean that time in itself will present the solutions. Time should be seen as an enabler. If programmes do not have adequate time to embed reforms in locally owned processes, then almost invariably they will take shortcuts to achieve the appearance of effective outcomes. However these shortcuts do not respect the speed of local reform processes, which decreases the sustainability of any changes that result.

Capacity building is another time consuming factor. Capacity building goes beyond the training of individuals. It goes beyond training parts of an institution: capacity building includes the inter-institutional coordination and cooperation and the partnership between institutions and civil society. In order to arrive at this level rebuilding trust is needed, which is a completely national process, which speed and progress cannot be forced, only facilitated.

Examples

Lesson 6 – Link programmes to (longer term) in-country strategies.

SSR-programmes, as all development programmes, should be linked to national strategies, in a coordinated way, from the beginning of the programme, and throughout implementation. If these strategies do not exist they need to be elaborated in an inclusive way. Inclusiveness here means including non-state and state actors, government wide and with all layers of the civil society. Inclusive in-country strategies reinforce the legitimacy of the SSR-programme.

Wherever it is possible it is to be preferred to include other donors to coordinate from the start onwards. Including other donors will reinforce the coordination amongst them but might also be a way to interest the other donor to assist the elaboration and execution of the longer-term strategies.

It is important that the longer-term strategies and objectives are in line with the financial and technical capacities of the country concerned in order not to create an unsustainable security sector or security institution.

A long-term national plan needs to be in coherence with the national budget. National financial contribution to the SSR-programme from the beginning onwards or creating budget lines in the national budget is one of the ways to prove the political support and commitment to the SSR-process.

Examples

Lesson 7 – Make SSR programmes gender responsive and inclusive.

Justice and security for all means respecting the diversity of the security and justice needs and challenges of all citizens. The SSR-process needs to deal with the justice and security challenges and needs of state and all citizens in an inclusive and equal way. In this way the SSR-programme will become more and more credible, gain legitimacy and will be trusted. This trust will lead to more openness in communication; which will finally lead to more understanding of the context and security challenges.

It is this inclusiveness and trust that can contribute to the sustainability of programme outcomes. If a broader representation of the community is deeply involved and supportive of the programme outcomes, these outcomes can be maintained through multiple means after the programme activities have ended. Indeed, the broader the representation involved in delivery, the more resilient the programme will be to setbacks during implementation, as it will be better able to demonstrate that it has the consent and support of wider set of stakeholders.

Special attention should be given to guaranteeing that the voice of minorities in people in vulnerable situations is heard. The fact that women and young girls often become victims in a different way than men and boys asks for a gender responsive approach. Taking into account the security and justice needs of women, girls, men and boys is only possible if these groups are heard and are able to participate actively in all phases of the programme cycle and within the entire security and justice sector.

Not only should the contents of the SSR programme but also the team executing the programme reflect a gender balance.

Examples

Lesson 8 – Re-establish contact and build trust between state and non-state actors.

Reinforcing the national capacities goes beyond reinforcing (parts of) the governmental institutions concerned. Reinforcing national capacities also includes the cooperation and communication between institutions and between institutions and the society. Without communication and cooperation of the parties involved within the security sector there is hardly any way the security sector can respond to the security needs of the state and its citizens.

Trust is a precondition for the effectiveness of a programme, and without initial effectiveness there will be no reform to be sustained. Furthermore trust can assist directly in sustainability by ensuring that a relationship is maintained even after the money associated with a programme is no longer a factor. Trust can build a relationship that endures, allowing continued informal discussions on maintaining and continuing the reform effort.  

Trust is needed in order to arrive at the desired level of communication and cooperation. Trust however, might be absent due to the lack of security provision in the past. In order to rebuild trust the parties involved need to be reconnected and versions of ways of working together need to be found which overtime can lead to a normalised situation. This process of reconnection, as said before, is entirely a local process.

Examples

Lesson 9 – Establish support for SSR programmes in the donor country.

The political dimension of SSR-programmes within the donor country is often neglected or underestimated, but this dimension can play an important role in the survival of the SSR-programme itself when negative events occur within the assisted country. The interruption of programmes can have a huge effect on the sustainability of outcomes, as the aims are unlikely to have been met, and there is rarely a well-managed hand over of responsibilities.

SSR-programmes can only be held upright if progress can be showed and the importance of the SSR-programme can be proven. Clear indicators in it can help but the indicators themselves will be very context driven and need to be explained within the entire process of reform of the justice and security sector. Wherever possible the SSR-process should be connected to the better known security and economic challenges of the donor country.

In addition to this the lesson identified reports also highlight the need for headquarters and field harmonisation and dialogue. Since implementation of activities at the local level is very much dependent on leadership from headquarters, effective communication between the two levels will establish good mechanisms of working for reform programmes in recipient countries. This can serve to mitigate risks to programme continuity.

Examples

Lesson 10 - Develop proper handover and exit strategies of programmes, as well as outcome indicators that focus on systemic and behavioural change.

One of the key points of programme sustainability is the quality of the handover of responsibility. It cannot be assumed that any successful component of programme outcomes will be sustained, yet programme regularly fail to consider how their activities will be maintained.

Sustainability should be both planned for in an overall sense, as part of planning for the end of the programme, and also in integration into all implementation efforts. In a general sense, where programme outcomes are intended to be sustainable, staff should be consistently working to a clear understanding of how each aspect is locally owned, with an idea of how the partner organisation will continue to deliver the outcome without programme support. This should be part of the core monitoring of programme effectiveness, such that tracking the continuing effect of delivered programme support is a fundamental component of demonstrating programme success.

Once the programme is approaching the end of its activities, there should be an overall plan for how the responsibilities to maintain outcomes have been embedded into normal operations of the partner organisation. The end of a programme will typically be a significant disruption for the partner, and it is the responsibility of the programme to manage this process to minimise the risk of its successful outcomes rapidly disappearing.

Examples