20/06/2012 12:11 pm
Heated debates on the coexistence of Rule of Law (RoL) promotion and SSR have filled academic journals and flummoxed practitioners. No doubt, most visitors to this site will have, at one point or another, felt compelled to discuss the matter with a passion typically reserved for football rivalries. Despite the rather colourful spirit of the arguments, there may be some darker implications of this debate’s trajectory.
As a recent Clingendael policy brief describes, RoL promotion and SSR have a fitful yet indissoluble relationship. Both aim to support building an effective and accountable state system, capable of providing security and justice. In practice, each programme offers particular competences in engaging with functions and components necessary for advancing that mutual objective. However, carving out where these programmes overlap, diverge or conflict is becoming a futile and endless controversy. What is more, the debate implicitly assumes that hard and fast borders between RoL promotion and SSR ‘territories’ can -and should- be trenched.
The reflex for donors and experts has been to focus on divisions of labour. It is easy to see why this approach would be attractive. Designating lead agencies helps ensure a lucid programme vision. Assigning specific sectors to different actors is a comfortably technical measure that promotes efficient decision-making and organisational clarity. All of this is helpful for alleviating tensions between actors and responding to urgent situations. This approach would be sufficient, even compelling, if the ultimate goal were to develop rigidly defined and well-organised donor structures. But, it is not. The real aim lies beyond donor architecture. Now let’s consider the risks the division of labour response presents.
Firstly, the trend in differentiating between RoL promotion and SSR steers attention away from important discussions of the fundamental linkages between the two. The chanting masses at Tahrir square and the rogue militias in the DRC showcase some precarious scenarios of providing technical support without due attention for inclusive politics and accountable leadership. On the other side of the coin, recent upsets in Tunisia and Mali sharply remind us that political progress must be shored up by capable state institutions. Beyond efforts to avoid duplication, there is need for better understanding of how RoL promotion and SSR can –and should- reinforce one another.
There is also great potential for activities of one programme to open up entry points for the other. Efforts to bolster the legitimacy and efficacy of the court system was prioritised by the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo. Progress made in the judiciary has both benefitted from and led to additional investments in policing capacities, like witness protection and forensic investigation. The course of the current debate, and the response from donors – to demarcate territories of RoL promotion and SSR – detract from recognising potentially beneficial connections.
Secondly, working from a division of labour premise can obstruct efforts to tailor programming to local needs. The divvying up of security, justice and RoL promotion is underwritten by bureaucratic and institutional mechanisms. Funding is often based on an agency’s relevance to either programme, prompting actors to perversely compete for those ‘territories’ of reform. This encourages agencies to focus inwardly on their particular set of tools and assert the added value of their specific programme. Here, the risk of supply-driven reform looms, threatening to undermine context-guided programming.
Neither RoL promotion nor SSR, to date, has proven singularly capable of addressing the range of dynamic and interrelated issues found in local contexts. Setting RoL promotion and SSR agencies at odds, and incentivising them to promote their work over that of the other, works against aligning their respective contributions. Addressing a breadth of local issues requires agencies of each programme to, in a sense, “get over yourself” and invest in strengthening links with its counterpart. This is the direction we should all encourage the debate to turn.
Monday 02 July 2012 12:05:49 pm
Thanks to you both. Also worth adding into the mix is the UN practice of 'One UN'. I know this is fraught with challenges and not effective in all cases. However, I was part of a 'one UN' office in Papua New Guinea, which at the time (2009/2010) was really working well. Our work was organised around thematic working groups (such as conflict management and gender - the two are inseparable in PNG). This meant that the various responsible staff members from all the UN funds, programmes and agencies in country would regularly meet together to clarify the UN's support to the country on the thematic issues concerned. So the space or incentive for one agency to compete with another was minimised and the focus remained on the country's needs.
Monday 02 July 2012 10:37:04 am
Thanks both. I do wonder sometimes, though, whether the issue isn't more academic than practical? Are practitioners in the field really having turf wars, or just getting on with it? Nonetheless, funding streams do affect practice, and this is where there is an impact on the holistic nature (or lack of it) of programming, which we still see all too often, with security and justice following their stove pipes despite a declaration by HQ that they are committed to a more joined-up aproach.
An excellent paper by Christoph Bleiker and Marc Krupanski on The Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform: Conceptualising a Complex Relationship, which came out last month, provides a heuristic framework for looking at the complementary nature of SSR and RoL. Maybe Christoph and Marc can also wade into this conversation and provide further insights into how to operationalise a more holistic relationship between the two.
Sunday 01 July 2012 12:36:48 pm
Absolutely, Teohna. And thanks for the occasion to elaborate. You're right in saying that the question of "how" presents a real challenge. However, I would argue that there are several good opportunities for actors to collaborate. In fact, we may be turning a corner in linking up RoL promotion and SSR. The recent formation (4 June 2012) of the Global Focal Point for Police Justice and Corrections, where UNDP and DPKO take joint responsibility, points to this growing awareness and action. As for the willingness and effort of agencies to coordinate, the crux of the matter is incentives. Donors could lead in establishing funding mechanisms that promote inter-agency coordination, and are flexible enough to underwrite evolutionary programming. Some examples include the Dutch Stability Fund or the British Conflict Prevention Pool.
Once strong incentives are in place (and dis-incentives, like competition, addressed) agencies should focus on joint-analysis, programming collaboration, and joint-trainings for their HQ and field staff. This will be crucial for increasing staff dexterity in linking or sequencing programmes to better respond to field needs. And yes, it's essential to set up such joint approaches from the beginning. But this collaboration must be sustained. The contexts in which RoL promotion and SSR intervene are incredibly dynamic. Likewise, the ways in which security and justice interact in these context must be continuously reviewed and adapted to. The symbiosis is anything but static.
Friday 29 June 2012 3:21:18 pm
Thanks Megan. The challenge of course is how to actually do this. It requires an investment of time and effort from donors/organisations and a willingness to collaborate at the preparatory stage of any potential programme of support. Exploring how one actor can open up entry points for another should be a creative process, which is hard to do once programmes are designed and donor priorities are set. Unless partners converge ideas and agree how best each can contribute from the very beginning, it becomes extremely difficult to 'get over yourself'.