Dennis Blease

Policy and Research Papers

Lessons from NATO’s Military Missions in the Western Balkans

The subject of learning lessons is fraught with difficulties, not least because lessons,like beauty, are often in the eye of the beholder. It has been the author’s experience that many lessons that are formally identified as such are not learned. The reasons for this are varied: those identifying the lessons may be biased; the resources to enable learning may be lacking; and the lessons simply may not “stick.” Nonetheless, those lessons that do become embedded in the human and organizational psyche are those that have created new doctrines, reshaped institutions, become an integral part of new training standards, and demonstrably shown an improvement in the conduct of business. NATO’s involvement in the Western Balkans over the past fifteen years has provided a rich vein of experience and has fomented considerable change. This article examines that experience and analyzes some of the major lessons that have been identified. Some will have been learned, while others have not; in some instances, the lessons that were identified will subsequently prove to be flawed. Throughout this analysis the paper will attempt to chart the metamorphosis of NATO from a passive Cold War military alliance to an active political and security actor on the world stage.

Access or download the full paper at:


The conundrum of local ownership in developing a security sector: the case of Kosovo

The concept of 'local ownership' has been an article of faith within the development community for a number of years. It is therefore not surprising to see it being applied more recently to the normative process of Security Sector Reform (SSR). Empirical evidence would suggest, however, that local ownership has been more evident in the theory of SSR than in its practice, where short-term expediency often tends to trump long-term sustainability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of Kosovo.

The security sector in Kosovo has been built from scratch with the support of the international community and thus offers a unique post-communist and post-conflict example. Whilst the declaration of independence in 2008 has changed the context, the international community's role in developing the local security sector is still manifestly evident. The multitude of both international and local actors on the ground still creates a confusing picture of who, in reality, leads and owns the process.
This article will apply the evolving concept of „local ownership‟ to the development of the security sector in Kosovo and more specifically will analyse the case study of the development of the National Security Strategy of Kosovo in 2009-2010. It will argue that in many cases the international community's approach has taken little notice of the local context and the needs of the country. It has driven forward an international agenda rather than supporting the legitimate efforts of local actors to undertake their own SSR. Although the impasse that resulted from the UN Future Status process in 2007 continues to complicate the political situation for all concerned, insufficient effort has been made by the international community to hand over responsibility for all aspects of the security sector and their development to the Kosovo Government and its people, in line with the principles of local ownership.

Access "the conundrum of local ownership in developing a security sector: the case of Kosovo" 


Other Documents

Capacity building within partner security sectors: The place of governance

In this blog post, Author Dennis Blease advocates for systematically including a governance pillar in SSR assistance programs, explaining how sidelining governance undermines the overall impact of SSR, since power gained through increased operational effectiveness can ultimately be abused where oversight mechanisms are not in place to hold security sector actors accountable.

In order to read Capacity building within partner security sectors: The place of governance, please follow the link.

Other Document