SSR in a Nutshell: Level 1 Training Manual

SSR in a Nutshell: Manual for Introductory Training on Security Sector Reform

This manual complements ISSAT’s Introductory Level 1 Security Sector Reform Training Course. It aims to provide a basic overview of Security Sector Reform (SSR) policy and practice based on collective experience in supporting security and justice reform efforts.

The manual is built around four key pillars of SSR:

Section one: The Concept of SSR

This section discusses SSR as a concept, explains its evolution and theoretical foundations and provides definitions of key terms. It also highlights some key characteristics of SSR.

Section two: Key Security and Justice Actors

This section maps the main security and justice actors at both the national and international level and proceeds to discuss coordination among these actors when engaging in SSR.

Section three: SSR Programming

This section elaborates the various stages of the SSR programme cycle, and addresses various challenges—both political and technical—that could arise when engaging in SSR programming.

Section four: Cross-Cutting Issues

This section reviews important thematic and practical aspects of SSR that are often overlooked, including gender issues, human rights and programme management. It also discusses issues closely related to SSR, such as Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR), Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) control and Transitional Justice (TJ).

This manual provides an overview of the theoretical background and key practical insights needed to engage in SSR programming, setting out the main principles but also highlighting various challenges that could arise when engaging in SSR. For those who have completed the ISSAT Level 1 Introductory Training Course, as well as those getting involved in SSR policy and programming for the first time, this textbook will remain a useful reference.

SSR in a Nutshell in FrenchSSR in a Nutshell in Spanish and SSR in a Nutshell in Arabic are also available.


What is Governance?

Governance infographic

This infographic provides an overview of Governance, from a map of the concept in relation to Justice and Security Sector Reform to entry points and leverage for governance. The document provides a visual representation of good governance and a detailed presentation of the essential interlocking elements that provide checks and balances with their respective definitions. The infographic includes additional resources on governance in the security sector, on performance indicators and measures of effect, and on related topics.

The infographic is best printed on A3 size. You can download it, print it out and fold along the dotted lines - this will provide you with an easy to share, A5-size document.


Policy and Research Papers

A Common Approach for Building International Capacity to Support SJSR

"A Common Approach for Building International Capacity to Support SJSR" is the title of ISSAT's second High Level Panel (HLP), organised on May 19th, 2011. ISSAT hosted its HLP discussion in Brussels, Belgium with the focus on the increasing need for establishing the right balance of technical, methodological and contextual expertise within SSR interventions.

The basis for the HLP topic was the recognition that the number of SSR mandates within Peace Support Operations (PSO) and crisis management operations has increased over the past years. In parallel, the demand for SSR and rule of law advisors who combine specialist knowledge with a solid understanding of the politics involved in reform processes has increased.

At present, many bilateral and multilateral donors face serious capacity gaps when it comes to having readily-available and deployable personnel with SSR experience and expertise. Security and justice reform requires a multi-disciplinary response: it requires personnel with an understanding of the political nature of SSR and the importance of accountability to a legitimate authority, coupled with those who have a technical understanding of how, for example, a police service, the military, the courts system and the various ministries function.

The panel who addressed these issues were:

  • Mr. Richard Wright, Director Conflict Prevention & Security Policy, European External Action Service (EEAS)
  • Mr. Cedric de Coning, Advisor to ACCORD and NUPI and Author of the Study on Civilian Capacities within the Non-governmental Civilian Roster Community
  • Mr Mika-Markus Leinonen, Director, Civcom Chair, European External Action Service (EEAS) 
  • General Juan Estaban (by video), Former Head of the EU SSR Mission in Guinea Bissau

What Works in International Security and Justice Programming?



This preliminary scoping study was commissioned by the Department for International Development (DFID), with the aim of considering the security and justice sector reform efforts of 19 of the main Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – Development Assistance Council (OECD-DAC) donors. It focuses on the efforts of each nation’s foreign affairs, development, defence, and justice agencies, and provides an initial assessment of how policy and programming are linked, what evidence of good practice has been collected, and what knowledge and programming gaps exist currently.


Executive Summary: Stocktaking of Security Sector Roles in Climate and Environmental Security: Report on the occupied Palestinian Territory

The occupied Palestinian Territory is facing a range of climate and environmental risks which directly affect human security. From rising temperatures and increasing aridity to water scarcity and widespread pollution,the combined effects of climate change and human pressures on the environment are contributing to local tensions and increasing the fragility of both communities and local ecosystems in the West Bank, which was the geographic focus of this study. This is an executive summary of the full report. 


What Works: Maximising the Internal Security Benefits of International Police Missions

In a changing strategic environment characterized by a trend towards the militarization of security, several countries are keeping their commitment to civilian crisis management and to multilateral police missions in particular. At the European Union (EU) level for example, the 2022 EU Strategic Compass for Security and Defence emphasizes the EU-wide commitment to strengthen
civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and to renew the civilian CSDP Compact.

While demand for officers to participate in missions is rapidly growing, the supply of available officers has stagnated or even declined. Several studies have demonstrated that one of the reasons is that police institutions do not yet fully recognize the internal-external security nexus and fail to fully maximize the benefits of seconding staff to international missions.

The governments of France and the Netherlands have commissioned this study to contribute to the sharing of good practices and experiences, and to initiate further discussions between interested countries.

This report presents a range of good practices employed by states to maximize the benefits of mission participation to police institutions and serve internal security objectives when making officers available. It also aims to inform discussions around ongoing efforts to develop the roadmap towards the Civilian Compact 2.0 by EU Member States (EUMS).


Stocktaking of Security Sector Roles in Climate and Environmental Security: Report on the occupied Palestinian Territory

The occupied Palestinian Territory is facing a range of climate and environmental risks which directly affect human security. From rising temperatures and increasing aridity to water scarcity and widespread pollution,the combined effects of climate change and human pressures on the environment are contributing to local tensions and increasing the fragility of both communities and local ecosystems in the West Bank, which was the geographic focus of this study. 

ISSAT's this stocktaking study has found significant potential for SSG/R programming to improve service delivery of security institutions with regards to mitigating the impact of climate and environmental risks on communities and the environment, as well as strengthening social cohesion and contributing to sustainable peace. While international partners in their SSG/R programming tend to not yet fully maximize the potential of this area, findings place SSG/R’s role on climate and environmental security at the heart of the triple nexus between humanitarian needs, development and security. Moreover, working at this nexus is relevant in the context of the sustaining peace and prevention agenda, commitments to mainstream DRR into all sectors under the Sendai Framework, as well as the Paris Agreement’s Global Goal on Adaptation


Other Documents

Final report of the European Association of Peace Operations Training Centres (EAPTC) annual meeting 2014

The annual meeting of the European Association of Peace Operations Training Centres (EAPTC) was organised by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the International Security Sector Advisory Team of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF/ISSAT) from 12-13 March 2014, in Stans, Switzerland. The meeting brought together over 40 participants from various European training institutions.

The meeting provided members the opportunity to share information on their ongoing and planned activities. The main focus of the meeting was to discuss lessons learned and challenges in the design and delivery of Peace Support Operations (PSO) trainings.

Other Document

German SSR support in practice in Nigeria

This paper documents good practice evidence from German SSR activities in Nigeria. Major German involvement in support to SSR is relatively new, and has tended to focus on train and equip approaches. The examples of German support to SSR included here may not involve full-fledged reform processes, they may, however, provide an insight into some good practices from the ground that could be used as entry points for wider SSR engagement and strategic Security Sector Governance reform.

Other Document

ISSAT Gender and SSR Report (2016)

DCAF-ISSAT aims to incorporate gender sensitivity throughout its work. This report on gender and SSR in DCAF-ISSAT's work for 2016 highlights how we have incorporated gender aspects in:

  • our Member's national policy thinking
  • partner country thinking on their national security strategy 
  • programming 
  • training
  • advocacy and outreach
  • knowledge products
  • gender sensitive representation
Other Document

Soutien RSS allemand en pratique au Mali

L’engagement de l’Allemagne en soutien aux processus de la RSS dans des pays tiers est relativement nouveau et se base principalement sur des approches de formation et équipement. Les exemples ci-dessous du soutien de l’Allemagne à la RSS au Mali ne constituent pas tout à fait des programmes RSS tel qu’entendu par l’OCDE CAD. Toutefois, les activités ci-dessous représentent des exemples intéressants de bonne pratique à partager au sein de la communauté RSS. Ce papier traite des aspects de confiance, d’approche inclusive, et de coordination. 

Other Document

Training course on "Security Sector Governance and Reform (SSG/R) contribution to Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE)"

Course Description
This course provides participants with knowledge and practical tools to better understand the drivers (root causes and triggers) of violent extremism in contexts of fragility. It includes a strong component on the security and development nexus and covers dimensions related to human security, access to justice and community violence reduction (CVR). It also touches upon the holistic nature of SSG/R, including sessions on policing, national security strategy, relations with the media and strategic communication in contexts of VE.
The course was developed acknowledging that significant improvements must be made in prioritising interventions that address the structural causes and aggravating factors that create insecurity, marginalisation, and grievances. It is in this context that the crucial role of SSG/R becomes most apparent.

Learning methodology
The course will use interactive and peer-learning activities while adopting a problem-solving approach through a series of case studies, hands-on practical exercises, simulations and group activities to help participants understand the challenges related to SSG/R in practice. An inductive approach is used in every session of the course in order to place participants at the centre of the training.

Benefits of attending
The course will enable you to:

  • Understand the drivers (root causes and triggers) of violent extremism within the context of conflict and fragility.
  • Identify and prioritise the drivers which can be managed and mitigated through SSG in the short and long term.
  • Explore and apply options for change in improving security and justice service delivery.
  • Enhance individual and collective competence in applying integrated thinking on SSG/R contribution to address violent extremism.

Who should attend
The course will target senior practitioners and professionals – including civilian, military and police personnel, as well as civil society representatives and professionals from the private sector – who are working closely on issues related to SSG/R and violent extremism such as governance, rule of law, police reform, defence reform, justice reform, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. The course also targets those involved in programme design, management and implementation, mission planning and delivery and/or in political/policy dialogues.
DCAF-ISSAT is commited to selecting diverse participants in terms of professional and organisational background, age and nationality, as well as gender balance.

Other Document