Deputy Head of Research at DCAF. Ongoing policy research focuses on security sector governance in Africa and linkages between security sector reform and post-conflict peacebuilding.
Alan recently completed a multi-stakeholder project on DDR and SSR. This resulted in a new module for the UN’s Integrated Standards for Disarmament, Demobiliation and Reintegration (IDDRS). He is currently working with a range of African experts on policy research relating to entry points for security sector reform in francophone West Africa.
Prior to joining DCAF, Alan was a civil servant with the UK Ministry of Defence and was also seconded to the UK Department for International Development.
PhD, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford.
Policy and Research Papers
The eighth edition in DCAF’s Yearly Book series examines theconceptual and operational dimensions of Security Sector Transformation inAfrica. African knowledge and experience has contributed much to theevolution of the security sector reform (SSR) concept while Africa continuesto be the main arena for SSR programmes. Consequently, over the years,DCAF has actively sought to expand its knowledge base, policy researchfocus and operational activities on African security sector reform andgovernance issues. For these reasons it is therefore particularly appropriatethat DCAF focuses on this subject in 2010 – the 10th anniversary of thecreation of the DCAF foundation.
The loss by many states of the monopoly of the legitimate use of force has contributed significantly to the proliferation of failed and failing states worldwide. In such states, a multitude of threats, including insurgencies, terrorist networks, transnational organized crime, and illicit shadow economies, flourish. These states often become trapped in cycles of violent conflict that threaten stability and security at home, in their neighborhoods, and throughout the world. States emerging from conflict are highly prone to return to conflict within the first few years of postconflict status. The widespread availability of lethal weapons exacerbates the tensions that already permeate conflict and postconflict environments.
The mechanism of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) is widely acknowledged to be an essential component of successful peacekeeping, peace-building, postconflict management, and state-building. Security sector reform (SSR) has emerged as a promising though poorly understood tool for consolidating stability and establishing sovereignty after conflict. While DDR enables a state to recover the monopoly (or at least the preponderance) of force, SSR provides the opportunity for the state to establish the legitimacy of that monopoly.
The essays in this book reflect the diversity of experience in DDR and SSR in various contexts. Despite the considerable experience acquired by the international community, the critical interrelationship between DDR and SSR and the ability to use these mechanisms with consistent success remain less than optimally developed. DDR and SSR are essential tools of modern statecraft, but their successful use is contingent upon our understanding of both the affinities and the tensions between them. These essays aim to excite further thought on how these two processes—DDR and SSR—can be implemented effectively and complimentarily to better accomplish the shared goals of viable states and enduring peace.
Edited by Melanne A. Civic and Michael Miklaucic, with contributions from:
The DCAF Horizon Paper outlines the overall challenge of developing coherence amongst stakeholders in an SSR context. Drawing from both bilateral and regional organisations such as the AU, ASSN, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK, this paper additionally highlights good practices as well as ways forward with cross-governmental coordination and SSR programming.
Many efforts have been undertaken to address dysfunctional security sector governance in West Africa. However, security sector reform (SSR) has fallen short of radical – transformational – change to the fundamental structures of power and governance in the region. Looking more closely at specific examples of SSR in six West African countries, Learning from West African Experiences in Security Sector Governance explores both progress and reversals in efforts by national stakeholders and their international partners to positively influence security sector governance dynamics. Written by eminent national experts based on their personal experiences of these reform contexts, this study offers new insights and practical lessons that should inform processes to improve democratic security sector governance in West Africa and beyond.
For full access to Learning from West African Experiences in Security Sector Governance, kindly follow the link.
The Privatisation of security in Africa: Challenges and lessons from Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal
Private security in Africa is booming. Whether from the perspective of major multinational players or small-scale local enterprises, the market for commercial security has expanded and evolved over recent years. However, policy makers rarely address private security, national parliaments and regulatory bodies provide limited oversight in this area, and the attention of African media and civil society is localized and sporadic. In short, a fundamental shift in the African security landscape is taking place under the radar of democratic governance. The Privatisation of Security in Africa – Challenges and Lessons from Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal provides expert accounts which portray the realities of the contemporary private security industry in Africa. The volume analyses key characteristics of security privatisation in Africa, offers new insights into the significance of this phenomenon from a security sector governance perspective and identifies specific entry points that should inform processes to promote good governance of the security sector in Africa.
To access the full report The Privatisation of security in Africa: Challenges and lessons from Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal, kindly click on the link.
This paper explores why coherence is a problem for internationally supported SSR and proposes ways to move forward. It begins by addressing the importance of mainstreaming core objectives and values underpinning the SSR approach. It then considers the imperative to develop integrated SSR programmes. This relates both to delivering on a ‘holistic’ SSR agenda but also to how post-conflict SSR can contribute to wider peacebuilding efforts. Opportunities are identified to bridge gaps between policy commitments and genuine behaviour change. The paper concludes with some observations on future directions that may support improved coherence in practice.
To read the article, please click on the following link: International Coherence in Security Sector Reform
This volume sets out to break down these stove-pipes and identify positive associations between DDR and SSR. Drawing on case studies from selected post-conflict settings, it demonstrates the potential and reality of improved collaboration between both endeavours. Enhanced cooperation could avoid negative outcomes. These may include former- combatants dropping out of programmes, trust undermined in security institutions and the creation of security vacuums that jeopardise the safety of individuals and communities. A central claim of this volume is that programmes must be responsive to the needs and interests of different national actors. Without understanding the dynamic political processes that shape the origins, parameters and outcomes of both processes, DDR and SSR may address security deficits, but will be unfit to support sustainable transitions towards national recovery and development.
The privatization of security understood as both the top-down decision to outsource military and security-related tasks to private firms and the bottom-up activities of armed non-state actors such as rebel opposition groups, insurgents, militias, and warlord factions has implications for the state's monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Both top-down and bottom-up privatization have significant consequences for effective, democratically accountable security sector governance as well as on opportunities for security sector reform across a range of different reform contexts. This volume situates security privatization within a broader policy framework, considers several relevant national and regional contexts, and analyzes different modes of regulation and control relating to a phenomenon with deep historical roots but also strong links to more recent trends of globalization and transnationalization. Alan Bryden is deputy head of research at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). Marina Caparini is senior research fellow at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).
Security sector reform (SSR) is widely recognized as key to conflict prevention, peace-building, sustainable development, and democratization. SSR has gained most practical relevance in the context of post-conflict reconstruction of so-called "failed states'" and states emerging from violent internal or inter-state conflict. As this volume shows, almost all states need to reform their security sectors to a greater or lesser extent, according to the specific security, political and socio-economic contexts, as well as in response to the new security challenges resulting from globalization and post-9/11 developments.
DCAF was jointly mandated by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to analyse the policy and programming implications of the relationship between the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR). Based on lessons drawn from experiences in Afghanistan, Burundi, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, this publication is based on a combination of desk and field research focusing on UN engagement in DDR and SSR in both peacekeeping and non-peacekeeping contexts.
The African Security Sector Network (ASSN) and the Geneva Democratic Centre for the Control on Armed Forces (DCAF) with funding support from the Open Society Foundation (OSF) organised a workshop in Dakar (Sénégal) from 26 – 27 April 2016. The workshop was themed “Improving Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa : a Learning Lab.”
…If it (SSR) is treated as a technical process abstracted from national political, security, socio-economic and cultural realities, it will not succeed."
Despite multiple reasons why SSR in Africa is difficult examples of reform examples of reform also show that significant opportunities to move towards more democratic security governance do exist. The ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ drew on the experience of academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners in this field in order to explore these challenges and identify ways to move forward in spite of them. To support these reflections, the Background Paper, Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa provides a baseline understanding of SSG/R concepts, policies and practice. It then considers key challenges for SSR in Africa before assessing programming gaps and potential entry points for engagement. The Background Paper is complemented by six Think Pieces, which are intended to help shape discussion during the different sessions of the Learning Lab.
The Learning Lab was a two-day workshop-event drawing together predominantly African experts (researchers, academics, policy makers and practitioners) with practical experience of the security sector, Security Sector Reform (SSR), and Security Sector Governance (SSG) in Africa. The Lab began with an introductory session which was graced by the presence of His Excellency Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).
The bulk of the Lab took the form of six moderated sessions, underpinned by the six following Think Pieces:
- Accountable and legitimate security through civilian democratic oversight and control;
- The essential role of civil society and media in good security sector governance;
- Protecting a democratic public space: Maturing civil-military relations;
- Commercial security providers and the privatisation of security;
- Regional expertise in good security governance: from civil society networks to ECOWAS and the African Union;
- Security and safety from the bottom up: hybrid security governance.
experience has shown that important progress can be made when internal and external support for reform align at opportune moments for change."
In light of the opportunities and challenges to SSR processes identified, a concluding session summarised options and recommendations for potential entry points for African and international engagement in promoting an African governance-driven SSR approach based on accountability, rule of law and human rights.
As well as the six Think Pieces, this blog highlights practical implications for identifying the challenges of SSR processes: Moving from concept to practice: SSR in West Africa.
The resources are also available in français.
The changing face of security provision: commercial security providers and the privatisation of security
This Think Piece prepared by Alan Bryden for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa explores the issue of private security. The paper highlights a lack of knowledge or understanding on the scale, activities, and implications of the private security industry in Africa. Private security provision, and the lack of knowledge on the topic, can affect Security Sector Reform (SSR) in a variety of ways: the state has an incomplete view of the actors providing security on the national territory, there is a blurring of roles and responsibilities between public and private security, private security can result in greater security for some while leaving insecurity to others, and security privatisation remains somewhat neglected in programmatic responses.
The author proposes some entry points to engage with private security and better understand the related issues. Fostering African research capabilities can further the development of an evidence base to increase the visibility of the issue, while developing the legal and policy frameworks on oversight and accountability is a step to control the growth and evolution of the private security sector. Furthermore, the author argues for supporting capacity building of security sector management and oversight bodies, for empowering civil society, and leveraging international initiatives to create momentum for change.
Outdated legal frameworks, under-capacitated parliaments, and submissive judicial authorities fail to provide the oversight, transparency or accountability that is required to protect human rights and uphold the rule of law."
What is difficult about SSR in Africa? On one level, the framing conditions are undoubtedly challenging. Change of the kind that SSR aims for is measured in decades – even generations – rather than the months or years that measure national political cycles or donor programmes. Moreover, in most contexts the resources to support transformational change have also been scarce, whether human, material, technical or financial. On a more fundamental level, SSR is highly political and context-specific. If it is treated as a technical process abstracted from national political, security, socio-economic and cultural realities, it will not succeed.
There are also undoubted weaknesses and gaps in current SSR approaches. Different understandings of what SSR involves and who it concerns have led to flawed interventions that bred mistrust and suspicion, including between national and international understandings of reform.
The fact remains that freer and fairer democratic societies require more accountable and more effective security provision. In spite of the factors that limit progress in SSR, experience has shown that important progress can be made when internal and external support for reform align at opportune moments for change. New legal architecture for state security provision, fairer and more inclusive security recruitment, broader-based access to justice, more efficient management and oversight, and increased public scrutiny of security affairs are examples of reform that mark valuable progress in security governance. Moreover, progress can materialise in unexpected and intangible forms; thus, some of the most catalytic changes in people’s experiences of security have flowed from apparently subjective shifts in attitudes towards things like more inclusive security policy-making, greater sensitivity to human rights in security provision, or a strengthened resolve among overseers to make the most of their legal authority.
The ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ drew on the experience of academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners in this field in order to explore these challenges and identify ways to move forward in spite of them. To support these reflections, this Background Paper provides a baseline understanding of SSG/R concepts, policies and practice. It then considers key challenges for SSR in Africa before assessing programming gaps and potential entry points for engagement. This Background Paper is complemented by six Think Pieces, which intended to help shape discussion during the different sessions of the Learning Lab.
Access all material related to the ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ to find out more.