Fairlie Chappuis

Policy and Research Papers

New Perspectives on Security Sector Reform: The Role of Local Agency and Domestic Politics

This special issue identifies new directions in research on the consequences of international involvement in security sector reform (SSR). Both empirically and theoretically, the focus lies on the so far neglected role of local agency and domestic power constellations. The introductory article maps out different ways to analyse the external-domestic interaction dynamics that structure the often contentious and asymmetric encounters between international and local interests and demands in SSR processes. It makes the case for moving beyond a state-centric approach to the study of security governance in areas of limited statehood and for engaging more closely with the layered, mixed or hybrid security orders that can result from external engagement in domestic reform contexts.

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Security Sector Reform in Times of Democratic Reversal

Due to the close linkage between security sector reform (SSR) and democratization, the latter's volatility has direct implications for SSR strategy. The article identifies possible scenarios for SSR, based on the observation that, in the context of democratic reversals, firstly, some degree of SSR can still be achieved, and secondly, causes for stalled SSR can be determined if we look at a system's distinctive structures. Arguing that a resumption of SSR after democratic reversal has to overcome particular obstacles the authors offer context-specific recommendations on framing SSR, as well as "second-chance" scenarios once a return to the democratization process has been achieved.

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Reconciling Security Sector Reform and the Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Contexts

United Nations peacekeeping operations are frequently mandated both to protect civilians and to support security sector reform. These mandates implicitly assume that the protection of civilians and security sector reform are complementary and mutually reinforcing. But neither academics nor policymakers have examined how exactly they are related, and past experiences of peacekeeping operations show that there can be friction when the two are pursued simultaneously. A better understanding of both the convergences and the tensions between the two agendas will help peacekeeping operations reduce this friction and improve the security of populations under threat.

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This Issue Brief is the product of a collaboration between the Stimson Center and the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

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Learning from West African Experiences in Security Sector Governance

21.04.2016_experiences ouest africaines

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.

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The European Union and security sector reform: South Sudan and the challenge of ownership

Security sector reform (SSR) is a cornerstone of the EU's crisis management activities. Africa, along with the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, has received special emphasis in this regard from the EU. Thus, immediately after the independence of South Sudan, the EU deployed an aviation security mission, EUAVSEC South Sudan, within the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy. The aim of the mission was to contribute to strengthening aviation security, border control and law enforcement under local ownership, in order to raise the standards at Juba Airport to internationally accepted levels. This paper analyses Common Security and Defence Policy engagement in the context of security sector reform in Africa and critically reflects on the implementation of the EU's comprehensive approach in South Sudan. Further, it examines to what extent local ownership could be achieved with regard to EUAVSEC South Sudan.

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Local ownership, inclusivity and civil-military synergy in EU external action: The case of EU support to security sector reforms in Mali

The evolution of the European Union (EU) as a security and peacebuilding actor raises questions as to its identity as a largely civilian power alongside the development of its military capabilities. Specifically, a key challenge lies in how its civilian and military capabilities relate to each other as they develop, with increasing expectations from the EU to act effectively across its peacebuilding and conflict prevention interventions. The EU aims to do more to link top-down and bottom-up approaches, but there is currently a lack of focus on the latter. In exploring the challenges and opportunities for the EU to enhance its potential for civil-military synergies in crisis management, the paper takes a holistic whole-of-society perspective, asking questions about the level of inclusivity and local ownership in its approaches. The paper takes a closer look at the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) and European Union Capacity Building Mission in Mali (EUCAP Sahel Mali) as a specific case. Based on the findings, this paper argues the EU could be more effective, especially at the operational level, by taking a more bottom-up approach in the areas of designing, planning, monitoring and evaluating interventions. The EU will need to find ways to better embed its interventions in local realities, for instance by working with local civil society in the EU’s security sector reform efforts, and offering platforms for more civilian oversight and feedback mechanisms. Only then, with a stronger focus on the inclusivity and local ownership aspects of civil and military action of the EU, will it be able to better address the ‘intangible aspects’ of security sector reform.

For full access to the article Local ownership, inclusivity and civil-military synergy in EU external action, kindly follow the link. 

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Learning Lab on ‘Improving Security Sector Governance in Africa’

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.”

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…If it (SSR) is treated as a technical process abstracted from national political, security, socio-economic and cultural realities, it will not succeed. 

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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:

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experience has shown that important progress can be made when internal and external support for reform align at opportune moments for change.

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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.

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Aligning Protection of Civilians and SSR

Experience from UN peacekeeping

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Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa | Background Paper

Concept note Learning Lab ASSN OSF DCAF
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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. 

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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.

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Encouraging Open Debate: The Essential Role of Civil Society and Media in Good Security Governance

This think piece prepared by Fairlie Chappuis (DCAF) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa aims at encouraging open debate on the essential role of civil society and media in good security governance as well as the challenges they face. Civil society, by which is meant all groups that engage in voluntary collective actions in the public interest, has an essential role to play in order to ensure that the security sector is accountable, transparent and responsive to the public.  The paper outlines common factors in a variety of African contexts which make society activism and media engagement challenging. It then gives a list of entry points for engagement and how these can help to align civil society and media values with the principles of democratic security governance, human rights and rule of law.

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