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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.”


…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:


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.

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Accountable and legitimate security through civilian democratic oversight and control

This think piece prepared by Sandy Africa (ASSN) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa explains that civilian democratic oversight and control is a necessary, though not exclusive, precondition for accountable and legitimate security. By civilian democratic oversight is meant the exercise of the mandatory authority of one body to hold another to account. The author argues that in countries experiencing armed conflict, the civilian democratic oversight of the security sector is weak or non-existent. There is a window of opportunity to engage in civilian democratic oversight when there is a cessation of hostilities but even then, the immediate challenges are peacekeeping and peace enforcement. A more realistic prospect happens when there is a conducive and decisive shift in the political conditions.

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