SSR, Local Ownership and Gender

02/06/2014 @ 11:58
by SCID2012 SCID

Dear All

Drs Tony Welch OBE, Emmicki Roos and Eleanor Gordon are investigating the tension that can exist between local ownership and gender equality in SSR, and would warmly welcome any comments upon this possible tension in order to inform their analysis further.

It is broadly agreed that SSR programmes – and peacebuilding efforts more generally– should be locally owned. It is also widely agreed that SSR and peacebuilding processes should be inclusive of women (and other marginalised groups) and give due attention to their specific needs. However, there have been instances where gender equality and mainstreaming have been in tension with local ownership: where local owners have been predominantly male and have not promoted gender issues for cultural, power or other reasons, and where external actors have not intervened so as to avoid compromising local ownership. If you have experience or knowledge of such an instance where gender issues have been overlooked in (broadly) locally-owned SSR programmes (or, indeed, the converse) or have any views on the possible tension between local ownership and gender equality in SSR, your comments would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Kind regards

Eleanor Gordon (Security, Conflict and International Development Tutor, Department of Criminology, University of Leicester, UK)

07/07/2014 @ 17:42
by Azra Avdagic

Dear Eleanor,

While I am nowhere near an expert on gender in SSR, I hope I can point you to some resources which tackle the tensions between local ownership and gender in SSR. Zahraa Langhi, a member of the Libyan Parliament, was in Geneva earlier this year as part of a side event to the Human Rights Council 25th session. Apart from discussing women participation in constitutional reform processes in Libya, Ms. Langhi made remarks about the processes of SSR in post-conflict Libya. While women were on the front lines and were among the leaders of the revolution, their roles in SSR and DDR are not given enough consideration.

Answering a question from the audience, she noted that "ticking the check mark of having a proportional number of women in Parliament is simply not enough". Instead, women are to be better included, and the challenges that women face due to excessive militarisation are to be given adequate attention. Furthermore, she spoke of the lack of transitional justice and gender sensitive law enforcement mechanisms. You can find a video interview here. In this regard, local ownership, while essential to effective and long lasting development, could marginalize gender. This discussion was also brought up in an article written by Eirin Mobekk in 2010, available here.

In addition, if you haven't seen the DCAF Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit already, a breadth of information is provided. Megan Bastick may be of help as this is her area of research, she recently posted in the Forum on Gender and Oversight

I hope I have provided you with some information.

Best wishes,

Azra Avdagic

15/07/2014 @ 16:07
by Aiko Holvikivi

Greetings, Eleanor and Azra!

What an interesting topic for discussion. It's not the first time I've come across with the idea of gender equality and local ownership as potentially conflicting principles, but this made me think about the question, and its premise, anew. My personal reactions were twofold.

First, I find the suggestion that gender equality is separable from SSR processes, well, uncomfortable. If we broadly agree that with the UN definition that SSR processes aim at "the development of effective, efficient, affordable and accountable security institutions," then it seems counter-intuitive that gender equality could be divorced from their guiding principles. An effective security sector provides security for all citizens, responding to different needs - including those of men, women, boys and girls. Discounting half of a country's human resources as a recruitment pool does not sit well with efficiency. If the security sector is to be accountable to the people, then this should include all regardless of gender. In my view, an SSR process is not the value-neutral undertaking we are sometimes tempted to believe it is. An SSR process comes with specific ideas over who should have ownership and over what (democractic control...). It seems artificial to draw the line at gender equality.

Second, as I'm sure you're well aware, there are practical as well as conceptual problems with defining local ownership. In this sense, I find the dichotomy of local-international somewhat reductive, if it implies that we are dealing with monoliths. For a practical example, I can share some experience of working with a military in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial country. In a training course we support, we include a (locally) facilitated discussion of gender and culture, where participants discuss the differences between (admittedly aspirational) military culture in which the only hierarchy is rank and their home cultures (of which there are many, with different gender roles and norms). Whose ownership of values and customs should be privileged there? Who is local in this context - the national defence force that aims to transform based on a democratic and consultative process, or its staff who bring their customs and values to that institution? I'm not suggesting I know the answer, but this dialectic process certainly problematises the premise of the assertion referenced in the opening post.

What I suppose I am getting at is that whenever this question of 'local ownership vs. gender equality' question crops up, the first question that comes to my mind is who gets to define 'the local'?