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Policy and Research Papers

The influence of research and local knowledge on British-led security sector reform policy in Sierra Leone

Externally-led security sector reform (SSR) in conflict-affected countries may require an array of different and timely interventions to restructure the whole security architecture of a state. Whilst the intent of these efforts is political, their nature is usually technical, operational and targeted at military, police, justice or intelligence actors, or relevant groups in the civilian policy sectors. Because of their urgency, there is seemingly little or no room for research to influence the implementation of these activities. Nevertheless, academic studies on SSR have flourished in recent years, and case studies, ‘lessons learned’ and recommendations for policy-makers now enrich this burgeoning literature. This paper analyses one of the early cases of an externally-led SSR intervention, namely the United Kingdom (UK) assistance programme in conflict-affected Sierra Leone. It seeks to understand whether and how research and knowledge on topics relevant to SSR influenced the development and implementation of the UK's SSR assistance policy in this country. Building on the Sierra Leonean case study, it then examines some general issues and themes, which characterise the use of research in SSR policy in conflict-affected environments.

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State-building through security sector reform: the UK intervention in Sierra Leone

UK support to the reconstruction of the Sierra Leonean state has been widely held up as an example of successful state-building with the development of basic capacity and trust in public institutions, particularly security. This article examines security sector reform (SSR) in Sierra Leone, how Sierra Leone affected SSR and what implications that has for international interventions. Despite being hailed as a success, the sustainability of a state-building effort driven by concepts of the liberal state, a polity form that never existed in Sierra Leone, is in question. Unrealistic expectations of progress driven by planning imperatives of development agencies remain a key issue and obstacle to sustainability.

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Paper

State-building through security sector reform: the UK intervention in Sierra Leone

UK support to the reconstruction of the Sierra Leonean state has been widely held up as an example of successful state-building with the development of basic capacity and trust in public institutions, particularly security. This article examines security sector reform (SSR) in Sierra Leone, how Sierra Leone affected SSR and what implications that has for international interventions. Despite being hailed as a success, the sustainability of a state-building effort driven by concepts of the liberal state, a polity form that never existed in Sierra Leone, is in question. Unrealistic expectations of progress driven by planning imperatives of development agencies remain a key issue and obstacle to sustainability.

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From Weakness to Strength: The Political Roots of Security Sector Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The mixed results of efforts to reform the governance of security forces in the aftermath of conflict require deeper examination of the political constraints that shape statebuilding processes. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, attempts to restructure and centralize the security forces led to a substantial though incomplete reform of the military, but limited impact on the police forces. These uneven results are rooted in the nature of political coalitions that constrain recipient leaders and shape their interaction with external actors. While Bosnian leaders mostly relied on a cohesive political base that favoured close links between political parties and the police forces, fragmentation within these parties generated internal threats that enabled reforms to the military. This case demonstrates the limits of external influence without changes to underlying political conditions.

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Oversight Effectiveness and Political Will: Some Lessons from West Africa

The purpose of the present note is to advance two theoretical claims. The first claim proposed is that the impact of the availability of oversight tools and of the most broadly understood legislative capacity (availability of material, technical, financial resources; availability of well-trained staff) on the effectiveness with which legislative oversight is performed is conditional. The second claim put forward, after reviewing a rich body of work on executive–legislative relations and legislative oversight in West Africa, is that, of the various conditions that promote or prevent the effective use of oversight tools and capacity, political will is the single most important. These claims have both theoretical and practical relevance, for if political will is as important as is claimed for the effective performance of the oversight function, then international organisations may have to reconsider their approach to legislative strengthening.

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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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From Paternalism to Facilitation: SSR Shortcomings and the Potential of Social Anthropological Perspectives

This paper discusses the shortcomings of the established Security Sector Reform (SSR) concept and practice and argues for an overhaul of the ways in which transformations in security spaces are approached. In consideration of the theoretical and practical implications of the quest to involve local actors in SSR, a related research agenda is sketched and a case is made in particular for the inclusion of social anthropological perspectives to foster an empirically grounded evaluation of security governance interactions and transformations in context. This could be relevant to the search for strategies to support longer term facilitation processes and overcome the widespread paternalism in donor-recipient relations.

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Examining the links between security sector reform and peacekeeping troop contribution in post-conflict states

This article examines the links between post-conflict states’ troop contributions to international peacekeeping missions and security sector reform (SSR). It shows how SSR and troop-contribution preparations are increasingly interwoven and at times perceived as complementary by both external and internal actors. Some of the objectives sought after in SSR, such as the modernization of the military forces and the institutionalization of international norms, overlap with the aim of external partners’ pre-deployment training programmes and formations.

Yet, it is argued that there are several unintended consequences with establishing links between SSR and peacekeeping capacity-building that are too strong, including the reinforcement of the troop-contributing government which, in case the government has authoritarian tendencies, undermines democratic reforms and transparency. There is also a risk that donors increasingly prefer to support pre-deployment training that has tangible and rapid results rather than investing funds in SSR, which is politically difficult with few examples of success. Donors and national actors alike are therefore encouraged to reflect on whether post-conflict states should contribute troops in the immediate aftermath of conflict before SSR has been completed. The answer is likely to vary depending on context-specific issues, which makes it difficult to generalize across cases, but the question remains nevertheless essential.

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Revisiting the rise and fall of the Somali Armed Forces, 1960–2012

The history of the Somali Armed Forces, principally the army, forms an important part of studying the Somali civil war. With the twentieth century context covered, and in some places reinterpreted, this article focuses on the uncertain rebirth of the Somali Armed Forces since 2008, using a host of primary and United Nations sources. Assistance efforts have been focused on Mogadishu, but limited success has been made in forming truly national armed forces. Future prospects are uncertain, but there are some signs oh hope.

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How might Democratisation Affect Military Professionalism in Africa? Reviewing the Literature

The search continues for methods to improve security for development in Sub-Saharan Africa.One of the important actors in this security arena is Sub-Saharan African governments’ armies. Much of their capability to meet security challenge depends on how militarily professional they are. The wave of democratic evolution in Africa since 1990 also affected military professionalism. This article reviews three models for assessing how democratisation might affect military professionalism in Sub-Saharan Africa, with special attention to post-conflict states.

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Other Documents

Towards UN Counter-Terrorism Operations?

The United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation in Mali (MINUSMA) has become among the deadliest in UN history, suffering from attacks by violent extremists and terrorists. There are strong calls to give UN peacekeeping operations more robust mandates and equip them with the necessary capabilities, guidelines and training to be able to take on limited stabilisation and counter-terrorism tasks. This article conceptually develops UN counter-terrorism operations as a heuristic device, and compares this with the mandate and practices of MINUSMA. It examines the related implications of this development, and concludes that while there may be good practical as well as short-term political reasons for moving in this direction, the shift towards UN counter-terrorism operations will undermine the UN’s international legitimacy, its role as an impartial conflict arbiter, and its tools in the peace and security toolbox more broadly, such as UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions.

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