Lisa Denney


Using political economy analysis in conflict, security and justice programmes

The Oversees Development Institute (ODI) developed this guidance note to provide a framework for implementers of conflict, security and justice programmes to conduct political economy analysis (PEA) at the design or inception phase to ensure a deep understanding of the context drives activities. The publication draws on ODI’s ongoing work employing PEA to security and justice programmes.

The note first sets out four preconditions to ensure PEA is more likely to achieve impact, before setting out seven steps detailing how PEA might usefully be undertaken, primarily at the design stage, to develop programmes that are genuinely responsive to context. The guidance also demonstrates how on-going PEA is also connected with efforts to work in more adaptive ways.

For full access to the Using political economy analysis in conflict, security and justice programmes toolkit, please kindly follow the link.


Policy and Research Papers

The Politics of Practice: Security and Justice Programming in FCAS

On 6-7 November 2012, the Politics and Governance Programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) hosted a two-day Expert Meeting on the Politics of Practice: Security and Justice Programming in Fragile and Conflict-affected States (FCAS).

The meeting drew together approximately 70 researchers, policymakers and practitioners from Europe, North America, Asia and the Pacific and Africa to discuss challenges and lessons learnt in translating improved policy thinking into practice. 

This report draws out key themes and challenges in justice and security programming that featured in discussions. It also summarises emerging recommendations and lessons learnt, and signals areas where changes are important in order to improve results. Therefore, the objective of the report, as it was of the meeting, is to begin to set out avenues for operational and organisational changes and action-oriented research, and for revisiting some of the policy content in ways that can help relevant communities of practice grapple with the challenges of translating policy into practice.


Liberal Chiefs or Illiberal Development? The Challenge of Engaging Chiefs in DFID’s Security Sector Reform Programme in Sierra Leone

It is increasingly recognised that informal actors, including chiefs, are dominant providers of services and need to be factored into overwhelmingly state-focused programmes. This article looks at the ability of the UK’s Department for International Development to engage with the chieftaincy system in Sierra Leone through its security sector reform programme − a relationship which poses important political challenges.

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A Problem-Focused Approach to Violence against Women: the political-economy of justice and security programming

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women ended its 57th Session on 15 March 2013 with an outcome document affirming the importance of eliminating violence against women (VAW). The Commission was unable, however, to reach consensus on a global action plan. The negative reaction of some UN member states to an action plan is a worrying reminder of ongoing resistance to reform. These persistent challenges highlight the ongoing struggle to gain a serious global commitment to address VAW and recognise it as a breach of women’s fundamental human rights.   
This Report proposes an approach that engages with the specificities of the problem – paying attention to context, and the concrete political-economy dynamics of the drivers of VAW – and that takes account of the real options that women face in navigating the available security and justice chains to seek protection, redress and justice.

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The Political Economy of Pre-Trial Detention

On any given day, over 3 million people are held in pre-trial detention (PTD). On average, this represents one out of every three people detained, but this rises to one in two detainees in many countries. PTD is a relatively discrete justice issue that is clearly identifiable and can be addressed before escalation, presenting an important opportunity for policymakers (from ministries and donor agencies) to engage in reform. It is also diagnostic in relation to broader justice challenges and state–society relations, making it a useful gauge of other blockages within the justice sector.

The objective of this paper is to develop an analytical framework that draws on political economy analysis (PEA) that can contribute to identifying the drivers of PTD. This can then be taken to country level to inform programming in ways that improve results.

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Securing communities for development: Community policing in Ethiopia's Amhara National Regional State

With rising interest in community policing as a tool for improving access to justice and involving communities in security provisioning – Lisa Denney and Demalashe Kassaye of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) conducted an important study to better understand community policing in the Amhara National Regional State of Ethiopia. The study was conducted as part of a broader project called ‘Securing Communities’, which seeks to “map the diversity of community policing practices in a variety of country contexts to understand its various forms and what factors shape them.” It is the first of three planned case studies, the others of which include Timor L’este and Sri Lanka.

The study builds on previous work on the subject, including a background paper and a literature review . The background paper identified several political features responsible for shaping the development of community policing. Such factors include: histories of state formation; evolution of the political system; state-society relations; state presence; experience of conflict or emergency; social cleavages and inequality and; cultures of protection and dispute resolution.

Ethiopia was chosen as a case study based on its unique development as a result of several of the above-mentioned features. In the Ethiopian case, state-society relations, the structure of the political system, cultures of dispute resolution and political ideology were the driving forces that shaped this particular model (IV). For example, the pre-existence of customary dispute resolution mechanisms and a culture of “community mobilization” led to rapid implementation and a generally positive reception to community policing. On the other hand, the authoritarian tendencies of the state have led to some dangerous uses of the tool, primarily when it comes to the potential for increased surveillance capacities, due to monitoring and reporting functions. Furthermore, traditional methods of dispute-resolution have tended to exclude women and girls from decision-making and this has transferred to the current model of community policing.

Overall, the report found that – while relations between the police and communities have improved and there was a general sense of greater personal safety amongst those interviewed – several challenges remain. Among these is the need to train a broader range of actors involved in justice provision on community policing practices in general; and to address particular obstacles, like gender discrimination, through more sensitivity training. The successes of community policing have also been somewhat insulated from components of the formal justice system, particularly the courts, which are still seen as the most corrupt and inaccessible aspect of the Ethiopian judicial system. Finally, there is the need for a finer balance between police accountability and crime reduction and surveillance activities.

The report’s findings are significant and applicable from a policy-perspective in that it illuminated important considerations when implementing community policing in Ethiopia and other cases. The model had both positive and negative impacts, and as the report reiterates, it is the job of the international community to ‘do no harm’ by strengthening the positive aspects while mitigating the negative. Identifying and navigating these complexities can only be done through a careful examination of the broader political context.

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Securing Communities: The What and the How of Community Policing

Community policing has gained popularity among donors, governments, police departments and communities as a mechanism for achieving a diverse range of goals – from crime reduction to improved state-society relations. Yet while community policing initiatives are widespread across the globe, there is little consensus on its definition, objectives or models. Given the ambiguity surrounding its precise meaning, this paper maps the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of community policing, setting out what it means and hopes to achieve, and how it manifests and is shaped by factors such as histories of state-society relations.

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Security and Justice Reform: Overhauling and Tinkering with Current Programming Approaches

This report brings together some of the key points of discussion from a one-day workshop organised by ODI in January 2014,  ‘From policy to programme implementation: Examining the political economy of security and justice reform.' It also draws from responses to an anonymous questionnaire of workshop participants, and on-going thinking in ODI in relation to the political economy of security and justice programming.

While the scope of the workshop was focused broadly on security and justice reform, discussions centred on DFID in particular given the background of the participants in the room. As a result, this report necessarily focuses on DFID, although its insights and ideas are relevant to other donors and funders working on SJR.

This publication is an output of the following project: Achieving sustainable governance transitions.To view this publication, please follow this link.


Security in Post-Conflict Contexts: What Counts as Progress and What Drives It?

This working paper explores how to understand progress in security in post-conflict societies, laying the groundwork for Development Progress' forthcoming security case studies on Liberia and Timor Leste.

It identifies that post-conflict transitions are messy and complex, depending on a wide range of interconnected drivers of change that need to be understood if we are to explain progress or regress. It argues for a modest understanding of security to capture limited but important examples of progress in post-conflict situations, whilst acknowlegding that what constitutes progress in conflict-affected areas is likely to be deeply contested.
Also looking at financial resources and sustainability, including as a foundation for longer term development, the paper acts as a primer for the exploration of security to be undertaken by the Development Progress project.

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Does SSR improve security in developing countries?

ssr lisa denney

Lisa Denney and Craig Valters studied the effectiveness of security sector reform (SSR) in a recently published review of international experience for the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The authors point out in the report serious shortcomings of capacity building approaches in SSR, notably the insufficiency of providing solely technical skills and the need to recognise the political roots of insecurity. 

In this commentary, the authors stress that programmes are more effective when politically aware, when adapted to the local needs and capacities, and when there is a flexible yet long-term commitment by donors. Finally, given the investment and stakes of SSR programmes, better understanding the effectiveness of different forms of support is necessary.

To access the piece Does SSR improve security in developing countries? as well as the report Evidence Synthesis: Security Sector Reform and Organisational Capacity Building , kindly follow the link.


Myanmar’s Plural Justice System

Understanding justice provision in Myanmar requires grappling with the universe of providers that people use to resolve disputes. There is no single justice provider with recognised authority to enforce the rule of law throughout Myanmar. Long-running political conflicts and plural power structures mean providers and systems are distinct in some places and overlap in others. This briefing maps the different justice chains people follow, providing an ‘end-user’ perspective on how they navigate justice providers.

For full access to the report Myanmar’s Plural Justice System, kindly follow the link.


Debt Disputes in Myanmar

People in Myanmar face a wide range of justice problems, from land disputes to drug trafficking to violence against women. Yet in MyJustice research, debt disputes emerged as the most common dispute people spoke of, affecting large numbers of people in both Mon State and Yangon Region (Denney et al., 2016). Yet debt disputes have been largely overlooked to date. They highlight the importance and challenge of equitable access to credit in a transitioning country like Myanmar, without which there are both justice and developmental consequences. As with most justice problems, debt disputes and a lack of formal credit access affect the poor and vulnerable most acutely.

For full access to the report Debt Disputes in Myanmar, kindly follow the link.


Understandings of Justice in Myanmar

The multitude of justice challenges confronting people in Myanmar means that there is significant scope for, and interest in, rule of law and access to justice programmes among both foreign and domestic actors. While attention to justice concerns is welcome, there is a danger of taking for granted that there are shared and agreed understandings about the meaning of justice and its role in society.

For full access to the report Understandings of Justice in Myanmar, kindly follow the link.


Other Documents

Political Economy Analysis - Guidance for legal technical assistance

This guidance note is for use by those involved in the design and delivery of pro bono and legal technical assistance projects aimed at advancing the rule of law in developing countries.

Seeking to bring about change in relation to the rule of law requires an understanding of the particular political and economic factors that exist within a context. PEA is an approach through which to consider these factors, identify underlying needs and problems in relation to the rule of law, and determine how legal technical assistance can contribute to effective and sustainable solutions.

To access the entire guidance note Political Economy Analysis - Guidance for legal technical assistance, kindly click on the link. 

Other Document