Case Studies

Case studies provide excellent insight into the practical challenges of SSR initiatives and provide an opportunity to learn from those that have been successful, and not so successful.  They help us to see the patterns of good practice, when to apply different approaches and what pitfalls to avoid.  Please add your own case studies to help us build a rich repository of examples from real experience.

The Philippines: The “Bantay Bayanihan” Forum

Building on a decade of capacity building training programmes and joint programming for the military and civil society in the Philippines, a new initiative creates a permanent forum for civil society-military-police coordination and civil society oversight of the security sector. Launched in 2011, the Bantay Bayanihan forum institutionalized the goodwill that began with the 2010 formulation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) that included strong participation from civil society groups.

Bantay Bayanihan, known as the “BB,” engages the security sector in critical and constructive collaboration towards peace and security sector reform. The network serves as an independent oversight body in the implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Internal Peace and Security Plan. It provides dialogue spaces for various stakeholders to come together and work towards addressing peace and security issues at the local and national levels.


The BB is a “Whole of Nation Approach” involving many diverse stakeholders. But the BB is also localized, enabling the general public at the local level to communicate directly with local security forces and local government. The map here highlights the locations of BB platforms across the Philippines. The network has grown to 15 clusters with a nationwide reach. It includes 150 civil society organizations – including human rights, religious, environmental, academic, and labour groups - together with civilian government units, leaders from the Department of National Defence, Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Security Council, and the Cabinet Cluster on Justice, Peace, and Security also participate in BB events and meetings. The BB’s National Secretariat is the Security Reform Initiative (SRI).

According to the BB’s website, [1] “The universal message of Bantay Bayanihan is about working together towards winning the peace. By sharing the gains and duties of laying the groundwork for conflict resolution and community development, it creates a space for conflict survivors to be empowered in creating their future. At the same time, it brings government closer to its constituents, offering a human perspective of security issues rather than its traditional institutional stance.” BB aims for dialogue partners to jointly implement the IPSP to ensure and advance human rights, international humanitarian law, rule of law, accountability, civilian engagement and democratization of the armed forces. Specifically, BB includes the following tasks:


• Serving as a venue or direct channel to raise issues regarding the IPSP-Bayanihan, including peace and security concerns of local communities

• Conducting and validating periodic evaluations of IPSP-Bayanihan

• Providing recommendations to the Chief of Staff (national level) and Commanding General (unified command/ division/ brigade level) on IPSP-Bayanihan

• Generating concise policy recommendations on security reforms together with peace and conflict dynamics, to be submitted and presented to respective peace and order councils (local executive) and sanggunian (local legislative), all the way to national-level Cabinet security cluster (executive) and Congress (legislative)

• Promoting Bantay Bayanihan to other potential partner stakeholders

• Institutionalizing the active partnership of government and civil society

In addition to smaller meetings where civil society representatives meet with security sector leaders, the BB also holds public forums to broaden discussion about Peace and Order Councils, Normalization, and CAFGUs (Citizen Auxiliary Force Geographical Units). Bantay Bayanihan also produces policy reform papers to reflect the views of both civil society and relevant government agencies.

The BB emerges from decades of tense relationships between communities and security forces. At first, civil society suggested that they call the BB a “multisectoral advisory committee.” Then the name shifted to the “Bayanihan Partners Forum” but some parts of civil society objecting, noting it was too early to call each other “partners.” Some military officers were unsure about allowing civil society representatives to hear intelligence reports, such as the details of operations, from casualties to how many shells were fired. A civil society member shared that with the IPSP approach guiding the military’s activities, there was a significant change in dealing with such cases: “Military now plays a vital role as protector of the civilians. This lessened human rights violations because the military has learned that they have to connect with the community. Before, they were hard to get or they were very sensitive and defensive especially when we brought cases of rape [against soldiers] to the [meeting] sessions.” Trust continues to grow, as security forces recognize the value of hearing civil society’s different perspectives and analysis on security threats.

In the region of Lanao del Norte, the BB’s work building civil society collaboration outreach from a small, interfaith NGO known as Pakigdait with the Filipino military. Pakigdait conducts interfaith dialogue between Muslim and Christian leaders and aims to help communities address conflict and bring needed changes without violence. Like most of his community, Musa Sanguila of Pakigdait had experienced abuse from military personnel. Growing up as an ethnic Moro, he had been rounded up by the military police and from that experience of repression and humiliation he became a Moro activist. In August 2008 the army blocked all food supplies to the local municipality. Pakigait requested for passage to bring in relief goods. The army refused for fear that they are also providing for the insurgents. But now, because of the BB dialogue, trust between civil society and the military is increasing because of the BB engagement.


His colleague Abel Jose Moya was captured and tortured in the 1980s for his role in the New People’s Army. Sanguila and Moya had a change of heart. With a desire to promote a “culture of peace,” Sanguila and his colleagues began regularly visiting military camps to teach soldiers how to speak the local Maranao language and to relate better to local communities. The AFP twice awarded Pakigdait as an “outstanding NGO” for its bridge building work between civil society and the military. [2] Now Musa Sanguila sits on the BB oversight committee. Sanguila observed that “Everyone is wounded” in both civil society and in security forces. Speaking as a representative of civil society, Sanguila states “It is important we talk to each other. We always tell them that we are here not to criticise but to be constructive on how we can push for peace and development together. We are here to help.”

Excerpt from the book Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches edited by Lisa Schirch with Deborah Mancini-Griffoli and published by The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.


[1] See Accessed 30 October 2015.
[2] See Ariffin-Cabo. June 2008.

Case Study

Mozambique: Civil Society Roles in DDR

From 1977-1992, a civil war traumatized the country, as both sides, FRELIMO and RENAMO, relied on child soldiers and committed atrocities against civilians. Religious leaders from the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM), the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church and its affiliates at the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio based in Rome encouraged RENAMO and FRELIMO to bring an end to the war through dialogue in a 1992 peace agreement. The UN oversaw demobilisation of 100,000 troops and collected over 200,000 weapons between 1992-1994[1] . At the end of this process, the country still suffered from violent crime and a widespread sense of trauma. Millions of weapons and caches of ammunition, landmines and explosives still littered the country, obstructing agriculture, and economic development. These local stashes were a source of instability, as it remained unclear whether the peace agreement would hold or whether groups would return to fighting.


Religious organizations and NGOs in Mozambique led a nation-wide DDR programme following the end of the UN’s program. The Christian Council of Mozambique’s (CCM) pivotal role in the peace process gave it trust and respect to also play roles in disarmament. CCM noted in its 2002-2204 report that “Mozambique is the first Country in the world with a government who accepted in 1995 to give the civil society, (Christian Council of Mozambique) completely the responsibility for collection, massive destruction of small arms and light weapons as well as all security process of these complex and political very sensible issue.” [2]

In addition, over a dozen Mozambican youths, some of whom were former child soldiers from both the RENAMO and FRELIMO forces, came together in 1995 to discuss effective ways for community participation in peacekeeping and security processes. Initially named the Community Intelligence Force (Força de Inteligência Comunitária, or FIC) the group eventually changed their name to FOMICRES (Mozambican Force for Crime Investigation and Social Insertion). FIC joined together with the CCM in a “transformation of swords into ploughshares’ or “TAE” disarmament project[3] . Early efforts included helping community members build trust with one another, establishing a culture of peace, and fostering understanding of the need for reconciliation and weapons collection. FIC trained community members on techniques to gain intelligence for public collection and destruction of small arms and light weapons that were still in illicit hands. The six elements of the project included:

• Weapons collection

• Exchange of weapons for tools

• Destruction of weapons

• Civic education in the community

• Transformation of the destroyed weapons into art pieces

• Post-exchange follow-up with beneficiaries

FIC staff worked with communities, former combatants and leaders on both sides to gather information on the location of weapons stashes. Individuals and communities would share information about weapons based on promises that they would receive tools such as bicycles, sewing machines, zinc roof sheeting or agricultural tools in exchange. General criteria for the exchange allowed for standardizing negotiations depending on the type and condition of the weapons.

For example, for 1 operational weapon, 12 non-operational weapons, or 520 units of ammunition, an informant could expect to receive 10 zinc sheets (often used for roofing) or 1 bicycle[4] . Technical staff from the capital Maputo would then travel to these areas to verify the information and arrange a process with the communities to collect and destroy the weapons.

In the capital city Maputo, artists transformed some of the weapons and ordinance into objects of art for sale such as the chair pictured here. The artists helped to attract attention to the project, reinforcing public values in a culture of peace. The art also attracted donor’s attention and sponsorship of FOMICRES other work.

FOMICRES also worked with Mozambican government authorities and the South African police in a project called “Operation Rachel;” a cross-border weapons collection and destruction initiative. This partnership brought together government-scale logistics and technical support, together with FOMICRES’ trust with communities, needed in order to enter communities and then locate and collect weapons.

FOMICRES expanded its programming to begin work on other security issues, such as the shortage of police. In Mozambique, more policemen die of AIDS than can be trained to replace them. According to FOMICRES reports, nearly a million community volunteers now assist the police. With new funding from the German Government via Peace Direct, FOMICRES is now refining the selection of policing volunteers and offering training course for community volunteers, hoping that this can bring down rates of violent crime.

Evaluations of the work of the TAE project indicate a variety of outcomes. First, the project collected thousands of weapons and hundreds of thousands of pieces of ordinance. While this is a small amount compared with the UN missions’ DDR efforts, it is a considerable contribution for a CSO without the scale of resources and logistics as government. Evaluators note that “collecting and destroying illegal weapons is not very meaningful unless it is part of a wider effort to improve security and maintain peace. In the case of TAE, it is an attempt to promote a culture of peace, advocate a life without guns, help ex-combatants to gain a peaceful livelihood and reduce the suspicion between former enemies. Much of this costs money, which is why a programme like TAE cannot be as cheap as a straightforward gun buy-back program.”[5] TAE asserts that the real value of its work is to foster public awareness of a culture of peace.

Excerpt from the book Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches edited by Lisa Schirch with Deborah Mancini-Griffoli and published by The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.


[1] Sami Faltas and Wolf-Christian Paes, Brief 29 Exchanging Guns for Tools: The TAE Approach to Practical Disarmament–—An Assessment of the TAE Project in Mozambique. World Vision and Bonn International Center for Conversion April, 2004: 9.

[2] Ibid.

[3]  “Weapons collection in Mozambique: FOMICRES” in An Introduction to Local First: Development for the Twenty-First Century. London: Peace Direct, 2012.

[4] Faltas and Paes, p. 28

[5] Faltas and Paes, p. 31.  

Case Study

DRC: Peacebuilding-based DDR

Following the DRC’s Lusaka peace agreement in 1999, the World Bank organized funding for a Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Programme (MDRP). Beginning in 2004, a programme to demobilize, disarm and reintegrate 150,000 ex-combatants, mainly militia members, continued to function alongside active warfare. In North Kivu in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a small local Congolese NGO with fifteen years of local peacebuilding experience began a DDR program.


Drawing on peacebuilding skills, a DDR programmes run by the Centre for Resolution of Conflicts (CRC) emphasized building an infrastructure of support for sustainable reintegration[1] . CRC viewed reintegration as the cornerstone of successful DDR, and as such advocated calling the efforts RDD to emphasize the need to think about reintegration from the very beginning of any DDR program. From CRC’s point of view, the donor-supported DDR programmes neglected to consider how ex-combatants would cope with reintegration. Money was available for “sensitizing” armed groups on the need to disarm and demobilize, but money was not available for reintegration or for considering how to prepare communities where they were to be reintegrated. DDR programmes assumed ex-combatants would be integrated into the state’s armed forces, even though these units also were to be demobilized.

CRC designed a programme for reintegration where it became an opportunity for community development. Creating a preventive infrastructure to handle land conflicts was a key component of the CRC approach. Together, there was a coherent plan for livelihood creation through seeds and agriculture kit. This paired with the development of a community-based conflict resolution system that addressed issues of IDPs and combatants returning and settling on land.

Six task forces worked on the reintegration process, each with approximately 12 people made up of community and religious leaders, former child soldiers, and former militia commanders. CRC trained the task forces on human rights and conflict resolution. The task forces play a variety of roles through CRC partnerships with other agencies such as FAO, UNDP, UNHCR and Save the Children/UNICEF.

First, CRC advertises their DDR programme in a variety of ways. Radio programmes encouraged combatants to leave armed groups individually. Negotiations with militia leaders encouraged demobilization and reintegration for entire militia groups. MONUSCO (and before that MONUC) dropped leaflets from helicopters inviting combatants to call the CRC director to discuss reintegration. 

CRC staff would then travel without protection into the bush – sometimes waiting for several days - to negotiate with militia commanders, to return with all of their men or to release child soldiers. CRC provided accompaniment for 4,276 ex-combatants (3532 men, 270 women, and 474 children). This accompaniment ensured the safe passage of ex-combatants to MONUSCO or FARD camps where they are demobilized by removing their weapons, military-style clothing or other symbols of their combatant status and recording their names. CRC then accompanied them to the communities where they were reintegrated. This helped make sure that militia members made it all the way into CRC reintegration programs, which CRC viewed as pivotal to successful DDR.

Simultaneously with advertising the programme to militia members, CRC prepared communities for receiving militia members. CRC persuaded communities through incentives such as reparation programmes where militia members would do community service, such as building roads. CRC also provided a range of livelihood options, some available to non-combatant community members. For example, CRC began joint civilian and ex-combatant co-operatives for 1334 ex-combatants. Inclusion of civilians in the cooperatives ensured that ex-combatants alone did not receive the bulk of assistance, since this would create an unfortunate incentive for others to join militias. Cooperatives begin with 30 members and small grants of $2000 as start up. Cooperatives often grew quickly, some with 200 members, as they extend inclusion of others. Ex-combatants may provide community service by rehabilitating local infrastructure of roads and markets. This increases their acceptance by local communities and enables further community development.

CRC found that civilian communities provided a socializing model of civilian values and provided a new social network for militia members that affirmed acceptable civilian behaviours. In addition, CRC supported the creation of voluntary social networks to attend to reintegrated militia members and the community. This includes community conflict resolution task forces that help to ease social tensions. The CRC set up an early warning system and provided mediation for local disputes. The local conflict resolution task forces were created to warn of impending conflicts over land, for example, as IDPs return to an area. The task forces supported mediation to take place between key stakeholders so that an agreement can be made without resort to violence.

CRC supported 119 communities in the reintegration process by hosting call-in radio clubs for two-way dialogue on weekly CRC radio programs. Listeners could text or call into the radio show with their concerns or ideas. Some villages used these radio clubs as a way of fostering participatory planning and development on projects such as bicycle repair, hairdressing, hydroelectric power and propagating seedlings for reforestation. There is also a synergy between these programs. The radio clubs foster trust with local communities, that then makes the other stages of reintegration work more smoothly.

PeaceDirect, the London-based funder of CRC, is carrying out on-going monitoring and evaluation of CRC’s DDR effort. Ex-combatants who went to communities with CRC’s intervention are compared both with ex-combatants who went through other, non-CRC DDR programs, and with ex-combatants who did not receive CRC or other DDR support. Researchers also interviewed CRC-assisted communities and non-CRC assisted communities to evaluate their view of the program. Researchers found that 81% of ex-combatants who did not receive assistance would consider re-recruiting to an armed group compared to 58% of those receiving non-CRC assistance and only 10% of those ex-combatants that CRC did assist. An evaluation of CRC’s work found that its identity as a local organization with a long history of working with local communities enables it to be credible and trustworthy for armed groups, many of whom have become wary of FARDC, UN and MONUSCO. “CRC’s long term commitment, visibility, local knowledge, first hand awareness of the impacts of conflict at a personal and community level, networks of contacts and strong staff commitment and work ethic have given CRC great credibility with armed groups, with communities and with partners.” [2] 

Peace Direct also compares the cost for CRC’s DDR program, a small fraction of the costs of large scale, government or contractor-run programs. For example, the cost for these task forces was $1500 to start up each Task Force with $500 per year for travel funds. Task Force members volunteered 44000 hours of time per year. In contrast, some DDR programmes easily cost $1500 per armed individual.

Excerpt from the book Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches edited by Lisa Schirch with Deborah Mancini-Griffoli and published by The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.


[1] This case is drawn from Coming Home: A Case Study of Community Led Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration in D.R. Congo. London: Peace Direct, 2011.

[2] Peace Direct Evaluation Report cited in Coming Home, p. 11.

Case Study

Lebanon: Building Trust Between Police and Local communities

Decades of civil war and regional conflict have resulted in few opportunities for the country to rally around a comprehensive security sector reform process. As a result, there is a trust deficit between civil society and the security sector, with the Internal Security Forces (ISF) often perceived as corrupt, biased or inefficient in their role of protecting local communities.


Recognizing this, the Lebanese government together with international partners decided to pilot a programme in one neighbourhood in central Beirut, Hbeish, with the aim of transforming the Ras Beirut Police Station into a ‘model Police Station’. By the time that SFCG began partnering with the station, they had already adopted a code of conduct based on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Standards and changed their recruitment and training policies in order to ensure their officers are properly trained. The ISF also set up new and easily accessible facilities and introduced regular patrols on foot, vehicle and bike as well as a digital database to collect and analyse security incidents. These organizational changes had built skills within the police to better be able to engage with the community. Yet there was little opportunity for police and community members to actually build direct human relationships with each and restore their mutual trust.

Search for Common Ground’s programme ‘Better Together’,in partnership with the Ras Beirut Police Station aimed thus to build healthy relationships with the local community and strengthen the effectiveness of the police officers in protecting the community.

Building Skills for Trust-building; Separately, then Together

The Ras Beirut community is situated nearby large universities, where perceptions towards the ISF were very negative. SFCG knew that bringing together people from the community with the ISF in a face to face meeting or town hall meeting would likely end with confrontation and deepening of mistrust.

SFCG thus started by reaching out to various student and young organisations, to explain the project and identify people who were interested in gradually growing their engagement with the ISF. At first, there was deep suspicion and rejection by many young people. But SFCG was gradually able to draw the young people into the project, starting by building skills for the young people in citizen engagement and Common Ground leadership and advocacy, with an emphasis on identifying areas of commonalities with ‘the other’.

SFCG thentrained nominated ISF members from Ras Beirut in skills around non-violent communication, mediation and conflict transformation. They also became familiar with methods of social media outreach, to improve their ability to communicate with the community.

Trust-building through Open House and Joint Patrols

SFCG recognized that many of the stereotypes held both by the youth and the ISF were due to past negative experiences, and misperceptions about the real role and responsibilities of the ISF. SFCG worked with the ISF to host open-house days where members of the community could come in and learn about the Ras Beirut station, and talk to police officers. Many community members had never before been in the police station, or had had negative experiences in the past. The ISF also invited a group of young people to shadow them on night patrols in the neighbourhood, which was an eye-opening experience for the youth, and a humanizing and trust-building success.


Roundtable Discussions and Joint Problem Solving Workshops

After several months of working with the groups separately, SFCG facilitated a series of round table discussions. While recognizing that many of the participants still felt a need to express their anger, trauma or distrust of the other group, the facilitation gradually moved the group towards the identification of challenges within the community,which they could tackle together. Issues identified included how to tackle small café owners who put their tables and chairs on the street illegally, how to manage waste, and how to put in place a mobile application for citizens to be able to alert the Police Station when they see suspicious or criminal behaviour.

Through a series of five round tables, the relationship was developed to the point that in order to achieve progress on the above ideas, both the ISF and the community identified and contributed resources to move them forward. A WhatsApp  group was created to enable on-going dialogue and collaboration to reach these goals.

Community Outreach

Once the bridges of trust had been built between the ISF and the young people along with other community leaders, they jointly organised other public outreach activities. This included sports and cultural events, as well as setting up stands at large public Beirut street festivals (for example the Hamra Festival). The group also produced leaflets and posters to communicate the community security focus of the police station, and group representatives appeared on local media to talk about their initiatives.


Through the trainings, joint activities, round tables and public outreach, trust gradually began to overcome the mistrust and fear. In the end, the pilot project to demonstrate how the Ras Beirut Police station could become a ‘model police’ station showed signs of becoming reality, as both police officers and community members understood and acted on their joint sense of responsibility for bringing this idea to reality.

Excerpt from the book Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches edited by Lisa Schirch with Deborah Mancini-Griffoli and published by The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Case Study

Guatemala: Toward a Democratic Security Policy

The Guatemalan Peace Accords signed in 1996 brought an end to 36 years of internal armed conflict between a repressive and authoritarian state and leftist guerrillas with more than 250,000 victims, 63 massacres and other crimes against humanity. As part of the peace process, Government and insurgency representatives reached an official Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and on the Role of the Military on a Democratic Society that detailed the need to transform the security sector institutions adapting it to the new roles required in a democratic era. But implementation of the agreement faltered: a resistant military, a distracted government, a polarized atmosphere and an un-informed public combined to allow the continuation of the conceptual and operational frameworks of counterinsurgency that represented a latent threat to peace and democratization.

The Peace Accords dealt not only with the end of the armed confrontation and its effects in society, but addressed a wide range of social and economic issues –from women’s rights to socio-economic policy- effectively becoming an agenda for social reform. The Part Agreement on the Strengthening of Civil Society and the Role of the Armed Forces in a Democratic Society (AFPC, for its Spanish acronym) went beyond the usual disarmament, demobilization and reintegration agenda to deal with issues of military reform and de-militarization of society. It was not so much about the end of armed struggle as about the advent of democracy in Guatemalan society. It dealt not so much with the necessary redefinition of military functions as a result of the end of armed conflict and the disappearance of the subversive military threat to the state, as with the need to ensure the development of a military institution that responds to the security needs of a democratic political community. In this regard, it built upon the Central American Democratic Security Framework Treaty that had been signed by the Presidents of the Central American countries in 1995 with the explicit intention to eradicate the authoritarian regional security structures and concepts inherited from the Cold War. [1]

The POLSEDE (Toward a Security Policy for Democracy) initiative was launched in 1999 by two local civil society organizations, the local chapter of an academic network of research centres called the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), and the Guatemalan Institute for Development and Peace (IGEDEP), with the support of the War-Torn Societies Project (WSP International) –currently known as Interpeace- and UNDP. The research-and-dialogue process brought all the concerned parties in state and society around a collective effort to further the goal of military conversion and promoting democratization in the spirit of the peace accords. The programme gathered relevant government agencies including the military, civil society organizations and academic institutions in a process that lasted over 3 years, holding more than 200 meetings in 6 technical working groups and a high-level Plenary, and organizing ad-hoc events such as public conferences and workshops.


The War-Torn Societies Project had developed a method of participatory action research to enable a diverse and polarized community of actors in state and society to engage in an inclusive evidence-based analysis and decision-making process. The research and dialogue process provided a neutral space making it safe for people to participate across socio-political divides, working upon the principle of consensus. The combined dialogue and research methods ensured the development of policy recommendations that were both technically sound and politically legitimate. The intention was to facilitate the adoption of collaborative attitudes by undertaking the dialogue as an academic exercise instead of relying on adversarial ‘negotiation’ formats. The ‘evidence based’ nature of the process would prevent actors from engaging on discussions based upon pre-defined, often ideologically anchored notions of what the problems and the solutions were, allowing time for the establishment of sound, evidence-based parameters for the discussion. The consensus rule would reduce concerns that the exercise could be politically manipulated in favour of one side or other and eased resistance to participation from hardliners by guaranteeing they would not be ‘ambushed’ by numbers.

A critical issue was the identification of the motivational factors that would enable such a varied group of actors, often polarized about the issues, to converge around a common effort. Government authorities expressed their support for the initiative, clearly identifying the value of consensus-based policies in such a polarized subject, and specifically, the potential contribution to the implementation of lagging AFPC commitments. Civil society organizations expressed their interest in a space that would allow them to interact with civilian and military actors in government, on a topic hitherto monopolized by security institutions and key for democratization. Although some recalcitrant military elements expressed reservations about the opening of military conversion and other SSR/D issues to civil society organizations, as an institution the Military –interested in legitimizing itself in a new political context- expressed its willingness to join a research-based effort that stood apart from the adversarial dynamics that had characterized civil-military relations. Clarity about their own and others’ motivations and transparency about the process rules and procedures enabled participants to progressively develop the trust and the shared knowledge necessary for the development of far-reaching consensus-based recommendations.

The project issued twelve documents with a range of specific recommendations that were integrated into a conceptual framework document on civil military relations, and four concrete legal and institutional reform proposals: of the national security system, of the intelligence services, and of the military functions. Beyond these concrete results, the project instilled in participant’s attitudes and skills that have enabled them to pursue cooperative engagement between state and society and strengthened civil society capacities for engagement still in evidence, long after the project ended.


A number of dialogues processes grew out of the project. The Project in Support of a Citizen Security Policy (POLSEC), was set up under the initiative of the participants in POLSEDE in response to an explicit request by the Government to transfer the analytical framework and dialogue mechanisms that were used in the project to the wider debate about public security such as initiatives in civil intelligence, criminal investigation and community-level security; The Guatemala Network for Democratic Security brought together military officers and civilians in a “security community” anchored in the new paradigm of democratic security that continued dialogue across the state-society divide. An Advisory Council on Security, created in the AFPC as a space for civil society participation in policy formulation, was finally established after Government and civil society reached agreement on the terms under which it would function. Over a dozen universities, think tanks and NGOs participated in a follow up projected called FOSS (Strengthening of Civil Society Organizations Specialized in Security) that carried out research on different aspects of the new security agenda, from civil society engagement in community security strategies to the development of democratic controls over the state’s security apparatus, that continues to function to this day. The National Congress signed an agreement with FOSS that turned its participant organizations into technical advisors of congressional committees working on security sector legislation. The result has been an empowered civil society, which has been playing important roles in the security sector policy making through technical advice, advocacy and lobbying.

This project did contribute toward progress and acted as a confidence building mechanism. It strengthened understanding on the technical issues at stake and improved research and policy capacities across the state-society divide; and a network of civilian and military actors with the skills and self-confidence necessary to continue in constructive interaction. Guatemala still has many security challenges linked to emerging security threats and forms of violence, and the process of democratizing the security legal and institutional frameworks continues. But it now has an empowered civil society that is living up to the challenge and engaging the state in constructive interaction around these issues.

Excerpt from the book Local Ownership in Security: Case Studies of Peacebuilding Approaches edited by Lisa Schirch with Deborah Mancini-Griffoli and published by The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.


[1] Bernardo Arévalo de León. “Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections on Building a Concept of Security in and for Democracy”. In Human Security, Conflict Prevention and Peace in Latin America and the Caribbean, edited by Moufida Goucha and Francisco Rojas Aravena; UNESCO-FLACSO Chile; Santiago de Chile 2003.

Case Study