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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