Cross-government and donor coordination

Establishing whole-of-government approaches to supporting justice and security sector reform processes is a key element to effective and efficient support to SSR and is a key step toward donor coordination. This principle is well established within the international framework on aid effectiveness

  • Rome High Level Forum on Donor Harmonization (2003)
  • Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005)
  • Accra Agenda for Action (2008)
  • Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (2011)

Policy on a cross-government issue such as security and justice sector reform does not by itself, however, lead to better coordination. In fact analysis reveals that policy has little influence over field level programming, rather it is national coordination structures that play a greater role. Cross government coordination requires effort, and states with more empowered coordination structures (including control over resource allocation, decision making, and information) are better able to deliver comprehensive approaches. There is little consistency, however, and mechanisms range across:

  • permanent strategic levels of SSR coordination (the National Security Council in the UK, Swedish State Secretaries monthly assessment of conflict management contributions)
  • permanent country-level assistance coordination (Australian whole-of-government coordination for Papua New Guinea and Indonesia)
  • temporary issues/country-based coordinating (Canadian Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan)
  • working-level coordination and information sharing (usually at embassy level).

Lesson 1 – Policy coherence brings shared understanding

Lesson 2 – Assessments and joint analysis facilitate both coherence and coordination

Lesson 3 – Joint implementation is better enabled by common funding, and pooled resourcing

Lesson 4 – Coordinate between field and headquarters, especially regarding the politics

Lesson 5 – Learning and evaluation requires a common approach to maximise a multiplier effect

Selected resources

Lesson 1 – Policy coherence brings shared understanding

The common stumbling block to effective whole-of-government approaches is the lack of shared understanding of what SSR entails, common terminology, what approach is effective and even what are the roles and contributions of various actors.  There is often a confusion that whole-of-government approaches lead to a merging of mandates rather than clarity on what is the particular added-value—in terms of resources, expertise or approach—that one or other government department or agencies bring to a specific problem.

In SSR terms, this is often exemplified by the different interpretations of what SSR: is ‘’is it about governance?, is it “train and equip’’ SSR?, is it a stabilisation activity?’ Thus, a starting point to developing an effective whole-of-government approach is an inclusive and wide sensitisation on SSR at all levels of government (political and technical). It is important that all the actors speak the same language and have a shared approach towards supporting SSR. It is difficult to coordinate if there is no joint understanding of the concept of SSR, or if this can also refer to other areas as well.

Developing policy/guidance/strategy is an important step towards coordination, but these documents are only impactful if they are intended to be operational in nature. Lessons identified from policy include:

  • Ownership of the SSR policy - although one Ministry should be clearly identified and empowered as leading the coordination of effort, a single Ministry cannot support the implementation of SSR alone. Communication and dissemination of policy is critical, as need staff to be aware of it.
  • De-confliction and harmonisation of the domestic agenda and the development/diplomacy objectives - government departments and agencies tend not to work together if they see that their goals (or motivations) are starkly different or are seen even as impeding goals. Differences in domestic and development agendas cannot be reconciled at technical levels, but rather need senior political clarifications.
  • Internal common agreement on the added value and the comparative advantage of individual agencies/departments/Ministries in supporting different areas of justice and security sector reform. Aside from Defence and International Aid, most departments cannot generate capability for international deployment – how can their expertise be pooled?

 Examples of policy coherence mechanisms:

Lesson 2 – Mappings, assessments and joint analysis facilitate both coherence and coordination

There are an increasing number of examples of joint mappings and assessments as a basis for whole-of-government decision making or donor coordination on SSR programming. Mappings and assessments are commonly becoming the entry point for improved coordination, both at a national and international level. Joint assessments ensure that, from the outset, the Government has an agreed and common understanding of the priority needs and challenges in the sector, and the assessment itself is more robust because it employs a wider diversity of skill sets (from developmental, diplomatic, to technical) and organisational cultures.

In certain instances, the joint teams have themselves enabled more sector wide approaches (eg. criminal justice chain) and led to greater cross government cooperation/collaboration in programme implementation. The strength of the joint teams is also in the sense that it ensures there is a balance in expertise covering the essentials of SSR: the politics of SSR (MFA), developmental approach to sustainability and governance (Development Agency), and technical experts (MoD, MoI or MoJ).

Examples of joint mappings and assessments:

Lesson 3 – Joint implementation is better enabled by common funding, and pooled resourcing

Joint programming is often difficult because different ministries and departments have different budget lines, different reporting mechanisms, and even different timelines. The UK, Canada, and Denmark have, as a result, created common funding pools to ensure that there are no parallel administrative procedures, or that funding is no longer an obstacle to improved collaboration (with certain ministries not being able to engage because of financing).

Similarly, the success of any SSR support programmes ultimately hinges on the quality of personnel chosen to implement the programme. The UK, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Norway and others have moved towards pooling expertise through dedicated JSSR rosters.

SSR also needs to be better integrated with other public sector reform efforts – public finance management, decentralization, civil service reform, etc. This requires that government-wide approaches interact or include Ministries of Finance and Local Government.  Without including these actors we often forget to engage in critical areas of SSR.

Examples of common and pooled funding

Lesson 4 – Coordinate between field and headquarters, especially regarding the politics

Coordination structures at the headquarters level are not always replicated at field level, or vice versa. What is required is a dedicated capacity of sufficient seniority to coordinate between the various programmes. The US Security Governance Initiative (SGI) programme deploys SSR officers to oversee various departmental projects; Canada uses programme managers in Embassies (Afghanistan and Columbia) to coordinate programmes implemented by other agencies, while Norway deploys NORAD development specialists to periodically support the technical advisory teams deployed by the Ministry of Justice. 

The Embassy needs to play a prominent role in implementation – especially in regards to tracking what is being supported bilaterally but also in political dialogue. This approach ensures that all bilateral support is integrated into joint political dialogue and that important political legwork is not delegated to non-empowered outsourced agencies.

Examples of coordination between field and headquarters:

Lesson 5 – Learning and evaluation requires a common approach to maximise a multiplier effect

The key issue in this domain is the lack of consistency in reporting and evaluation between development-funded JSSR activities and military-led JSSR activities. Without a common approach to assessment and the sharing of evaluations, it is impossible to ensure that the different agencies are actually acting to deliver a coordinated and coherent set of programmes, and that the programmes are achieving the required effects. Ideally, military- (and police-) led SSR programmes should be required to report according to the same DAC principles as the development programmes, and with the same level of independent and transparent evaluation of outcomes and impacts.   

In many host countries, large donors and bilaterals have a multitude of programmes with complementary goals. Yet collectively, the programmes are not reinforcing, nor having a multiplier effect largely because the programmes are implemented by different agencies and use different reporting, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and lesson learning processes. It is important that common lesson learning processes are established which can help to understand weaknesses in the sector that could potentially have ripple effects on the overall reform efforts. Even agencies working on opposite ends of the criminal justice chain spectrum should be keen to stay informed on what is happening with programmes throughout the sector, as this impacts on the quality of their own work. Commonly, this includes progress in capacity building of one institution (e.g. police) while limited progress in another (e.g. judiciary) leading to an overall worsening of the situation (e.g. rise in pre-trial detention with more cases investigated but no matching capacity to handle cases by the courts).

The lesson learning process should then feed back into the programming decision-making processes, with a view that the whole Government has a clear picture of what is working, approaches that are effective in the given context, and where the priority gaps are across the sector. Such information can serve as an entry point or inspiration for one agency to provide support or for others to reflect on their own approach. 

Examples of common approaches for learning and evaluating: