Erwin Van Veen


Security Sector Reform and Local Ownership

Security Sector Reform and Local Ownership, an interview with Erwin van Veen, who at the time of recording (October 2012) was a Policy Analyst on Peace and Security at OECD-INCAF. Currently, Mr van Veen is a Senior Research Fellow at Clingendael's Conflict Research Unit, specialising in the use of armed violence, the influence of globalisation on conflict and fragility and the political economy of fragile environments,


Policy and Research Papers

The Deaf, the Blind and the Politician: The Troubles of Justice and Security Interventions in Fragile States

This article argues for an integrated, political and pragmatic approach to justice and security development as one of the key objectives of effective international support to peace building and state building in conflict-affected and fragile states. Developments since the 1990s suggest that different actors and communities have started to work on the same issues from different angles and with – perceived– different mandates. As a result, important parts of the debate on how to deal with security system reform (SSR), justice reform and the rule of law seem somewhat stuck in conceptual arguments. This article suggests moving away from such debates and instead to focus on what such justice and security engagements are meant to achieve, for whom, and which general approaches are likely to provide most added value. It argues that results require political focus, long-term processes and need to be in tune with local elite interests – whilst pursuing the aim of gradually helping to improve delivery of justice and security as basic services for all, to appropriate local standards. External and domestic objectives require careful balancing, creative compromises and strong incentives. The article also outlines a number of recurrent challenges to effective programming and suggests some ideas for improvement to achieve better results and more value for money.


From the struggle for citizenship to the fragmentation of justice Yemen from 1990 to 2013

This report analyses the many grievances that underpin these strains and tensions from the perspective of how the ability of legal remedies to resolve disputes peacefully infl uences the prospects of violence and state formation. It examines, in particular, how the state-basedlegal system and tribal customary law have developed, who uses them, and to what effect they function. It undertakes this inquiry within the broader framework of Yemen’s political economy that is characterised by exclusive governance and declining social justice since the country’s unifi cation in 1990. This focus enables the report to contribute a much needed analysis of Yemen’s ‘state of justice’ and what can be done to improve it.

You can find the full report under the following link: 


Yemen’s future: like Tunisia or Libya?

The recent conclusion of the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen might seem to point to progress in that fractured state. But the absence of the rule of law and impartial authority is allowing violence to fester and the international community needs to act decisively.

This messy panorama is characteristic of the kaleidoscope of violence in Yemen, with its multiple, overlapping issues and complex relations between power-brokers. It also typifies the associated impunity: with little to fear by way of legal repercussions, acts of violence are attractive instruments in pursuit of partisan agendas. As @BaFana3 tweeted, “Laws must be designed with the underlying assumption that they will be violated & have to be enforced. That concept is missing in #Yemen.”

You can find the paper here.


Injustice Begets Violence, and Violence Begets More of Both: The Case of Yemen

This piece is part of the project “From the struggle for citizenship to the fragmentation of justice: Yemen from 1990 to 2013.” You can read the main report here.

After the momentous events of 2011, Yemen sadly has become a kind of backwater of the Arab Spring in the international media. What rare news headlines surface usually include the word “drone,” “al-Qaeda,” or “terrorism.” Beyond the headlines, Yemen is characterized by the same ambiguity as many fragile environments: a unique process of national dialogue concluded on an upbeat note while violence intensifies. In Yemen's case, the violence is intensifying around Dammaj in northern Yemen, with the southern protest movement apparently radicalizing, and the normally peaceful Hadramaut governorate seeing a tribal war erupt.

Yet beyond both headlines and recent events, one finds the deep structural factors that have shaped the Yemeni polity over the past decades. The difficulty ordinary Yemenis face in obtaining justice through peaceful and legal means is one such factor that contributes significantly to creating the raw matter of current violence.


Independent Progress Review on the UN Global Focal Point for Police, Justice and Corrections

This report presents the results of an independent review of the progress that the GFP initiative has made since January 2012, conducted at the request of the GFP managers, by a joint research team from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations (Clingendael), the Stimson Center and the Folke Bernadotte Academy.



A Crisis of Confidence, Competence and Capacity: Programming Advice For Strengthening Mali’s Penal Chain

this report was researched and written on a tight timeline (mid-January to mid-May 2015), it focuses on the issues that emerged as the most salient ones in the course of the research. Moreover the various past and present efforts to improve the Malian justice system have  been examined in terms of the results they have achieved. In consequence, the report is best read as a panoramic snapshot of Mali’s ‘state of criminal justice’ at this particular point in time, nwhich it subsequently translates into general considerations and building blocks for programming efforts that seek to strength en Mali’s penal chain.

For full access to A Crisis of Confidence, Competence and Capacity: Programming Advice For Strengthening Mali’s Penal Chain, kindly follow the link.


From Entitlements to Power Structures

Security is experienced at the personal level, but it is often determined at the political level. The present report substantiates why needs analysis alone is inadequate for generating a good understanding of security in a particular community. It proposes a complementary approach to analysing community security that is more power-oriented. 

For full access to the report From Entitlements to Power Structures, kindly follow the link.


Improving Security and Justice Programming in Fragile Situations

This OECD Development Policy Paper by Erwin van Veen explores how international support for security and justice development programming needs to be designed in order to strengthen programmatic results and improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding and statebuilding strategies. Fragile environments can be tough and complex places in which to operate, and there is limited scope for external actors to drive reforms that fundamentally alter domestic power dynamics. Yet there is sufficient evidence to suggest that externally supported programmes can contribute to incremental change and lay the groundwork for a sustainable change process.

Based on a case study analysis of nine externally supported security and justice development programmes in Burundi, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, and Timor-Leste, the article stresses the need to consider four critical enablers that can improve the quality of international support. These enablers range from daily political engagement to an increased duration of the security and programmes to 6-10 years, along with the inclusion of longer-term results in the programme and ensuring that the implementation programme is adjustable.

To access the OECD paper by Erwin van Veen on Improving Security and Justice Programming in Fragile Situations, kindly follow the link.


Burundi Blues: The Road to Violence & Back

This article presents an analysis of Burundi's protracted crisis and what the international community can do in response. Re-engagement with the moderate elements of Burundi's ruling party is the only way out for the moment.The international community’s diplomatic and developmental responses can be summarised as ‘too little, too late’. International understanding of both the political strategy and the internal divisions of the ruling party has been woefully inadequate. As a result, some international responses to the country's protracted crisis have not been adequately thought through, for example the EU's article 96 decision. The international community must urgently re-engage the ruling party and consider increased support for selected legislative, judicial and administrative institutions via international (civil society) organisations. The aim is to empower remaining moderate political forces in the country as much as possible.

For full access to the article on Burundi Blues: The Road to Violence & Back , please kindly follow the link. 


Other Documents

The Political Dynamics of Security in Fragile States

Whether it is in the slums of Nairobi, the port of Karachi, or the corridors of power in Bujumbura, in many fragile societies state security organisations serve the interest of ruling elites in maintaining political power or their own institutional interests. What they often provide little of is security for ordinary people.

Clingendael's Senior Research Fellow Erwin van Veen explores the critical links of the functional chain between the exercise of political power and the organisation of security in fragile societies.

This blog appeared first on the website of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute (CDAI).

For full access to the blog about The political dynamics of security in fragile states, kindly follow the link. 

Other Document

Mapping a way forward for Security Sector Reform

As Security Sector Reform (SSR) faces pressure to address new issues and threats, the moment is right to assess unresolved issues concerning both the concept and the practice of SSR. Four points stand out as essential to improving SSR initiatives.

First, SSR efforts require a more nuanced balance of support for state actors and their informal counterparts, to reflect more accurately the realities of security provision in different political contexts. Second, while continuing to strengthen security actors’ capacity, SSR’s original focus on governance and political analysis of the security sector needs to be more central to such efforts. Third, SSR programs must be longer in duration, more iterative in approach and less prescriptive in terms of expected outcomes. Lastly, as modern security threats come into sharper focus on the international community’s agenda, particularly threats posed by transnational organized crime and violent extremism, SSR must not fall into the trap of ‘solving security problems’ or becoming a quick-fix solution. Rather, it needs to be more carefully applied, in line with its original core tenets.

Other Document