Nina Wilén

Nina Wilén is a guest lecturer at Sciences Po Paris and a scientific collaborator at the World Politics Department at the Royal Military Academy and Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, where she got her PhD in Political Science in 2010. Her research interests include intervention and state building, security sector reform, conflict resolution and the theoretical interpretation of sovereignty in International Relations.
Currently she is working on the security sector reform processes in the countries of Central Africa, which involves fieldwork. Her most recent publications include the book: Justifying Interventions in Africa: (De)Stabilizing Sovereignty in Liberia, Burundi and the Congo (2012) Palgrave Macmillan and the article: “A Hybrid Peace through Locally Owned and Externally Financed SSR-DDR in Rwanda”, Third World Quarterly, vol. 33, n°7, 2012 as well as “Identifying the Spoilers in the SSR-DDR Process in Congo”, in the Journal of Defence and Security Analysis in 2013.
A part from doing research, Nina is currently giving lectures at Sciences Po Paris and at the Royal Military Academy.
Nina Wilén speaks English, French and Swedish fluently and has passive knowledge of Danish, Norwegian and Spanish. She can be contacted by email:

Policy and Research Papers

Identifying the Spoilers in the Security Sector Reform - Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Process in the Congo

The Congolese security sector reform – disarmament demobilisation and reintegration (SSR-DDR) process has suffered from setbacks in its military sector during the last 10 years, such as insufficient funding, lack of coordination and domestic reluctance to major changes, with as a result, a very fragile and disjointed Army. These problems have deepened as officers have defected from the Army and caused new instability in the East of the Congo. This article aims to analyse the recent mutinies and the reaction by the Congolese government by applying a capabilities-based approach in combination with a typology of spoilers. The objective is to identify and classify the spoilers and answer the questions of why they emerge now and how they are dealt with on a national level. From the analysis, the author suggests that there are several spoilers involved in the current situation – the most powerful being the Congolese and the Rwandan governments, prompting the question of whether an international involvement is necessary to solve the problem.


Tintin is no longer in the Congo – A Transformative Analysis of Belgian Defence Policies in Central Africa

This study examines Belgium’s involvement in Central Africa over the last two decades, with a particular focus on the role of the Belgian Defence. The objective is twofold: on the one hand to analyse Belgium’s changing policies towards its former colonies during the last twenty years, and on the other hand to take an in-depth look at the military collaborations on the ground and establish an empirical and practical take on what role they fill, how they function and what aims they achieve through interviews and field observations. The analysis is made through the adoption of a transformative approach which includes evolutionary explanation factors, such as national political-administrative history, culture, and style of governance and static factors like national polity features, visible in constitutional and structural factors.

The author argues that the divided nature of Belgian internal politics, which is noted both in its polity features and its political-administrative history, influences its foreign policy towards Central Africa in an inconsistent manner. This is exemplified in the absence of a long-term strategy for the region. Yet, Belgium shows a strong desire to remain involved in the region, which, in the absence of a comprehensive and coherent strategy, results for the most part in a variety of one-dimensional short-term projects. It is recommended that Belgium, as one of the most trusted partners in the region, exploit its expertise in a more efficient manner and develop long-term three-dimensional projects, involving the three D’s (Defence, Diplomacy and Development), which would both benefit the reform processes under way in the partner countries, and Belgium’s visibility in the latter.


A Hybrid Peace through Locally Owned and Externally Financed SSR-DDR in Rwanda

 This article aims to critically examine Rwanda’s SSR-DDR process through a theoretical framework outlining four different models of peace processes in order to identify what sort of peace that can emerge from Rwanda’s SSR-DDR approach. The author analyses how the Rwandan government has managed to keep the SSR-DDR process ‘locally’ owned while largely financed by external actors, despite strong criticism for its apparent lack of democratization. The ‘genocide credit’, the Rwandan government’s preference for national, rather than international solutions and its recent troop contribution to peacebuilding operations in the region are identified as main reasons for this development. The paper argues that the peace emanating from the SSR-DDR process may be considered as a hybrid form of stateformation and statebuilding, due to the local agency’s preference for security and stability while simultaneously enjoying financial and technocratic support for its ‘liberal’ peacebuilding actions in the region. 

The article can be accessed here


A Window of Opportunity for Reforms in the Congo’s Security Sector?

The CSG has just published its inaugural SSR 2.0 Brief on “A Window of Opportunity for Reforms in the Congo’s Security Sector?” written by Nina Wilén.

This brief shows that in order to seize the opportunity, there is a need for renewed and reinforced collaboration between Congolese and international partners. In particular, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has an opportunity to grasp its long awaited role as a coordinator for SSR efforts.

This SSR 2.0 Brief can be accessed here.


Burundi crisis: the military's central role

Nina Wilén, Visiting Researcher at Stellenbosch University and a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Antwerp and currently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Security Governance. In this article, she explores recent developments in Burundi, how they relate to the military, and proposes that the coming weeks will be decisive for the future of Burundi and the region as a whole. 

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Examining the links between security sector reform and peacekeeping troop contribution in post-conflict states

This article examines the links between post-conflict states’ troop contributions to international peacekeeping missions and security sector reform (SSR). It shows how SSR and troop-contribution preparations are increasingly interwoven and at times perceived as complementary by both external and internal actors. Some of the objectives sought after in SSR, such as the modernization of the military forces and the institutionalization of international norms, overlap with the aim of external partners’ pre-deployment training programmes and formations.

Yet, it is argued that there are several unintended consequences with establishing links between SSR and peacekeeping capacity-building that are too strong, including the reinforcement of the troop-contributing government which, in case the government has authoritarian tendencies, undermines democratic reforms and transparency. There is also a risk that donors increasingly prefer to support pre-deployment training that has tangible and rapid results rather than investing funds in SSR, which is politically difficult with few examples of success. Donors and national actors alike are therefore encouraged to reflect on whether post-conflict states should contribute troops in the immediate aftermath of conflict before SSR has been completed. The answer is likely to vary depending on context-specific issues, which makes it difficult to generalize across cases, but the question remains nevertheless essential.

For full access to, Examining the links between security sector reform and peacekeeping troop contribution in post-conflict states, please follow the link. 


Belgian Special Forces in the Sahel: A Minimal Footprint with Maximal Output?

In a shifting geopolitical context, the Belgian Defence has intensified its presence in the Sahel region and developed a new strategic military collaboration with Niger through Operation New Nero. This policy brief critically examines the strategy and identifies three challenges for the future of the operation: Niger’s democratic development, the asymmetry between the Western Partner Nation’s capabilities, and diverging agendas within the Belgian Defence. To counter these challenges, it is suggested that the minimalist approach and the social networks which enable horizontal collaboration among partners are maintained, while new civil-military opportunities are explored. On a broader level, it is recommended that Belgium aligns its political and military agendas to achieve longterm strategies geopolitical regions of importance.

Please follow the link provided to access the full paper, Belgian Special Forces in the Sahel: A Minimal Footprint with Maximal Output?


Security Sector Reform, Gender and Local Narratives in Burundi

This paper maps the difficulties with operationalising the gender discourse described in the peace accord and post-conflict documents, which guide Burundi’s peace-building process, through local women’s narratives from the security forces. The author claims that due to limited international and local investment, the local women involved in the security forces initiate small practical changes by referring to their vision of femininity, while theoretically legitimising these demands by linking them to the international human rights discourse in order to survive in an overwhelmingly masculine arena. International organisations and donors’ focus on traditionally feminine and softer areas, such as reconciliation and reintegration programmes, together with local elites’ tendency to view gender as an ‘add-on’ contribute to this development. 

For full access to the article, Security Sector Reform, Gender and Local Narratives in Burundi, please kindly follow the link.