Fairlie Chappuis

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Aligning Protection of Civilians and SSR

Experience from UN peacekeeping

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Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa | Background Paper

Concept note Learning Lab ASSN OSF DCAF

Outdated legal frameworks, under-capacitated parliaments, and submissive judicial authorities fail to provide the oversight, transparency or accountability that is required to protect human rights and uphold the rule of law. 


What is difficult about SSR in Africa? On one level, the framing conditions are undoubtedly challenging. Change of the kind that SSR aims for is measured in decades – even generations – rather than the months or years that measure national political cycles or donor programmes. Moreover, in most contexts the resources to support transformational change have also been scarce, whether human, material, technical or financial. On a more fundamental level, SSR is highly political and context-specific. If it is treated as a technical process abstracted from national political, security, socio-economic and cultural realities, it will not succeed.

There are also undoubted weaknesses and gaps in current SSR approaches. Different understandings of what SSR involves and who it concerns have led to flawed interventions that bred mistrust and suspicion, including between national and international understandings of reform.

The fact remains that freer and fairer democratic societies require more accountable and more effective security provision. In spite of the factors that limit progress in SSR, experience has shown that important progress can be made when internal and external support for reform align at opportune moments for change. New legal architecture for state security provision, fairer and more inclusive security recruitment, broader-based access to justice, more efficient management and oversight, and increased public scrutiny of security affairs are examples of reform that mark valuable progress in security governance. Moreover, progress can materialise in unexpected and intangible forms; thus, some of the most catalytic changes in people’s experiences of security have flowed from apparently subjective shifts in attitudes towards things like more inclusive security policy-making, greater sensitivity to human rights in security provision, or a strengthened resolve among overseers to make the most of their legal authority.

The ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ drew on the experience of academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners in this field in order to explore these challenges and identify ways to move forward in spite of them. To support these reflections, this Background Paper provides a baseline understanding of SSG/R concepts, policies and practice. It then considers key challenges for SSR in Africa before assessing programming gaps and potential entry points for engagement. This Background Paper is complemented by six Think Pieces, which intended to help shape discussion during the different sessions of the Learning Lab.

Access all material related to the ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ to find out more.

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Encourager un débat ouvert: le rôle fondamental de la société civile et des médias dans la bonne gouvernance de la sécurité

Ce document de réflexion, élaboré par Fairlie Chappuis (DCAF) pour le Laboratoire d’apprentissage sur la gouvernance et la réforme du secteur de la sécurité en Afrique, vise à encourager un débat ouvert sur le rôle fondamental de la société civile et des médias dans la bonne gouvernance de la sécurité ainsi que les défis auxquels ils font face. La société civile, sous-entendu tous les groupes qui s’impliquent de manière volontaire dans une action collective dans l’intérêt public, a un rôle essentiel à jouer afin de faire en sorte que le secteur de la sécurité fasse preuve de responsabilité et de transparence et qu’il réponde aux préoccupations de la population. Ce document met en lumière plusieurs facteurs communs aux divers contextes africains qui entravent la capacité de la société civile et des médias à jouer leur rôle de levier. S’ensuit divers points d’entrée pour des actions qui peuvent aider à aligner les valeurs portées par la société civile et les médias aux principes de la gouvernance démocratique de la sécurité, du respect des droits de l’homme et de l’état de droit.

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