Mark Downes

Mark Downes

Mark is the Assistant Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance and Head of DCAF’s Operations Department. From 2008 to 2017 he was head of DCAF's International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT).

He previously worked for the OECD DAC where he was responsible for conceptualising and developing the OECD DAC Handbook on SSR. While at the OECD he worked on a number of other security and conflict related issues including ODA eligibility and on armed violence reduction.

He has published widely on security issues, has experience as an SSR and DDR trainer; and has worked on security and justice reform in a number of different contexts. He also previously served as Head of the Strategic Development Unit within the Law Enforcement Department of the OSCE Mission to Serbia and Montenegro (2002-2004).


Mark Downes on Advising

Mark Downes, Assistant Director of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and Head of DCAF’s Operations Department, explains why the past experience of practitioners can be both their greatest asset and their biggest baggage. Adapting advice to the context is crucial. 


Policy and Research Papers

Security-Sector Reform Applied: Nine Ways to Move from Policy to Implementation

Security sector reform (SSR) remains a relatively new and evolving concept, one that brings together practitioners and academics from many different backgrounds. The application of SSR differs from one context to the other, each with its own complications.
However, most of the writing on SSR has a policy focus rather than dealing with the practical issues of implementation. Not much focuses on the “little secrets and skills” required to practically apply SSR policy in post-conflict settings.

This policy paper provides nine recommendations for practitioners to increase their effectiveness in supporting SSR processes in such contexts. While local context should determine how SSR is implemented, these recommendations can help practitioners to accelerate progress on the ground. Though not an exhaustive list, small, smart steps, the paper argues, can go a long way.

The paper’s recommendations on how to practically apply SSR policy are:

1. Locate entry points for ownership
2. Decentralize via second-generation SSR
3. Understand the context, be flexible, and take an iterative approach
4. Reduce uncertainty and build up trust
5. Forge relations between police investigators and prosecutors
6. Support sustainable reforms
7. Build up the “missing middle” within the civil service
8. Consider a low-tech approach for higher yields
9. Put the right skills and systems in place

About the authors:
Rory Keane is the SSR advisor to the head of the UN mission in Liberia.
Mark Downes is Head of the International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT) at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

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Other Documents

ISSAT 16th Governing Board meeting - overview of 2016

Overview of the year 2016 so far, given by Mark Downes, Head of ISSAT, at the occasion of the 16th Governing Board meeting in Geneva.

Other Document

Security Sector Reform, an integrating function or a separate discipline?

Security Sector Reform is increasingly perceived as the answer to the vast array of security challenges that beset post-conflict and fragile communities. It is hyped as the answer to the exit strategy dilemma faced by the international community. It is not the concept of SSR that matters, but the integrated approach it brings to police reform, defense reform, justice reform, governance reform and national security planning. It can also be the bridge that conceptually links the security-development nexus.

Input by: DCAF’s International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT)

Other Document

UN Peace Operations: What Needs to Change?

International police assistance mandates have changed over the past two decades. Activities have become increasingly wide-ranging and complex, moving from monitoring host State police officers to supporting the reform and restructuring of police organisations. In a few exceptional cases, (most recently Kosovo and Timor-Leste) ‘executive’ police mandates involve substituting for inadequate or absent policing and law enforcement capacity. Both executive and non-executive missions have focused on building capacity of the host State police, a task complicated by weak governance, fragile institutions, community dislocation, rapid urbanisation and transnational criminal groups.

Input by: Tor Tanke Holm, Deputy Director of the Norwegian Police University College, and Mark Downes, Assistant Director DCAF and Head of the International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT)

Other Document