Conflict, Crime & Violence: Differences and Similarities in Two Programming Approaches: An introduction of the OECD’s programming note on “Linking Security System Reform and Armed Violence Reduction.”

by James Cohen · June 27th, 2011.

The following guest blog post has been provided by colleague Erwin van Veenpolicy analyst on peace and security of the OECD’s International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF):

In developing this programming note, as one of three companions to the OECD DAC policy paper on Armed Violence Reduction: Enabling Development (OECD, 2009), the aim was to provide experts and practitioners, who work to tackle the problem of armed violence, with practical guidance to generate better programming. This matters because armed violence claims over 700,000 lives annually. The cost of conflict exceeds $1 trillion, every year. Earlier work on Security System Reform (SSR) provides useful perspectives to aid in overcoming this global challenge.

It has become common knowledge that citizen safety and security are key enablers of development. Both SSR and Armed Violence Reduction (AVR) efforts seek to bring such safety and security about. Both orginate from an understanding of security that goes beyond the state and includes citizens and communities. Unique aspects of SSR are its holistic view of the security and justice sector, conceived of as an interlinked set of institutions, and its focus on governance. Unique aspects of AVR include its focus on drivers of violence, an emphasis on measuring and monitoring interventions and analyzing conflict as well as crime as prime sources of the violence that has such devastating effects on development. These different strengths are easily combined and make for better programming. The note contains evidence-based, practical advice on how this can be done. Better programming saves lives.

There are, however, also two important differences between both concepts. AVR does not include much focus on the justice sector. Yet, in the long run there can be no security without justice as a way to resolve grievances peacefully. AVR practitioners must pay more attention to injustice as a driver of violence and to justice mechanisms as conflict management tools. Instead, AVR does focus strongly on socio-economic factors that stimulate armed violence, such as poor urban design, a lack of economic opportunities or public health. SSR efforts typically focus more on strengthening the institutional capabilities of security providers, on the assumption that this generates better security and justice. SSR practitioners can benefit from broader analysis of drivers of insecurity and violence before zooming in on security strategies and institutions. Finally, conflict and crime may have similar effects, but they require different responses. AVR and SSR practitioners should use crime and conflict analysis as appropriate, realizing that today’s violence often takes the form of repeating cycles that blend both. Traditional tools may not be adequate anymore as a result. Such differences need to be clarified and, where necessary, mitigated, before programming design is undertaken. The note helps to understand these differences and to facilitate the choices that inevitably have to be made in programming efforts.


James Cohen
27 juin 2011 à 22:46:49

While true that SSR has traditionally not focused on informal institutions enough in the past, the community as of late has been opening up its scope to take into account informal security and justice providers. Methodologically in the field this has been lead by a ‘what-works’ approach , essentially moving past who ‘should’ provide justice and security in a local area, but rather seeing who ‘is’(See ISSAT OGN on 'Conducting a Security and Justice Assessment' in Tools and Resources section of the site). This is especially effective where state institutions have no reach, particularly rural areas in fragile states. Just to note this does not automatically accept that any non-state actor providing security and justice is necessarily doing it well, but trying to improve the service provided by those actors in the short term can have positive effects on the security of the general populace.

Good of course to be informed on other lenses like AVR to expand one's scope in what to look for.