Case Studies

Case studies provide excellent insight into the practical challenges of SSR initiatives and provide an opportunity to learn from those that have been successful, and not so successful.  They help us to see the patterns of good practice, when to apply different approaches and what pitfalls to avoid.  Please add your own case studies to help us build a rich repository of examples from real experience.

Mainstreaming Gender in the framework of the Nepal Justice Sector Assessment (Norwegian mandate)

Norway mandated ISSAT to map an overview of the Nepalese population’s emerging needs and identification of possible areas for future programmatic support related to justice sector reform.

From conception, the mandate strived to incorporate gender perspectives into the methodology by creating a diverse team of experts with profiles that were able to reflect upon the full spectrum of security and justice challenges.  This meant that the team did not select female or male members so as to create a gender-balanced team, but instead prioritising the knowledge of each expert. Hence, the ISSAT team included a regional expert, who had previous in-depth knowledge and understanding of governance, security, and justice issues in Nepal, as well as two further experts who were able to capture links between gender and the sector areas or issues being dealt with, in the aim to promote gender equality whether in developing policy or initiatives in specific institutions. 

The mandate focused on the identification of the institutional gaps stemming from unmet needs of some of the most vulnerable individuals/groups. For example, cognisant of the endemic level of gender-based violence in Nepal, the team engaged ten local organisations that specifically worked on gender-related abuses to guide in the data collection. The team further articulated in its methodology, the need for institutions to become more responsive to the security and justice needs of women/girls by enabling more access and providing more inclusive approaches to gaining access.

The methodology employed the collection of sex-disaggregated information to capture the specific gender-related vulnerabilities, gaps and issues. To provide recommendations conducive to the goal of reaching a basic level of justice provision, the team took into account the diverse needs of the population by using a methodology aimed to mainstreamgender perspectives throughout the mandate as part of a set of critical core issues. For example, to ensure that the assessment process was gender sensitive, the ISSAT team mainstreamed gender via key questions relevant to some of the most vulnerable groups, and integrated sex-disaggregated data collection in order to create an evidence base. In addition, the mandate’s Terms of Reference articulated the requirement of an Options Paper, so as to gain a clearer analysis on specific issues that relate to gender.  For example, for many women, marginalised communities and children, social barriers remain the primary obstacle preventing access to justice. The social barriers differ substantially amongst ethnic groups and can range from lack of economic empowerment, traditional values, or even established practice at community level.

Understanding that substantive progress in security and justice reform will likely be a determining factor in the extent to which the Government of Nepal will be able to achieve meaningful and sustainable progress across all Sustainable Development Goals beyond just Goal 16, the team presented the crucial link to gender equality (goal 5). Therefore, the report reiterates incorporating a gendered analysis across all sections.

Proposed takeaways:

  1. There is a proved benefit to engaging with local partners to identify the most vulnerable and marginalised groups and disaggregating justice needs based on age, ethnicity, geographic location etc. 
  2. The inclusion of professionals with relevant diverse expertise who have a cross-cutting gender lens, played a critical role in determining and capturing clear linkages between gender and broader issues such as access to justice, and gender-related threats such as human trafficking and modern day slavery (to name a few) which disproportionately impact vulnerable and marginalized groups, and significantly children, women, and members of lower caste who are more at risk.
  3. The added value of providing an Options Paper as one of the outputs, specifically targeting gender equality, ensures that gender is a core issue with complex characteristics (encompassing class, race, religious affiliation and poverty levels) and thus needs to be addressed consistently to promote more gender responsive and inclusive security and justice institutions.
Case Study

Mainstreaming Gender in the framework of the Juvenile Justice System Baseline Study in Albania (Swedish Mandate)

At the request of the Government of Sweden, ISSAT supported a baseline study of the juvenile justice system in Albania linked to the recently launched Swedish Juvenile Justice programme in Albania. The aim of the study was to provide a snapshot of the current juvenile justice system against which the programme could measure progress over time.

The approach, comprised of a desk review and field deployment. It aimed to analyse the existing strengths and weaknesses of the legal framework, structures, capacity, and coordination systems governing the juvenile justice system. The assessment used a problem-solving approach: first identifying the needs and then understanding the institutional factors that drive the juvenile justice needs in Albania. The methodology incorporated a 3+2 model that assessed capacity, procedures and tools dedicated to juvenile justice cases using three internal factors (management, accountability and capacity) and two external factors (inter-institutional relations and institutional ability to implement mandate). Based on available sex-disaggregated data, the assessment generated several insights on gender-balanced representation and inclusiveness within the target institutions.

From the onset, the methodology envisioned the participation of women police officers, judges and prosecutors in the data-collection process to broaden the perspectives of the juvenile justice system (40% of practitioners interviewed during the mission were women). The ISSAT team also counted on the support of local women justice experts to help in analysing the differential needs, access, participation, resources and impact on boy and girls in the Albanian juvenile justice system.

Key takeaways:

  • The mission team’s active seeking of different perspectives from the national actors allowed for a stronger social-cultural understanding behind the obstacles impacting access to services. For example, the team identified when girls in conflict with the law reach the age of juvenile criminal responsibility, social-cultural norms tend to influence the decision of police to divert the justice system and send the girls back to their families.  Currently, girls account for less than 1% of the overall number of cases reported by the police. Their absence from the juvenile justice system indicates a problem in the reporting of cases when girls are in conflict with law but also equates to marginalisation from any judicial rehabilitation programmes.
  • The 3+2 model was useful in identifying gaps in victim-centered services significantly impacting one sex over another. For example, in spite of established procedures prescribing the interventions of psychologists, their actual role in the process remains poorly defined and incoherent, contributing to largely passive and observer roles with limited engagement to protect the juvenile. There is no active information sharing between the different psychologists involved limiting the ability to monitor the extent to which the juvenile is traumatized by the process nor to develop more robust psychological assessments over time. The disproportionate representation of boys in the system implies their greater vulnerability to this potential psychological harm.
  • Although all juveniles in detention or pre-Trial detention have access to vocational training programmes, the relevance of the training (including carpentry, welding, electrician certification and plumbing) can be questioned. In particular, concern was raised by the low participation rates and the relevance of vocational training activities with the interests of the juveniles in general and girls in particular. In the future, the reliance of vocational training activities on manual labour or the physical strength of the juveniles could be a factor discouraging officers to process the girls through the system.
  • The 3+2 model helped to identify accountability gaps in the overall system. Monitoring and statistics on performance of institutions remains weak. There is a high degree of discrepancy between even basic statistics on number of cases reported between the institutions. This lack of basic data impairs the ability to devise informed strategies for boys and girls in conflict with the law
  • The methodology applied enabled the team to identify a gender imbalance in the participation and access to juvenile justice system as a result of numerous intra-and interinstitutional disarticulations. This is reflected by the general lack of understanding of what information should be collected (and by whom) related to the background and circumstance of the juvenile and the very limited data sharing between the institutions, particularly gender-focused data. Moreover, it is common to find that all institutions interview the juvenile to collect the same information without taking into account the different needs of boys and girls. Case file information transferred from prosecutors to probation is usually very basic with no information provided on background or circumstance.


  • As a means of promoting greater individualization of sentencing as well as alternate sanctions for boys and girls, probation service will need to produce pre-sentencing reports with a greater gender equality focus for all cases of juveniles in conflict with the law. Methodologies should be developed utilizing sex-disaggregated information with subsequent guidance influenced accordingly within institutions and coherently between institutions.
  • There is little awareness or even understanding of how diversion should work in practice. While diversion is frequently, albeit informally, used by police for cases related to girls there is currently no vision or clarity on what cases would be eligible or should qualify for prosecution or court referred diversion (eg. mediation). There is an opportunity to share experiences as well as provide awareness on diversion measures (including restorative justice) that are more gender inclusive while gradually helping the institutions to develop a vision or even system of diversion that could clarify what steps/measures would be taken in practice and what pre-conditions/circumstance diversion measures should be applied.
Case Study

Mainstreaming Gender in the EU Regional Assessment covering the Sahel

ISSAT was mandated by the European Union’s Fiduciary Trust Fund for Africa to design an assessment framework adapted to understand the minimum operating capacities, structures, policies and processes of national security sectors. The countries concerned by this mandate were Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso. The mandate’s objective was to develop the assessment framework and use it in the four contexts, drawing conclusions and recommendations for capacity building support by the European Union and allowing for comparative analysis where possible.

Since the start of the mandate, ISSAT intended to ensure that the approach was in line with the European Commission’s strategic engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019. This was clearly reflected in the mandate’s Terms of Reference and integrated into the mandate’s design and implementation phases.

The mandate looked at four main aspects of security and justice sector institutions: human resources management, means, equipment and structures and shared values. The ISSAT team looked at representation levels of women and men across all security and justice institutions including women’s participation in decision-making processes, where data was available. The report submitted to the Commission included explicit recommendations related to identifying local strategies that were likely to increase advancement and recruitment of women. The analysis paid particular attention to the role of the informal non-state sector which seemed to in most contexts include higher participation by women as actors and beneficiaries.

The diversity of the population’s needs was equally taken into account through community perception surveys. The questionnaires’ design allowed sex-disaggregated data and both women and men equally participated in this process. The analysis of the surveys’ results was informed by the gender of the respondent allowing for valuable insights to be generated related to the security sector’s legitimacy and credibility levels.  The final reports’ dissemination should help highlight the distinct impact of EUTF projects for men, women, boys and girls.

Proposed takeaways:

  1. It is critically important to look holistically at security and justice sectors to identify the actors (which could be informal, non-state, ad hoc or parallel structures) where women or certain socio-cultural groups tend be better represented, and their needs better addressed.
  2. Increasing representation of a certain gender or socio-cultural group in security and justice institutions can only be done through local strategies, with community based organisations acing as a bridge between the community’s needs and the institutions’ realities.
  3. Looking at recruitment strategies, won’t reflect the real systemic gaps that might be hindering women from accessing the formal institutional frameworks. The need to look at capital versus regional recruitment, entry exams, training, retention and family friendly policies, and common institutional values is of key importance.
  4. Including a gender dimension to perception surveys is not enough. The analysis of the results needs to be informed by that dimension and active attention should be given to result variation with respect to gender and/or socio-cultural identities inorder to inform conclusions and recommendations adequately.
Case Study

Mainstreaming Gender in the framework of SDC’s Citizen Security Programme in Honduras (Swiss Mandate)

The Swiss Development Cooperation’s (SDC) Citizen Security programme in Honduras, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), supported the implementation of the Government Policy on Comprehensive Civic Coexistence and Public Safety from 2013 to 2018. DCAF-ISSAT and Swedepeace partnered as the Swiss JSSR Team to provide technical backstopping support1 to SDC and their partners during this period with a focus on supporting the police reform process.

As part of the police reform process, the National Police are driving forward a doctrinal shift towards a comprehensive community policing strategy that, amongst other goals, seeks to strengthen cooperation with government agencies including those working on gender equality and protection of vulnerable groups, and to reform the police education system which is considered to be military in culture.

The methodology designed by the Swiss JSSR Team to support SDC and partners, the Secretary for Security (SEDS), was adjusted in accordance with expressed needs over time. This resulted in a heavy focus on strategic change management of the police applying tools consistent with a conflict-sensitive programme management (CSPM) approach. 

However, it was only in the later phases of the backstopping that the Swiss JSSR Team was able to effectively exploit a key entry point for gender equality promotion. When supporting the SEDS Strategic Planning Unit (SPU) theory of change (ToC) design for the implementation of their national strategy, the Swiss JSSR Team was able to steer the ToC Working Group towards alignment with national policies on gender equality.

Key to this was the vocal support of the Head of the SPU who would also become a key ally and cornerstone of the proposed ToC (see video link). The subsequent missions were able to build on this momentum by actively seeking more gender equality entry points as part of the monitoring of the SDC support programme results framework, which was a central component of the backstopping. Other factors that enabled the Swiss JSSR Team to promote gender equality in the backstopping was the incorporation of a national expert, who brought valuable experience working with women’s organisations, and an ISSAT SSR Officer specialising in human rights-based approaches (HRBA).

During one backstopping mission in 2017, workshops with the SDC were conducted in Tegucigalpa to specifically identify HRBA and gender equality entry points in their new police reform support programme. Working through a conflict-sensitive scenario analysis it was recommended that the new programme should seek the development of internal policies that would strengthen system-wide internal complaints mechanisms. Such policies should include those specifically for addressing gender quality and sexual harassment, in contrast to another proposal to support the creation of a gender unit in the police basic training college which would be expected to respond to complaints in the backdrop of a system lacking supporting policies. A parallel recommendation included the promotion of a female police officer’s association, which would aim to influence internal policy on gender equality. This recommendation was inspired by the female police officer’s Association created in Ecuador in 2017. However, after consulting with the national counterpart, it was decided the timing was not appropriate citing a fear of stigmatisation or backlash against officers championing such a proposal.

In this context, the methodology’s conflict-sensitive approach, such as using the scenario analysis tool, enabled the backstopping to gain a greater appreciation of the challenges that female and male gender champions in police institutions are facing, as well as a deeper understanding of the conditions necessary for institutional change towards gender equality. This information would later influence the gender equality strategy contemplated for the 2018-2022 SDC programme of support to the government of Honduras.

Takeaways from 2017 backstopping:

  1. Consistent messaging backing gender equality from the senior SEDS SPU police manager was the catalyst for steering discussions during the ToC workshops in a direction that allowed the Working Group to identify gender equality entry points for inter-institutional synergies.
  2. The focus on strategic change management in the backstopping methodology enabled the close interaction with SEDS police managers that was needed to effectively support them to incorporate elements of the national gender equality policy, as outcomes, in the proposed national police strategy ToC.
  3. The Swiss JSSR Team national expert’s previous experience working with women’s organisations on the topic of security played an important role in understanding the challenges that police institutions face when promoting gender equality. Consultations with the National Police Gender Unit also benefited as did the overall quality of conflict sensitivity analysis in backstopping methodology.


  1. Include in the backstopping team local relevant expertise when advising justice and security sector partners towards greater compliance with gender equality principles. This means incorporating gender equality into the methodology from the design, including when planning for a conflict-sensitive approach.
  2. When applying a ToC framework to similar backstopping support, HRBA and gender equality principles need to be framed as solutions to insecurity rather than adherence to an obligatory institutional check list process. This narrative should also influence the conflict-sensitive approach.
  3. Consultations with national counterparts should be continuous in the backstopping methodology to ensure the promotion of gender equality is informed and driven by the beneficiaries but also to ensure that no harm is done in the process.

1 Specifically, the Swiss JSSR Team engaged the SDC and partners in strategic change management of the police, strengthening civil society participation and influence, providing technical advice and support to SDC and counterparts, including JSSR thematic training, and introducing tools for conflict sensitivity, political dialogue, stakeholder analysis, scenario analysis and theory of change (ToC). 

Case Study

UNDP Engagement in the Police and Judicial Reform in Mozambique


After becoming independent from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique, led by the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Frelimo), witnessed structural transformation from a colonial state into a modern socialist society. Shortly after, the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Renamo) led a 16 year guerrilla war against the government, at the end of which both the armed forces and the insurgents were devastated. In 1990, Mozambique adopted a new constitution that transformed the political system and sowed the seeds of oversight of the security sector. The war ended with the signature of the Rome Peace Agreement in 1992, which went on to be implemented under the supervision of the United Nations Operation for Mozambique (UNOMOZ).

Later on, the Defense and Security Act (17/97) established a basic legal and institutional framework for the military, police, and intelligence services. This was followed by a law on the Defence and Armed Forces (18/97), but for a long time no similar framework was developed to cover the activity of the Police and of the Intelligence. Reforms in internal security took longer to unfold than in the defence sector, and when they did the government took a strong stance in terms of controlling the process. 

Entry Point

At the end of the civil war crime rates increased leading to a negative perception of the Police by the public, which mainly viewed the Polícia da República de Moҫambique  (PRM) as inefficient and corrupt. After the 1994 elections the government signalled the intent to start reforms in the Police, leading a group of international donors into forming the Police Donor Group (PDG) in 1996. The PDG, working through UNDP, proposed a police reform package to the government of Mozambique. UNDP coordinated the project aimed at retraining existing cadres and training a new generation of police officers, including the creation of a new police academy, with a view to transforming the PRM into a more efficient and accountable force. UNDP has also supported the development and implementation of a Strategic Plan for the PRM 2003-2012. Alongside efforts in Police reform UNDP also supported efforts to strengthen the Centre for Legal and Judicial Training (CFJJ), which aimed at training new staff for the judicial sector, as well as broader efforts towards rehabilitation  of court infrastructure and re-organisation of the sector. Importantly, it helped develop an integrated strategic plan for the justice sector, and supported the beginnings of a long process of penal and prison reforms.

Lessons Identified

Neutrality and Impartiality – UNDP acted as an impartial coordinator of the programme, managing reform sensitivities in areas in which the government was opposed to external involvement, and third party actors did not want to engage on a bilateral basis.

Support in the development of security and justice reform tools – the supporting role of UNDP to the government and the international donor community in Mozambique was implemented through the undertaking of needs assessments, facilitation of primary research on the institutions at stake, and generation of analyses and policy recommendations for the reform process. The UNDP approach to police and judicial reform combined the same standards and principles which applied to the rest of the public sector’s unique characteristics, overall ensuring a more sustainable reform process.  This was a first step in addressing a change in these institutions’ cultures.

Provision of common guidance – all judicial institutions which operated under the umbrella of the integrated justice strategic plan stated that even if they were implementing their respective specific institutional plans, overall they still followed general guidance provided by UNDP for the design and the implementation of their annual plans. The common guidance and strengthened interaction around the implementation of the integrated strategic plan generated a more holistic system contributing to an increase of 30% in the resolution of pending cases, according to the 2004 President’s report on the State of Nation.


According to two external evaluations commissioned by UNDP and the Swiss government, after the UNDP project ending police reform in Mozambique still faced problems. The Swiss report highlighted improvements in the police’ protection of human rights, but huge challenges persisted in the ability to tackle corruption, the absence of long-term planning capacity, and the lack of adequate training programmes. In addition, legislative gaps, including the need for legal frameworks regarding police involvement in natural disaster management, and a required change of attitude with respect to domestic violence and HIV-AIDS interventions were identified.

The evaluations on judicial reform also revealed mixed results. In 2005 the President of the Supreme Court stated that in the previous year the courts performed more efficiently and effectively, but that the practice of each institution adopting a strategic plan without coordinating closely with the others created difficulties in the management of the reform process.

Despite external evaluations stressing the need for further reform, the involvement of UNDP stands out as a case of building local trust and political engagement thanks to its neutral stance during the reform process. As a mediator between Mozambique’s government and donors, UNDP was able to provide guidance for police and judicial institutions that otherwise would have been lacking.


Case Study