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Outdated legal frameworks, under-capacitated parliaments, and submissive judicial authorities fail to provide the oversight, transparency or accountability that is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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Encouraging Open Debate: The Essential Role of Civil Society and Media in Good Security Governance

This think piece prepared by Fairlie Chappuis (DCAF) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa aims at encouraging open debate on the essential role of civil society and media in good security governance as well as the challenges they face. Civil society, by which is meant all groups that engage in voluntary collective actions in the public interest, has an essential role to play in order to ensure that the security sector is accountable, transparent and responsive to the public.  The paper outlines common factors in a variety of African contexts which make society activism and media engagement challenging. It then gives a list of entry points for engagement and how these can help to align civil society and media values with the principles of democratic security governance, human rights and rule of law.

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