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.

Gender Mainstreaming Case Example: Training Curriculum Development – SSR Contribution to Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE)

In 2018, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland mandated ISSAT to develop a course on the “Contribution of SSR to Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism” (SSR-VE). The objective of the mandate was to create a 5-day course that included a strong component on the prevention of violent extremism (VE) and that covered dimensions related to human security, governance and engagement of local communities. The courses were later piloted in Bamako, Mali and in the Hague, Netherlands.

From the onset, ISSAT adopted a gender-sensitive approach to course development and delivery, given the significant link this thematic area has with community security and its relevance to the safety and livelihoods of men, women, boys and girls

Entry points for Gender Equality

Gender references in the course’s founding documents

The course’s terms of reference set explicit gender equality commitments for the course. The course design paper emphasised that Gender related considerations will be mainstreamed throughout the Programme. It focused on presenting evidence-based experiences reflecting the critical importance of gender sensitive analysis in addressing the unique needs of local communities, the challenges of injustice and marginalisation on different segments of society”.

Anchoring gender equality considerations in the course’s vision and founding documents not only provided a common understanding of the importance of gender equality and SSR but also ensured that this aspect was mainstreamed throughout the course material. It also enabled the course facilitators to be more committed to the need for greater focus on gender equality within their individual sessions.

Gender parity among course team and participants

ISSAT invested considerable efforts in aiming for equal representation within the training team. The curriculum development team, as well as the facilitation teams had equal representation between men and women.

The main challenge remained in ensuring gender parity amongst training participants, an area where ISSAT has the lowest margin for impact. In spite of its active follow-up to include women participants, at the first pilot session in Bamako, only 3 women (14%) attended the course, as a direct result of low numbers of female applicants. The second pilot session in the Hague, women’s participation rate was higher, at 47%.

A comparative analysis of both training sessions highlights the importance of gender parity for more representative, relevant and diversified discussions of security and justice reform related issues. It also fosters a stronger engagement by participants with regards to the course topics. 

Determining the level of gender equality awareness among participants

ISSAT determined the level gender equality awareness among training participants through participant applications analysis and pre-course questionnaires. Accordingly, ISSAT adapted course content to the participants needs. This step is of key importance in anchoring the training material in the trainees’ needs and in ensuring that the debate around gender equality matures from the introduction to basic themes and issues, towards more complex understanding of gender roles and implications on security and justice institutions’ effectives, accountability and legitimacy.

Content development

The SSR-VE course content development efforts sought to raise awareness on the importance of developing gender-sensitive SSR programmes that are based on gendered analysis of community security aspects and strive towards gender equality in access to services, as well as, in service delivery. It aimed to change the current focus of the SSR community which is predominantly on dealing with the recruitment of men and boys in extremist groups, and rebalance it towards the often-overlooked recruitment of women and girls and on the roles that they play in the community and in security institutions.

The two pilot courses also included a session on “confidence-building between citizens and uniformed forces” which included a focus on gender equality and human-rights based approaches. This session introduced a role-play session to illustrate that women, men, girls and boys have different experiences of (in)security and included exercises to discuss the roles of different groups in preventing violent extremism. In addition, the good practices of inclusivity and representativeness were extensively discussed in SSR thematic sessions on governance, criminal justice and policing. The key message conveyed in the framework of the SSR and governance session, was on the key role gender equality plays in strengthening the effectiveness, accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of security and justice institutions. During the criminal justice chain reform session, facilitators addressed the issue of access to justice and the exclusion of specific groups due to their cultural, gender, age or socio-economic backgrounds. The session on community engagement focused on the conditions for the community violence reduction (CVR), discussing how to empower men, women, boys and girls and promote social cohesion.

Course delivery

In the delivery of its two pilot courses, ISSAT recognises the importance of developing gender mainstreaming strategies that are culturally sensitive. Understanding the context in which the training was delivered was of primary importance to the facilitators. The course’s delivery approach was designed taking into consideration deep-rooted beliefs and gender sensitive values among participants. Course facilitators ensured that gender equality issues were addressed in a relevant manner to the local and regional contexts. For example, LGBTQ relevant issues were more easily addressed during the second pilot training in the Hague.


  • Set clear gender equality related outcomes, objectives and deliverables in the course’s founding documents. It helps secure team-wide commitment since the onset and ensure focus on this key policy priority throughout the design and delivery of the course.
  • Allocate sufficient time to explain and deconstruct the notions of gender, gender mainstreaming and gender equality. Often, participants have preconceived conceptions of what is meant by gender. Having an open discussion on what gender is, at the beginning of the course can help build a common understanding among participants and consequently enable a richer and more productive exchange during the sessions.  
  • Seek equal gender parity among training participants through proactively disseminating course applications among potentially relevant female participants. This can be particularly challenging, due to the low representation percentages of women in many security and justice institutions. The impact of diversity amongst training participants is very high on the level and quality of the discussions, as well as, on the strength of the message the course communicates on the organisation’s commitment to gender equality.
  • When gender parity is not achieved, facilitators should adopt alternative strategies to compensate for this gap. Such strategies could include the use of additional female facilitators or guest speakers, the establishment of ground rules that enable all participants to intervene without fear or intimidation, or the promotion of an open discussion among course participants on positive or negative gender-related experiences in their professional and/or personal lives.  
  • Establishing evidence or experience-based insights and examples prior to the course are key to the course’s success. Facilitators need to increasingly refer to existing research and evidence on gender dynamics and masculinities as related to the course’s topic. Cultural specificities related to gendered and social constructs within the geographical context of the course’s venue also need to be taken into consideration in order to maximise the training’s impact and to avoid cultural gaffes.

Case study published in January 2020. 

Case Study

Gender Mainstreaming Case Example: Training on Ending Combat-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV)

Following a request made by the Swiss Embassy in India, ISSAT delivered presentations on CRSV at the workshop “Integrated Programme on Mainstreaming Gender in UN Peacekeeping to end Conflict Related Sexual Violence”. The workshop was organised by UNWOMEN India and the United Services Institute of India and took place in New Delhi in February 2018. ISSAT contributed to the 4-day programme designed to improve UN peacekeepers’ ability to address and prevent CRSV in their operational environment. A total of 37 participants attended (17 of which female), from 10 countries in the region.

The initial request was for a senior ISSAT advisor with strong familiarity of CRSV as well as contextual knowledge to complement the pre-determined training programme. ISSAT was able to identify a senior advisor who was also a serving officer of rank in the army and who had practical experience in facilitating and coordinating an audience of military officers. As such, ISSAT was able to provide additional support in strengthening the overall delivery of the programme by, for example, helping to adapt the workshop methodology to the specific audience and by identifying entry points for early warning signs from a military perspective.

With regards to the workshop, ISSAT aimed to ensure the legitimacy of the facilitator as a knowledgeable peer with the goal of building rapport with participants through understanding of the military culture and substantive knowledge of the relevant norms and good practices. Under this pretext, the methodology applied by ISSAT aimed at linking policy to practice, including focusing on how strategic documents such as the UN Security Council Resolutions 1820 and 2272 and SDG5 would translate at the multiarray tactical level.

Main Takeaways

Adapt your methodology to your audience to facilitate discussion and generate impact. Gender is not an easy subject for discussion, even more so when it comes to CRSV. The methodology used in discussions by the facilitators can sometimes backfire and create contrary effects than those planned when operating in highly masculine cultures. To overcome this, ISSAT followed the Pebbles and Ripples Methodology where a light start was chosen, i.e. a UN Video on LGBT rights  with positive messaging (a small pebble which created a small ripple), so as to engage the audience in the discussion. If the audience is convinced of the significance of the matter and the impact they can have, then the atmosphere is ripe to discuss trickier concepts such as the role of officers in addressing CRSV. Starting with small pebbles also gives the facilitator the space to be able to build credibility and trust with the audience and lead discussions in the right direction.

Using the military mindset to one’s advantage with a peer to peer approach: Being a ranking military officer herself, the ISSAT senior advisor understood she could hold conversations with participants and use her gender as an advantage to steer discussions towards reciprocal learning and sharing. However, establishing credibility with the male-dominated participants was a necessary first step which had to be anticipated and worked into the methodology.

Preparation of visually attractive knowledge products to summarise key policy documents. Understanding the complexities of CRSV, the ISSAT facilitator was proactive in reaching out to UNICEF, OHCHR and internal DCAF expertise to cover as many perspectives as possible, including issues of Children in Conflict and Victim’s Information Management & Referrals. However, to ensure key messages were delivered, a concise and informed aide memoire (infographic) was designed by ISSAT. The aide memoire provided information on how to connect policy and practice. The document highlighted key UN approaches, international norms and various operational measures to be undertaken when combating CRSV.

This teaching aid served as a conversational piece when engaging course participants bilaterally in a peer-to-peer setting. In one example, a participant who was about to be deployed in a field mission in the capacity of staff officer responsible for Human Resources approached the ISSAT facilitator and thanked her for the productive debate during the training which he initially thought would be a waste of time and that he only attended because it was mandatory. As a result of the training, he had come to realise the relevance and importance of his role. A few months later, the ISSAT facilitator received an email from the same advisor who was now deployed and who expressed appreciation on how the training and the practical guidance received in being utilised in the staffing of the mission in question.


The sustainability of trainings can be strengthened through follow up tools related to the training such as impact assessment questionnaires, discussions in common online spaces such as the ISSAT Community of Practice (CoP) forum or ideally through formalised coaching plans to identify and track behavioural change of participants on gender related issues. This will allow the success of the trainings to not be dependent on the personalities participating but rather an alumni system that takes into account time and further capacity building needed to internalise even the simplest of messages.

The knowledge product created on CRSV aimed at translating international frameworks to the practical field settings is a key contribution of ISSAT to the service of the international SSR community. It is also an excellent teaching tool. Visually attractive knowledge products on other cross-cutting issues on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda need to be developed and broadly distributed through online dissemination in addition to the physical distribution during face to face trainings.

Case study published in July 2019. 

Case Study

Gender Mainstreaming Case Example: ISSAT Evaluation of the UNDP Rule of Law Programme in Colombia

In 2018, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Rule of Law, Justice, Security and Human Rights Unit requested ISSAT’s support to conduct an evaluation of their Colombia Country Programme on Rule of Law and Human Rights for Sustaining Peace and Fostering Development. The objectives of ISSAT’s evaluation were threefold:

  1. To analyse and understand the extent to which Global Program efforts improved Country Program implementation of RoL projects,
  2. To assess the extent to which RoL was integrated into the Country Program, and
  3. To build evidence for a flexible guide for developing good practice monitoring.

ISSAT’s methodological approach explicitly focused on identifying the strategic rationale and effects achieved by the UNDP. This focus on outcomes was specifically designed to identify and evaluate how the program was able to contribute to concrete changes in security and justice conditions. This included documenting the extent to which gender equality was mainstreamed into the RoL interventions supported by UNDP. The information gathered was structured according to the OECD-DAC evaluation criteria with specific emphasis placed on the core areas of Relevance, Effectiveness/Impact, Efficiency and Sustainability. The evaluation found UNDP’s will to systematically promote gender equality, the allocation of resources to improving technical and strategic capacity to be highly effective in fulfilling its institutional commitment to promote gender equality. Activities that support this finding are two Gender Equality Seal processes that the country office went through, appointment of a national expert at the strategic planning level, appointing several gender focal points to ensure a wide institutional reach and development of a gender strategic plan and a corresponding action plan.

Gender equality and empowering women was included as a crosscutting issue in the inception report and evaluation methodology that ISSAT submitted to UNDP/Colombia. To understand the extent to which gender equality has been mainstreamed, the evaluation drew inspiration from UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, the OECD’s Gender Equality Policy Marker (GEPM), and the “Women, Peace and Security” framework. In order to reconcile these frameworks for evaluation purposes, the methodology sought specific information on UNDP’s efforts towards:

  1. Gender parity: the representation of women and girls for their meaningful participation in the targeted programme or intervention. The evaluation reported increased gender parity in UNDP supported projects.
  2. Gender equality: equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. The evaluation has found that the UNDP’s added value is recognised by partners in promoting gender equality.
  3. Gender mainstreaming: the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action. The appointment of a national expert and several gender focal points point out to concrete steps in the implementation of the gender strategic plan. 

Main Takeaways

In recent years, UNDP Colombia has invested significantly in their internal capacity to assist national partners in promoting gender equality in the application of RoL. This includes UNDP Colombia undergoing two Gender Equality Seal processes. The UNDP Gender Equality Seal Programme is aimed at closing persistent gender gaps in the workplace where UNDP provides government partners with tools, guidance and specific assessment criteria to ensure successful implementation and certification. 

In addition, UNDP Colombia has appointed a national expert to advice at the strategic planning level and has appointed several gender focal points to ensure a wide institutional reach. The expert team led a revision of the gender equality portfolio and captured the gender mainstreaming of the country office in practice.

Last but not least, UNDP Colombia has developed its gender strategic plan through a consultation process with women’s civil society networks and a corresponding action plan. As a result, the information available for the evaluation enabled for a quality baseline from which to triangulate information using the methodology proposed. Normally, such information is challenging to obtain in both quality and quantity.

ISSAT had incorporated gender parity, equality and mainstreaming as a cross cutting issue in its evaluation methodology from the start. A systematic approach was used during the desk-review phase as well as in the design of the semi-structured questionnaires and group discussions conducted during the field-research phase. It was also duly taken into consideration when identifying the interviewees and participants in the group-discussions.

To have a member of the evaluation team with the pertinent knowledge, expertise and commitment to this methodological approach was a key factor for the consistency in the application of the gender methodology and analysis. It also worked as a catalyst of the knowledge and experience of the other team members.


  • The adoption of non-discrimination as a norm, as done by UNDP, can contribute to the inclusion of vulnerable groups including ethnic minorities, women and children in defining programme objectives and priorities, thereby leading to improved gender equality through behavioural change in both the implementing institution and target audience.
  • Using a Human Rights Based and gender sensitive lens for evaluations can increase commitment and concrete actions to facilitate the implementation of human rights and gender equality standards.
  • Outcome-level reporting which also includes the collection and presentation of gender disaggregated data can demonstrate trends and gaps in achieving gender equality and lead to a better analysis of needs which in turn could improve gender sensitive programming.
  • The inclusion of gender parity, equality and mainstreaming as a cross cutting issues should be systematised across all evaluations and added to the methodology - in order to ensure gender aspects are evaluated in a holistic manner and that their linkages to other programme objectives are systematically established.
  • Including a gender expert as a team member was of significant value. It not only ensured the inclusion of a gender dimension throughout the mandate, but also succeeded in enhancing the focus on and awareness of gender issues among both team members, the mandating organisation and national counterparts who were engaged in the mandate.

Case study published in July 2019. 

Case Study

Assessing the EU's conflict prevention and peacebuilding interventions in Georgia

This report presents an overview of the European Union (EU) capabilities in peacebuilding and conflict prevention interventions in Georgia. It was prepared by the ‘Whole of Society Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding' (WOSCAP) team at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. The report mostly deals with the period from 2008 until 2016.

In particular it focuses on three cases: the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), Geneva International Discussions, and the Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism (COBERM), a joint initiative by the EU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). These cases were chosen for the study as they correspond with three categories of interventions taken on by the WOSCAP research project: multi-track diplomacy, governance reform, and security sector reform. The present study is based on desk research in combination with in-depth interviews. The WOSCAP team conducted a total of 28 interviews with representatives of relevant local and international actors.

The study answers the following question: how can EU civilian capabilities be enhanced in order to make the EU interventions in Georgia more inclusive and sustainable, especially by improving multi-stakeholder coherence. The study further reveals how multi-stakeholder coherence interlinks with issues of local ownership and how it can strengthen the peacebuilding process as a whole.

To read the full case study, Assessing the EU's conflict prevention and peacebuilding interventions in Georgia, please follow the link provided. 

Case Study

Assessing the EU’s conflict prevention and Peacebuilding interventions in Mali

As one of the least developed Sahel countries, Mali is experiencing a critical period in its history. The Malian crisis can be seen as twofold: a security crisis in the North with the presence of armed groups and an institutional crisis followed by the coup d'état of 22 March 2012. The combination of the two interconnected crises laid bare the weakness of the Malian State and led to the occupation of 2/3 of Mali's territory by various armed groups in 2012 and early 2013. Like most of Mali's development partners, the European Union was initially taken aback by the eruption of the 2012 crisis, and expressed its deep concern. Before this, efforts were focussed on initiatives to counter the threat of terrorism and fight against trafficking (drugs, human beings, etc.). But the suddenness of the fall of democracy, the violence of the attacks and the multi-level consequences of the crisis led the members of the international community in general, and the EU in particular, to invest heavily in a return to peace.

This report analyses three spheres of contemporary EU intervention in Mali: multi-track diplomacy; two missions in the field of security sector reform (EUTM and EUCAP-Sahel-Mali), and several programmes in the field of governance reform (PARADDER, State Building Contract and PAOSC I and II). At all levels, the EU policies were reviewed against the background of Mali's peace process, in order to understand to what extent the EU is able to contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding interventions in the case of Mali, and whether and how it uses sustainable, comprehensive and innovative civilian means to do so.

To read the full case study, Assessing the EU’s conflict prevention and Peacebuilding interventions in Mali, please follow the link provided.

Case Study