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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