Elizabeth Panarelli

Policy and Research Papers

The Role of the Ministerial Advisor in Security Sector Reform: Navigating Institutional Terrains

International actors in Security Sector Reform (SSR) are increasingly taking on roles as “advisors” to Ministries of Interior, Defense, and Justice. Rather than directly implement changes necessary for SSR, these advisors must persuasively articulate suggestions to their local counterparts. Advisors’ success depends on their ability to convey recommendations in a manner that makes change acceptable to their advisees. Ministerial and governmental advising is not the exclusive purview of any one entity. Rather, advising is undertaken by a diverse range of individuals from U.S. and foreign governments, militaries, NGOs, private contractors, and U.N. agencies. These actors have correspondingly diverse objectives and approaches to SSR; without coordination or consensus on SSR programming, advisors may find themselves working at cross-purposes. Furthermore, the multiplicity of advisors and institutions makes sharing best practices and improving over time and across conflicts extremely difficult.

What common challenges do foreign advisors face, and how might they pool intellectual resources and “lessons learned” to address these challenges?

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Local Ownership of Security Sector Reform

  • Security sector reform (SSR) is a highly complex and political process involving a range of international and local actors. There is a growing policy consensus that sustainability is a critical component of success for SSR programs, and that early local ownership is a critical component of sustainability.
  • Practitioners face several obstacles to achieving local ownership, particularly in conflict affected countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. To overcome these obstacles and effectively promote local ownership, international actors must answer three important questions:
  • First, what are we trying to achieve? Despite the apparent consensus on the importance of local ownership, the definition of local ownership is still debated.
  • Second, which locals should take ownership of SSR? It is often difficult for international donors to select partners, since local actors often have competing visions and priorities.
  • Finally, how do we measure success? In evaluating SSR programs, should international or local values and priorities be used to judge the success of SSR programs?

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Paper