Mar 26, 2014 | Article

Mark Downes is Assistant Director of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and Head of DCAF’s International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT). Click here to read the full post.

Security Sector Reform is increasingly perceived as the answer to the vast array of security challenges that beset post-conflict and fragile communities. It is hyped as the answer to the exit strategy dilemma faced by the international community. It is not the concept of SSR that matters, but the integrated approach it brings to police reform, justice reform, governance reform and national security planning.  It can also be the bridge that conceptually links the security-development nexus. While Security Sector Reform (SSR) is now well established as a means of assisting countries overcome the challenges of insecurity and structural fragility that can lead to conflict, it is timely to reflect on the direction that the concept has taken, what can be learned from the experience over the last decade and whether the concept, as it is currently understood, remains relevant and useful.

For me SSR has always been about four relatively simple assertions, it was about:

1)    Taking a human security approach – focus not only on state security but also on how an individual experiences insecurity and accesses justice. Treat security and justice as public policy issues.

2)    Recognising that security and justice reform in all contexts is first and foremost a political process rather than solely a technical activity.

3)    Re-balancing support to both the effectiveness and the accountability of security and justice services. Hard but valuable lessons have been learned about the consequences of increasing the effectiveness of security actors without ensuring adequate accountability.

4)    Recognising the inter-linkages across the security and justice sector —the reform of the police, for example, is not only about the police force but also those other actors who have policing functions, as well as those who manage and oversee policing services.

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