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No ownership, no commitment: a guide to local ownership of Security Sector reform

Nathan, Laurie (2007) No ownership, no commitment: a guide to local ownership of Security Sector reform. Technical Report. University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.

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URL of Published Version: http://www.ssrnetwork.net/documents/Publications/No_Ownership_No_Commitment_v2.pdf


A major problem in security sector reform (SSR) has been a lack of local input to and ownership of the emerging reform agenda. Consequently, many donor governments and organisations have made commitments to the principle of local ownership. Yet this has become more a rhetorical device than a guide to donor practice. This paper, by the Crisis States Research Centre, aims to contribute to operationalising donor countries’ policy commitments to local ownership of SSR. It discusses the content and political nature of SSR, and presents guidelines on guaranteeing the engagement of local actors and ensuring the security needs of citizens are met. It identifies obstacles facing SSR and a framework for their analysis. It suggests means by which donors can improve local ownership and makes proposals on institutionalising local ownership in donor governments’ procedures. The paper also draws on case studies of Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Africa.

In practical terms, local ownership of SSR means that the reform of security policies, institutions and activities in a given country must be designed, managed and implemented by local rather than external actors. Donors should support projects initiated by local actors rather than local actors supporting donor programmes.

The principle of local ownership is applicable in both strong and weak developing states, and in sectors other than security, such as development and post-conflict peacebuilding. The absence of local ownership of SSR is inimical to development and democracy. Local ownership should be pursued as a matter of both respect and of pragmatic necessity. Support for local ownership should be the primary objective and outcome of all donor programmes as without it, SSR is bound to fail. Such failure is evident in that:

- domination and paternalism by external actors generate resentment, resistance and inertia among local actors. Local actors have little commitment to externally imposed products which generally do not reflect local needs, dynamics and resources;

- a process orientated approach is more likely to yield good results in the long term than a product orientated approach. However good the content of an SSR initiative, a poor process that treats people as objects rather than subjects will lead to flawed outcomes; and

- while donors justify the absence of local ownership of SSR on the grounds that often local institutions and actors lack capacity and legitimacy, only though enhancing the capacity and legitimacy of such institutions can the security of citizens improve.

SSR takes place in a variety of environments, this limiting the applicability of generalisations that are often made. The strongest general recommendation that can be made is that donors should avoid a mechanical or formulaic approach to SSR and should instead develop programmes that are flexible and responsive to local actors and conditions. This paper also makes the following policy-relevant observations:

- the major obstacles facing SSR are complexity, lack of capacity, resistance to change, and instability and insecurity;

- to enhance local ownership donors should offer support in five areas: research of parliamentary committees that deal with security, security policy and planning units in government, small grants schemes for civil society that focus on SSR, drafting legislation, and comparative SSR exchange and study; and

- the principle of local ownership should be institutionalised in donor governments through inclusion in their funding, evaluation, reporting and other bureaucratic procedures.

Type of Work:Monograph (Technical Report)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Number of Pages:121
Department:Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform (GFN-SSR)
Date:October 2007
Series/Collection Name:GFN-SSR Publications
Keywords:Security Sector Reform, Local Ownership
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Related URLs:
Copyright Holders:Laurie Nathan, University of Birmingham
ID Code:1530

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