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:
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:
Author: Laurie Nathan
Source: Nathan, L., 2007, 'No Ownership, No Commitment: A Guide to Local Ownership of Security Sector Reform', Paper commissioned by the Security Sector Reform Strategy of the UK Governmentâs Global Conflict Prevention Pool, University of Birmingham, UK
Size: 121 pages (1.9MB)