Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform (GFN-SSR)

A Beginner's Guide to Security Sector Reform (SSR)

SSR Beginners Guide

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Case Study:
SSR in Nepal

This month’s case study takes a brief look at SSR in Nepal, focusing on a Saferworld policing project in the country.

Nepal at a glance:

  • Politics: Parliament reinstated in May 2006 after uprising against king; Maoists entered transitional government in January 2007; monarch has been stripped of powers
  • Security: Government, Maoists have signed deal proclaiming end to rebellion; Southern Nepalese have been pushing for greater rights and autonomy
  • Economy: Civil strife wrecked the economy and Nepal is dependent on aid; tourism is a key foreign exchange earner

Source: BBC Country profile: Nepal

Saferworld: In Nepal, the public’s expectations of policing are changing

Despite the end of the conflict between the Maoists and the government, concerns over crime and violence are shared by many in Nepal. However, there is little information on what ordinary Nepalis think about their security problems or how they might be addressed.

With these questions in mind, between March to June 2007, Saferworld and local partners held 150 face-to-face interviews, twelve focus group discussions and conducted household surveys with over 3000 members of the public. Saferworld then engaged police and other local actors to discuss the research findings. A full report entitled ‘Public Safety and Policing in Nepal’ will be launched in Kathmandu in January 2008.

Overall, the end of hostilities has brought a greater sense of security with most respondents feeling safer than they did a year ago and over half thinking the country is moving in the right direction since the peace agreement. However, many people expressed concern over growing criminality and only 41% of respondents considered the government able to well maintain law and order.

Both the civil and armed police were ranked below the Nepali Army and religious or ethnic organisations in terms of how secure people felt with them. Few people reported respect for the police in their area and, overall, in only about a quarter of cases did the public believe the police had taken action in response to crimes in their area.

New realities for the police

Nepalis want a police service that thinks and acts democratically, in cooperation with their communities, yet they believe the police still operate according to old methods learnt during the conflict and under monarchic rule.

In response to these findings, the Nepali Police asserted that they are endeavouring to improve and meet the needs of local communities. However, they noted their capacity to provide effective law enforcement was limited by a lack of mandate and autonomy and the undue influence of political actors.

Thankfully, this gap between the police and public is not unbridgeable: many respondents said they would happily cooperate with the police if they believed the service was ready to change. The underlying message is that the police have an image problem and must work more closely with communities to gain the public’s trust and respect.

Challenges for the international community

A balance needs to be struck between the urgent need for basic security during a period of continued instability and the longer-term endeavour of reforming Nepal’s security system into a more inclusive, responsive and accountable one. Saferworld’s analysis shows that a lack of accountability and the exclusion of marginalised groups from Nepal’s institutions is undermining attempts to provide this basic security – reform of the security sector, however, is likely to threaten entrenched interests in an unusually stratified society.

There is also limited understanding among Nepalis of what security sector reform really means – Saferworld is working to generate more informed and inclusive debate on the issue, but this is a fact the international community must take into account.

It is also crucial that international support for security sector reform adheres to the principles of local ownership and conflict-sensitivity, is coordinated and comprehensive, and delivered in line with international best practice such as the EU Concept on Security Sector Reform (2005) or the OECD DAC Guidelines on Security System Reform and Governance (2005).

Saferworld is an independent organisation that works to prevent armed violence and create safer communities. A full report on this research will be published in January 2008.

For further information, please vist the Saferworld - Nepal website or contact:

GFN-SSR Document Library

The Document Library contains links to a number of SSR related documents either focussing specifically on Nepal or looking at the country alongside others as case studies. A selection of these are listed below:

Useful weblinks for Nepal

Below are listed a number of links to websites either containing information about Nepal or to organisations operating in Nepal:.