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4. The challenges of security sector reform



I. Introduction

II. The policy agenda

III. Relevance to international security

IV. Security sector reform in a regional context

V. Challenges to security sector reform

VI. Conclusions


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States aspiring to democratic governance and strong economies require capable administrative and political structures. A key element is a well governed security sector, which comprises the civil, political and security institutions responsible for protecting the state and the communities within it. Reform or transformation of the security sector is a growing focus of international assistance. Past security assistance programmes were often ill-conceived and poorly implemented and resulted in outcomes that were not supportive of either citizen security or development goals. External forces have often supplanted the local security apparatus or, in some cases, explicitly sought to dismantle it where it was considered to be part of the problem.


The international community is seeking to respond in a more integrated manner to the violent conflicts and security problems facing states. Security sector reform is part of an attempt to develop a more coherent framework for reducing the risk that state weakness or failure will lead to disorder and violence. Where states are unable to manage developments within their borders successfully, the conditions are created for disorder and violence that may spill over onto the territory of other states and perhaps ultimately require an international intervention. Restoration of a viable national capacity in the security domain, based on mechanisms that ensure transparency and accountability, is a vital element of the overall effort to strengthen governance. Security sector reform aims to help states enhance the security of their citizens. There has been a shift from state- and military-centric notions of security to a greater emphasis on human security. This has underscored the importance of governance issues and civilian input into policy making.


Security sector reform has potentially wide-ranging implications for how state security establishments are organized and for how international security and development assistance is delivered. These implications are only just starting to be understood and translated into policy and are eliciting mixed reactions from both the international actors that provide security assistance and the recipients of aid. The Central and East European states have responded favourably to the reform agenda, which is seen to complement the wider economic and political reforms in which many of them are engaged. Crucially, the prospect of integration into NATO and ‘the West’ has provided a powerful, additional incentive for CEE states to reform their security sector. This cannot be matched by regional and sub-regional organizations in Africa, Asia or Latin America. In these regions the primary incentive for reform has been based largely on persuasion and the use of economic assistance.


Security sector reforms are a new area of activity for international actors, and there is still not a shared understanding at the international level of what this term means. This has limited the debate on the subject. Assisting in the development of such a shared understanding should be a priority objective for the research community.


The response of states to the 11 September terrorist attacks on the USA may delay the development of a security sector reform agenda. Increased importance is being placed on developing cooperation with the armed forces, intelligence services and law-enforcement services of other states to identify and eliminate groups and individuals engaged in terrorist acts. There is a risk that security sector reform will become subordinate to anti-terrorism activities in countries where the development of this cooperation is seen as particularly important.



Dylan Hendrickson (United States) is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Policy Institute, King’s College London. His work focuses on international responses to armed conflicts and security problems in Africa and South-East Asia. For the past three years he has worked closely with the British Government, helping to develop and operationalize its security sector reform policy.


Dr Andrzej Karkoszka (Poland) is Head of the Think Tank at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). He was a research fellow at SIPRI in 1973–75 and 1977–81. He has previously served as Adviser in the Chancellery of the Office of the President of Poland, Director of the Ministry of Defence Department of International Security, First Deputy Minister of National Defence, Deputy Chairman of the Polish Team for the NATO accession negotiations and Professor of Central European Security at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. His most recent publications include ‘Verification of implementation of arms control agreements’, Polish Quarterly of International Affairs (2001) and ‘NATO enlargement: 2002 and beyond’, eds J. Bozo and F. Beltram, NATO a New Alliance (IFRI, 2001).