USIP believes that peace is impossible without security. Our work offers a peacebuilding approach to security sector governance and reform.

Providing citizens with human security is one of the most fundamental obligations of any state. But too often, those intended to provide security, such as military and police forces, instead trigger violence or exacerbate ongoing conflicts. USIP’s work holds as fact that dysfunctional security sector actors can reform to prevent, mitigate, or resolve conflict. Our peacebuilding approach is innovative in the field of security sector reform. We delve deeply into the systemic and structural drivers of conflict and seek to resolve them.

What is Security Sector Reform?

Security sector reform (SSR) is both a political and technical process to enhance the provision of human and state security by making it more effective, transparent, accountable, inclusive, and consistent with principles of human rights, the rule of law, and good governance. It aims at transforming the system for the provision of security and justice in a polity and directly affects power dynamics. The end goal is to create a secure and stable environment for both people and the state, and to enable economic development.

Special Operations Command Africa hosted the first Women’s Leadership Forum during International Women’s Day in N'Djamena, Chad (USAFRICOM/Flickr)
Special Operations Command Africa hosted the first Women’s Leadership Forum during International Women’s Day in N'Djamena, Chad (USAFRICOM/Flickr)

Why Take a Peacebuilding Approach?

The United States government and other donor nations have long engaged with security sectors to decidedly mixed results. The United States has begun to grapple with the adverse human security consequences of some of its engagements. For example, there are new guidelines for security sector assistance in stabilization environments, new requirements for assessment, monitoring, and evaluation of security sector cooperation, and a new comprehensive government strategy—the Global Fragility Act—for tackling and preventing global conflict.  

We believe it is time for new approaches to address the challenges of security sector governance as well. USIP believes that peacebuilding approaches could break through some of the entrenched problems the field of security sector reform has faced for decades and which traditional technocratic approaches to partner capacity-building have not solved.

What Does USIP Do Differently?

USIP’s new Building Peaceful Security program adopts a peacebuilding approach to security sector reform and governance in three ways: 

  1. By supporting and empowering local actors, civil society, and governments to create effective, accountable, transparent, inclusive security sectors in fragile and conflict-affected countries.
  2. By identifying and sharing the best innovative practices in peacebuilding approaches to improve good governance of security and security sectors across the community of practice.
  3. By supporting policymakers and practitioners, both in environments affected by or at high risk of violent conflict and in donor nations, to integrate peacebuilding approaches into security support.

History of SSR Efforts at USIP

USIP has a rich history of engaging in security sector reform over the past two decades. It has leveraged its internal research capacity and network of external specialists to provide time sensitive analysis for policymakers, including papers and public events on post-Arab Spring SSR, SSR in Afghanistan, and SSR in fragile states.

In addition to providing policymakers with empirically based research and insights from the ground, USIP has engaged directly with security sector actors in conflict-affected environments to cooperatively assess and address challenges in a sustainable way. This has been exemplified by USIP’s partnerships with police academies across Myanmar, Tunisia, Pakistan, and other nations to establish and update the curriculum design so that current and future officers benefit from holistic training and education opportunities.

USIP recognizes that human security is a question that involves more than just police and armed forces. Since 2012, the Institute has engaged in justice and security dialogues in violence-affected communities, bringing community members, civil society organizations, nonstate security actors, and state security forces together in locally led initiatives to find common ground and common solutions to their challenges. The Justice and Security Dialogues have helped diffuse tensions in Burkina Faso between police and once-mistrustful members of a local vigilante group who have begun cooperating with police in controlling crime. In Dakar, Senegal, the project has improved the sharing of information between community members and police.

With its unique capacity to both build local partnerships and support policymakers in their search for peaceful resolution to today’s toughest problems, USIP has an opportunity to connect bottom-up and top-down peacebuilding efforts in the field of SSR—elevating local voices beyond their communities and ensuring that high-level decisions are responsive to citizens’ needs. USIP’s work in Tunisia includes the establishment of the Alliance of Tunisian Facilitators (ATF) as part of its goal to reduce violent extremism and address fragility in the country. The Informing Criminal Justice Reform in Libya project aims to strengthen the rule of law in Libya by filling knowledge gaps on the country’s correctional facilities and the criminal justice system in the Fezzan region. In keeping with the growing recognition that SSR means much more than just institutional reform or updating of police and military procedures, we strive to engage actors from all levels of society who have a stake and role to play in shaping peace and security.

Latest Publications

Where Is Iraq a Year After Prime Minister Kadhimi Took Office?

Where Is Iraq a Year After Prime Minister Kadhimi Took Office?

Thursday, May 6, 2021

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun; Sarhang Hamasaeed

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power a year ago today after a protest movement toppled the previous government and successive attempts to establish a new one failed. Inheriting a country deep in the midst of political and economic crises, Kadhimi has spent the last year trying to put Iraq back on the path toward stability all while navigating U.S.-Iran tensions playing out on Iraqi soil. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Sarhang Hamasaeed look at what Kadhimi has done to attempt to placate protesters, the importance of Iraq’s October national elections and how the prime minister has dealt with U.S.-Iran tensions.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (Swahili)

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (Swahili)

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

By: Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.; Danielle Robertson

Mwongozo wa Nadharia na Mfumo wa Kujumuisha Jinsia Zote (GIFT) ni njia rahisi na zana ya kina inayowezesha kujumuisha uchambuzi wa kijinsia katika uundaji wa mradi. Kwa sababu kazi ya kudumisha amani inategemea muktadha, GIFT inaweka mbele njia tatu za uchambuzi wa kijinsia-mtazamo wa Wanawake, Amani na Usalama; mtazamo wa Uume wenye Amani; na mtazamo wa Utambulisho Ingiliani-ambazo zote zinaangizia mabadiliko ya kijinsia katika mazingira fulani ili kutengeneza vyema miradi ya kudumisha amani.

Type: Tools for Peacebuilding


Border Clash Between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Risks Spinning Out of Control

Border Clash Between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Risks Spinning Out of Control

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

A dispute over irrigation water triggered a clash between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan last week that quickly spread along the border, resulting in the death of more than 40 people and displacing 30,000 on the Kyrgyz side — the worst such incident in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union. While such flare-ups, albeit less deadly, are a regular occurrence in the region, this time the situation could get out of hand as the leaders of both countries are incentivized to stoke a crisis that distracts from the domestic unrest caused by their mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Can India Escape its Devastating Second COVID Wave?

Can India Escape its Devastating Second COVID Wave?

Monday, May 3, 2021

By: Tamanna Salikuddin; Vikram J. Singh

India’s second wave of COVID has quickly turned into one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Since early March, official cases and deaths have skyrocketed, recently breaking world records on an almost daily basis. Meanwhile, Indian officials are warning the country’s health care system cannot keep up with the deluge of patients as supplies run thin, exposing India’s ailing health infrastructure. USIP’s Tamanna Salikuddin and Vikram Singh look at the origins of India’s second wave, its far-reaching consequences in the global fight against COVID and what the international community can and should do to help India weather the storm.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health

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