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

New Talks Could Help Iraq Find Room to Stabilize Amid Crises

New Talks Could Help Iraq Find Room to Stabilize Amid Crises

Thursday, April 8, 2021

By: James Rupert

As Iraq’s government struggles to build stability in the face of economic decline, COVID, political protest and periodic violence, it may see new hope for some maneuvering room in its narrow political space between the United States and Iran. One day after U.S. and Iranian officials agreed through intermediaries to work toward restoring the 2015 accord over Iran’s nuclear program, American and Iraqi diplomats announced an intent to remove U.S. combat forces from Iraq. Both initiatives face deep uncertainties. But if successful they could widen Iraq’s difficult path toward peace.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Getting to the Source: The Importance of Field Research

Getting to the Source: The Importance of Field Research

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

By: Alastair Reed; Boglarka Bozsogi

Travel restrictions and social distancing practices put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have largely ground field research to a halt. Fieldwork plays an essential but often underappreciated role in both understanding violent extremism and developing policy responses to it. It is vital, therefore, that funders and policymakers support the return of such important work in a post-pandemic world.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Education & Training

How Military Chaplains Are Key Agents for Peace for the U.S. Armed Forces

How Military Chaplains Are Key Agents for Peace for the U.S. Armed Forces

Monday, April 5, 2021

By: Knox Thames; Melissa Nozell

Over the past few decades, U.S. military chaplains have increasingly played a key role in promoting peaceful resolutions in conflict environments. While their primary mission across the service branches is pastoral care — leading religious services, providing counsel and offering spiritual guidance, for example — military chaplains have also, at times, served as liaisons and bridge-builders with local religious leaders.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Religion

China’s High-Stakes Calculations in Myanmar

China’s High-Stakes Calculations in Myanmar

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

By: Jason Tower

The ultimate outcome of Myanmar’s nine-week-old coup will affect a range of international actors — but none more than China. As Asia’s greatest power, China has strategic and economic stakes in its neighbor to the south that leave little space for genuine neutrality behind a façade of non-interference. Since February 1, Beijing has profoundly shaped the trajectory of post-coup violence and blocked international efforts to restore stability.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

Extending Constitutional Rights to Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

Extending Constitutional Rights to Pakistan’s Tribal Areas

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

By: Umar Mahmood Khan; Rana Hamza Ijaz; Sevim Saadat

When Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas were officially merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in May 2018, the five million residents of the former tribal areas acquired the same constitutional rights and protections—including access to a formal judicial system—as Pakistan’s other citizens. This report, based on field research carried out by the authors, explores the status of the formal justice system’s expansion, finding both positive trends and severe administrative and capacity challenges, and offers recommendations to address these issues.

Type: Special Report

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

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