Resource Mobilization for Security Sector Reform

Resource Mobilization for Security Sector Reform

Partners Senegal/ Partners For Democratic Change

Rokhaya Ndoye Mbaye

Since the 1990’s, the international community has been increasingly concerned with the stability of West African states. It now regards comprehensive security sector reform as one of the most appropriate and effective way of preventing conflict and mitigating security threats in the years to come. This proactive and institutional-oriented approach is manifest in a 2011 World Bank report, which states that it is necessary to reinforce legitimate bodies providing security in order to break the “cycles of violence”. Despite the recognition of SSR’s importance at the highest levels, its implementation is expensive and complex. The magnitude and scope of an SSR program requires significant financial and human resources. This paper will explore the challenges the of resource mobilization for SSR, and offer recommendations on how to overcome a lack of resources. These considerations are crucial to the effectiveness and stability of all security sector reform programs.

1.    Challenges to Resource Mobilization

The great depth and complexity of leading institutional change during post-conflict periods or political transitions requires societal transformations to occur concurrently. Policies, behaviors, attitudes, and relationships that define society must be reconciled and evolve. These require a reorganizing of institutions, as well as the development of expertise and competences in areas that were previously lacking or non-existent. In the security sector this relates to redefining its purpose and accordingly reforming procedures, trainings, human resource policies, justice system, and overheads. The management of these complex transformations requires committed, well-structured and competent governments that have adequate resources. Alas, such leadership is often elusive.

As demonstrated above, the scope of reform requires great capacity in various fields. Along with its commitment to democratic principles, managing security sector reform calls for a focus on efficiency and effectiveness. West African countries are faced with a lack of resources, which clearly limits their ability to deliver security services and to conduct reforms at the national level. Lack of resources does not refer only to money, but encompasses human capital (competences, skills, and expertise) or infrastructure deficiencies, for instance. More specifically in the security sector, this deficit is observed with regard to the capacity and ability to forecast and analyze security threats, and to design, organize and coordinate a response. Parliamentary committees dealing with security issues like defense, policing, intelligence, correctional services and justice need to be empowered with more knowledge on technical issues, international standards and comparative security experiences. This will increase their credibility and efficiency. Strengthening these competencies will be long and costly, but it is a necessary step in the process without which regional security cannot be guaranteed. (Nathan, 2007)

A third challenge to resource mobilization is resistance to reform. Those who are well entrenched in traditional centralized systems will often resist democratization and decentralization of the security sector. The resistance towards adopting new attitudes and behavior patterns adds complexity and difficulty to reforms in a transitional period. Officers of the armed forces often face resistance in their troops when they are required to implement new policies that contradict past training and experiences. Strategies to deal with resistance will have to be adopted, in order for financial and human resources to be deployed efficiently.

2.    Local engagement and Sustainability in Donors’ SSR agenda?

It has become apparent that international donors are increasingly willing to devote resources to SSR. Indeed, SSR has become “a higher priority at donor/agency headquarters”[1]. This has led to an increase in human and material resources committed to SSR policy development and programming.[2] The shift towards a human security paradigm is a key factor in donors’ greater involvement in SSR support. The link between security and development is now widely recognized in international development policy circles. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and development (OECD) articulates this concept as follows:

There can be no security without development, and no development without security. A notable shift has taken place in donor agencies, with many OECD DAC donor agencies beginning to integrate SSR as a core component of development assistance. SSR is seen as an important tool for development agencies in their efforts to prevent conflict and build peace. (Keane and Alan, 2009) [3]

The OECD has been a key player at the international level in SSR principles codification. Its recognition of the link between security and development led to its creation of the “Handbook of Security System Reform”[4], which serves as a resource and guide for conducting security sector reforms. Its proactive stance in this field has fostered international donors’ eagerness to integrate SSR in their portfolios.

Donors’ dominant role in security sector reform raises the question of sustainable resource mobilization from local sources, which is a important component of the OECD-DAC handbook. It suggests the following four key points[5] to monitor sustainability in SSR resource management: human capital and capacities, financing, cultural appropriateness, and institutional structures, systems and capacities.

Despite these principles’ wide acceptance, donor programs too often do not recognize local achievements; impose norms that are often not adapted to environment, values and historical experiences. (Sherman, CIC, 2009). Lack of knowledge of and separation from local realities leads to an inefficient allocation of financial and technical resources. It is important to note that resource mobilization does not only mean raising funds and increasing capacity, but also disbursing these in an efficient way based on a sound understanding of needs.

Efficient allocation of resources is also important for the continuation of security sector reform activities when donors reduce funds or pull out entirely. Donors and national governments need to develop plans for the sustainable financing of priority areas. For instance, the national government must be capable of providing soldiers with regular and adequate payment and benefits. There is also a need for a long-term vision for the reduction of the number of military personnel in favor of the expansion of the police forces.

National governments do not have the capacity and resources to perform all activities that are necessary for comprehensive security reform. There is certainly a place for foreign actors to fill in these gaps. However, civil society organizations strongly oppose an excessive donor presence. There needs to be a solution that compromises the opposing viewpoints. Indeed, donor governments should shape their interventions to be “responsive to local requests and sensitive to local conditions rather than attempt to deliver pre-packaged programs”[6].[7]

Here are some guiding principles and recommendations to realize this necessary transformation:

  • Local ownership and capacity building are values that need to become financing criteria;
  • Policy statements have a role in analyzing and explaining how local ownership can be applied strategically towards resource allocation;
  • Donor organizations should make formal pledges to support local ownership in their contracts and partnerships with local actors;
  • Local ownership and capacity building support activities should be properly recorded in annual reports;
  • Learning opportunities on the rationale and strategies of local ownership and capacity building should be provided for the personnel of donor organizations. ( Nathan, 2007)


The magnitude and complexity of West Africa’s security threats has made donor financial and technical assistance a necessity. The objective of which is to establish and strengthen effective and democratic security system governance that is capable of addressing these threats. Resource mobilization and management is understood in terms of civilian oversight, accountability, efficiency, legitimacy and sustainability. Operational support to policy development and financing activities is lacking in the fields of justice, human rights, peace building. There remain large challenges related to building competencies and skills, gathering data on localized security threats, corruption, dealing with resistance, international actors’ recognition of local ownership, and establishing legal standards. These are barriers to the proper use of resources.

Externally generated policies meet numerous obstacles during implementation. Nevertheless, they are more likely to expunge safety threats in the long run than out-drawn processes. In order to attract more valuable partners and donor country financial support, a paradigm shift seems to be needed[8]. Donors will need to adopt a long-term approach over one that is focused on short-term outputs. Resource allocation will have to be based more on context-specific challenges associated with local ownership; focus more on community security needs, including justice and armed violence issues; address the challenges of donor co-ordination, harmonization and alignment in different fragile and conflict-affected contexts; address the public financial management challenges associated with managing donor support for SSR in ways that are transparent and accountable to parliaments and civil society. [9]

[1] Security Sector Reform in Africa: The Promise and the Practice of a New Donor Approach; Daniel Bendix and Ruth Stanley; Occasional Paper Series: Volume 3, Number 2, 2008

[2] OECD Annual Report, 2009

[3] Security System Reform: What Have We Learned? Results and trends from the publication and dissemination of the OECDDAC Handbook on Security System Reform Rory Keane (OECD) and Alan Bryden (DCAF )


[4] DAC, OECD DAC Handbook on Security System Reform, Supporting Security and Justice (Paris: OECD DAC, 2007).

[5] The OECD DAC Handbook on Security System Reform (SSR) Supporting Security and Justice, 2012

[6] No Ownership, No Commitment: A Guide to Local Ownership of Security Sector Reform, Laurie Nathan; University of Birmingham; 2007

[7] For more information on local ownership, see the “Civilian Engagement in Security Sector Reform” topic paper.

[8] Financing Security Sector Reform: A Review of Official Development Assistance Data; Alejandro Pachon, The Centre for International Governance Innovation SSR Issue Papers: No. 4, 2012

[9] SSR Issue Papers No. 4 — January 2012; Financing Security Sector Reform: A Review of Official Development Assistance Data; Alejandro Pachon

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