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Security Sector Reform as a New Thematic Priority in Cooperation with the German Federal Foreign Office

News from Jul 15, 2014

With numerous acute crises affecting our world today, Security Sector Reform (SSR) is experiencing a boom in German foreign policy. The Federal Foreign Office’s toolbox faces challenges in dealing with crises in areas of limited statehood. How can instruments of foreign policy be adapted to new strategic goals? What kind of reach does civil crisis prevention have in the context of current crises? And how can a potential conflict of normative goals – for example between democratization and stabilization – be resolved in areas of limited statehood? These and other questions guide the Federal Foreign Office in its “Review 2014 – Rethinking Foreign Policy”. The SFB 700’s transfer project T3 ties in to this process with contributions in the field of the next thematic priority, Security Sector Reform.

Security Sector Reform aims to support states in shaping their security architecture according to democratic principles and the basic tenets of accountable governance. The reform agenda is holistic and overlaps with aspects of democracy promotion and promotion of rule of law. Lively academic and political discussions have emerged around the reform concept, as the discrepancy becomes increasingly obvious between ideal-typical, standardized policy objectives and the practical implementation of SSR measures on a case-by-case basis. Empirical studies on the effectiveness of such measures have only been conducted in a few cases. Little is known about the conditions for their success or about the causal linkages between security and development. Moreover, criticism of the concept has mounted, fundamentally questioning whether international standards of democratic security governance can be transferred to areas of limited statehood, or citing the weak implementation of local ownership principles in international SSR interventions.

Recently drafted “Interdepartmental Guidelines of the SSR Working Group” should contribute to improving cooperation in the area of SSR through a whole-government approach by several ministries (the Federal Foreign Office, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development). The document aims to establish SSR as a cross-departmental task among these diverse policy areas. The transfer project T3 will contribute to the further conceptual development of SSR in the German context on the basis of these guidelines, for example through expert discussions under the aegis of the Federal Foreign Office.

The transfer project’s work should be relevant to foreign policy practice and contribute to a systematic, results-oriented review of policy issues. To this end, the transfer project will also focus on operational aspects of SSR. Through SSR case studies, the project will initiate a discussion on conditions for success and ways to evaluate the effectiveness of SSR measures.

As an independent research institute, the SFB 700 envisions this transfer project as a platform for various actors from academia and politics to openly discuss conceptual and operational questions facing German foreign policy – not only concerning SSR. The SFB 700 has much to contribute to this dialog, drawing on in-depth research on conditions for success of governance transfers, reactions by local security sectors to external interventions, and complex questions of meta-governance.

About the author:

Karoline Eickhoff is a research associate in the T3 project on policy implications of governance research for German foreign policy, in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office. Her work focuses on Security Sector Reform.