International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution

Article

Security Sector Reform in Theory and Practice

Persistent Challenges and Linkages to Conflict Transformation

Keywords security sector reform, conflict transformation, scholarship, practice
Authors Leslie MacColman
Author's information

Leslie MacColman
Leslie MacColman is a PhD student in the joint programme in Sociology and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include governance, police reform and criminal dynamics in urban neighbourhoods.
  • Abstract

      In less than two decades, security sector reform (SSR) has crystallized as an organizing framework guiding international engagement in countries affected by violent conflict. SSR is a normative proposition, grounded in democratic governance and human security, and a concrete set of practices. As such, it represents an exemplary case of the dialectic between scholarship and practice and an outstanding vantage point from which to interrogate this nexus. In this article, I explore the dynamic interplay between theory and practice in SSR. In particular, I show how the basic tenets of conflict transformation – present in the first generation of scholarship on SSR – were sidelined in SSR practices. Practical experiences led to strong critiques of the ‘conceptual-contextual’ divide and, eventually, to a second generation of critical scholarship on SSR that has begun to coalesce. I conclude by noting the parallels between recent scholarship on SSR and the insights captured in earlier work on conflict transformation.

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