Sep 15 2014

The Security that People Get Is Often Not What They Want

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By Erwin van Veen

Erwin van Veen is a senior research fellow in the Conflict Research Unit at Clingendael. This guest post builds on the author’s longer policy brief: Securing its success, justifying its relevance: Mapping a way forward for Security Sector Reform.’  Follow Erwin on Twitter @ErwinVeen

Erwin van Veen July 2013

The recent incidents in Ferguson, US, have highlighted two similarities in the provision of security across the world. First, people often don’t get the security they want. Although the facts have not yet been fully established, the perception out in Ferguson is of a heavy-handed, brutal police response to a minor offence – possibly with racial bias. Second, external actors, in this case the US ministries of defense and justice that provide American police with heavy weaponry at attractive prices, often influence the type of security people get without having sufficiently thought through the consequences of their actions.

If the provision of security faces such issues in the US, it is safe to multiply them manifold in fragile environments, which are typically characterized by an ever-present threat of violence and poor levels of accountability and trust, as well as high levels of poverty. Here, the uniformed agents of the state are often a threat instead of a provider of security. Because insecurity hampers development and can create significant negative spill-over effects, richer states (such as the UK in Sierra Leone) and international organizations (such as the United Nations in Timor-Leste) have invested heavily in improving the provision of security in fragile environments. This has happened in large part on the basis of the notion of Security Sector Reform (SSR), which focuses on the joint and parallel improvement of both the effectiveness of security provision and the quality of its governance where its under-supply forms a barrier to broader development. Generally, such investments have generated poor results in that they have only marginally improved the security of those living under such conditions. In fact, three aspects of the policy and practice of SSR have often made external actors complicit in ensuring that people don’t get the security they want. Continue reading

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Aug 26 2014

Understanding Violence by African Government Forces: The Need for a Micro-Dynamics Approach

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By Judith Verweijen

Photo: Judith Verweijen

Photo: Judith Verweijen

Remarkably, there are few in-depth studies of the forms and processes underlying violent practices enacted by African government forces. This indicates that the research programme of the microdynamics of violent conflict has made few inroads on the study of militaries in Africa. Calling for an empirically grounded approach that disaggregates the study of conflict from the study of violence, this programme focuses on processes and phenomena at the subnational level, including the micro-foundations of the production of violence and of relations between civilians and armed forces.

One of the crucial contributions of this new research programme, as strongly brought into the limelight by one of its movers and shakers, Stathis Kalyvas, is to have uncovered the importance of local and personal conflicts in the dynamics of conflict and violence. Too often, analysts have interpreted violent events solely through the lens of overarching conflict narratives, commonly framed in political-ideological or identity-based terms, or monolithic motivations like greed. This has caused a certain blindness to the crucial role of civilians in instigating or directing violence by armed forces, commonly mobilised for settling personal conflicts and scores. Similar reductionist analyses have been made in relation to violence enacted by African government forces, often ascribed to hunger for resources, ill discipline, limited training, or, echoing tropes of  a “new barbarianism”, their brutal nature.

Yet, as I demonstrate in a recent article in Third World Quarterly co-authored with Maria Eriksson Baaz, civilians also play a crucial role in instigating certain forms of violence enacted by government troops. As our research on the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) shows, civilians sometimes co-produce certain of the military’s non-combat related violent practices, like unlawful arrests, beatings, intimidation and forceful seizure of belongings. In particular, in the eastern part of the DR Congo, plagued by the ongoing activity of dozens of armed groups, it has become a relatively widespread practice for civilians to solicit the FARDC for intervention in all types of conflicts. This includes disputes related to infractions and commercial disagreements, such as unpaid debts, conflicts surrounding family affairs, including dowries and divorce, and grievances related to personal rivalries, grudges, revenge and retribution. Civilians approach the military to interfere in such disputes either as a commercial transaction, offering them money or the promise of gain accruing from the intervention, or as a favor in the framework of existing social ties, which often have a strong patronage-based dimension. While not all of the forms of military intervention thus solicited are violent, many have a pronounced coercive character. Continue reading

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Aug 18 2014

Six Key Findings on the Use of Theories of Change in International Development


By Craig Valters

JSRP17.Valters-page-001The Theory of Change approach is becoming a pervasive part of development practice: as an artefact, as a management tool, and increasingly as a common discourse which implementers use to explain and explore their interventions. My new JSRP paper, ‘Theories of Change in international development: communication, learning or accountability?’ seeks to address a critical gap in understanding the actual effects of using a Theory of Change approach in international development work and considers how the approach may be better understood, if its aim is to improve development policy and practice. It does so through an analysis of the emerging findings of a collaboration between the JSRP and The Asia Foundation. Six key findings have emerged from this research:

  1. A Theory of Change approach can create space for critical reflection, but there is a danger that this is an illusory process.

Many have welcomed the introduction of a Theory of Change approach, specifically because it provides space for reflection on their assumptions and the context in which they work, particularly in comparison to logframes. Such attempts to situate programmes in larger ecosystems of social change should be applauded, not dismissed. Yet a Theory of Change approach can also create an illusion of serious reflection by being a superficial process of critical thought, where people who engage with the theories (donors as well as  implementers) do not actually reflect sufficiently on how power dynamics change in practice and how local people see change happen. Continue reading

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Jul 30 2014

When Kleptocracy Becomes Insolvent: Brute Causes of the Civil War in South Sudan

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In a new article published in African Affairs, Alex de Waal argues that South Sudan obtained independence in July 2011 as a kleptocracy – a militarized, corrupt neo-patrimonial system of governance. By the time of independence, the South Sudanese ‘political marketplace’ was so expensive that the country’s comparatively copious revenue was consumed by the military-political patronage system, with almost nothing left for public services, development or institution building. The efforts of national technocrats and foreign donors produced bubbles of institutional integrity but the system as a whole was entirely resistant to reform. The January 2012 shutdown of oil production bankrupted the system. Even an experienced and talented political business manager would have struggled, and President Salva Kiir did not display the required skills. No sooner had shots been fired than the compact holding the SPLA together fell apart and civil war ensued. Drawing upon long-term observation of elite politics in South Sudan, this article explains both the roots of kleptocratic government and its dire consequences.

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Jul 25 2014

The Donors’ Dilemma: the future of foreign aid

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By Tom Kirk and Andy Sumner

This piece originally appeared on the Global Policy blog and is drawn from the final chapter of the Global Policy e-book ‘The Donors’ Dilemma: emergence, convergence and the future of aid’ by Andy Sumner and Tom Kirk (eds).  Tom Kirk is a researcher with the JSRP with a particular interest in issues of security and public authority. Andy Sumner is Co-Director of the International Development Institute at King’s College London.  Join the debate on Twitter at #GPfuture of aid.

Donors' DilemmaThe challenge laid down to contributors to Global Policy’s first e-book began, in the editor’s introduction, with an optimistic observation that the number of aid dependent countries is falling and that aid, as a portion of recipients’ GDP, may be becoming less and less relevant. Furthermore, it was speculated the potential post-2015 development goal of ending extreme poverty, however defined, could be a reality by 2030 if not before. At the same time, however, it was noted that such trends leave aid donors with a double dilemma: what do donors do if the remaining poor are left in countries in which aid is insignificant compared to GDP, such as India or Indonesia, or in weak states within which the use of aid in meaningful and productive ways is a tough call, such as Afghanistan or DRC.

How did commentators respond? The e-book’s contributors chose to emphasise the context in which these changes are taking place, the cooperative mind-sets required to address issues that transcend borders, and the practices that are already being explored to keep aid, or development cooperation more broadly, relevant in the face of such changes. Nonetheless there was a discernible sense that aid, if it even makes sense to continue to call it ‘aid’, will have to work on two interconnected levels. The first is concerned with global threats that affect everyone regardless of where the risk originates; the second is at the local level within countries that are likely to remain poor for the foreseeable future, such as conflict-affected countries, or those that, despite great advances, face rising inequalities. In what follows we explore the ways in which the distinguished and diverse contributors suggest that aid may be able to work at these levels. Continue reading

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Jul 7 2014

Tim Allen on the Importance of Fieldwork

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In an interview with The Economist‘s Prospero blog, JSRP Research Director Tim Allen underlines the crucial role serious fieldwork should play in underpinning international development policy and practice, arguing that: “There are systems of scholarship and discourses of power that are grounded in ignorance”, but ultimately concluding that “it’s possible to change things by bringing evidence from the ground”.

Read the full interview here.

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Jun 23 2014

The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward

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By David Marshall

rule of law

Ahead of its LSE launch on Thursday 26th June (6-7.30pm, Room 1.04, New Academic Building, free and open to all), editor David Marshall introduces The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward, which includes a new chapter by JSRP researcher Mareike Schomerus.

In 2011–2012, I was deployed to South Sudan to lead the United Nations’ development of the country’s justice and prisons system. It was a startling experience. Though the international community has been engaged in rule of law reform since 2005, there was a profound knowledge deficit regarding the justice “system,” its actors, and its processes. Moreover, there appeared to be little interest in understanding, or learning from, years of international rule of law programming in the country—what worked, what did not, and why—or in applying lessons learned from similar contexts. Much of the assistance focused on “law and order” issues, with most support going to police and prisons. The international community’s rule of law assistance seemed trapped in an “impoverished” view of the rule of law and appeared to have little, if any, impact in actually addressing injustices in the country. Continue reading

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Jun 10 2014

Conference at LSE: Can Politics and Evidence Work Together in International Development?

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Can Politics and Evidence Work Together in International Development? Insights from Security and Justice Programmes in Conflict-Affected Areas

1.30 – 6.30, Tuesday July 1st 2014, Room 4.02, Clement House, LSE

‘Working politically’ and ‘evidence-based policy’ often co-exist as buzzwords within development discourse and policy documents, but can they genuinely complement each other in practice, since the requirements, and timelines, of rigorous evidence production would seem to run counter to the notion of political agility? An emphasis on research and evidence implies a degree of openness, whereas working politically may necessitate a lack of transparency for practitioners. How can these two approaches work together, especially in conflict-affected regions where the tensions and trade-offs involved are likely to be heightened? How can we know whether programmes, particularly those on justice and security, have had a positive political impact?

Time Topic Speakers
13.30 – 15.00 Are the agendas on ‘working politically’ and ‘evidence-based policy’ compatible? Chair: Mary Kaldor, LSE/JSRP Rosalind Eyben (IDS), Duncan Green (Oxfam), Stephen Rood (TAF)
15.00 – 15.45 Coffee and breakout discussions:

  • How can we measure success in political development engagement?
  • What kind of evidence is relevant to practice that works politically?
  • How do we balance a quest for research transparency with the need for political work to happen quietly outside the spotlight?
  • ‘There is no difference between the current push to work politically and previous practice.’  So how can we make the current trend in the debate useful for research and practice?


Facilitators:Jaime Chua (TAF), Susan Marx (TAF),
Craig Valters (ODI),
George Varughese (TAF)
15.45 – 16.45 Security in conflict-affected contexts. Chair: Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic, JSRP Freddie Carver, (Stabilisation Unit), Mareike Schomerus (JSRP),
John Sidel (LSE),
Thomas Wheeler (Saferworld)
16.45 – 17.45 Justice in conflict-affected contexts. Chair: Tim Allen, LSE/JSRP Lisa Denney (ODI), Macha Farrant (DfID CHASE),
Rachel Ibreck (Justice Africa),
Barbara Smith (TAF)
17.45 – 18.30 How to work politically with better evidence: concluding remarks and lessons learnt Patrick Barron (TAF),
Mary Kaldor (JSRP),
Iain King (DFID)


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May 8 2014

Can ‘Context-Specific’ Security Programming Handle the Reality of Dynamic Circumstances?

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By Mareike Schomerus

This piece originally appeared as part of ODI’s Development Progress series ‘What role for security in development progress?’.

It’s an easy point to make: current programmes on security and development do not pay enough attention to context. I myself have tried to land that punch during past discussions. Now I cringe when I hear about ‘context-sensitivity’ because it implies that understanding and recording ‘context’ is both achievable and measurable. It also suggests that ‘context’ can be taken into account when planning policies to improve security for those caught up in conflict or violence.

I am not advocating ignorance of what actually happens where the population faces severe challenges to their security. Instead I propose that if we want to measure progress in security, we need to find better ways to work with the notion of ‘context.’ Continue reading

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May 6 2014

JSRP Survey Report on Western Equatoria, South Sudan

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By Anouk S. Rigterink, John J. Kenyi and Mareike Schomerus

JSRP-South-Sudan-report-page-001Our new report describes the findings of a survey conducted by the Justice and Security Research Programme (JSRP) in Western Equatoria State, South Sudan, in 2013. The survey is based on a representative sample of 433 individuals in the Ezo County and the two southern-most payams of Tambura County. The purpose of this survey is to provide data for the following lines of research: (a) an investigation into the impact of community-driven development programming on trust in government and willingness to contribute to public goods; (b) a study into how security information that is broadcast on the local radio station Yambio FM influences people’s fear of an attack by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and shapes their attitudes towards a local protection force, the Arrow Boys, and the South Sudanese army (SPLA); (c) research into the ways in which being exposed to violence shapes preferences, as expressed through political participation and contribution to public goods; (d) an investigation into the persistent effects of the historical Zande Cotton Scheme. In addition, the survey provides an insight into how individuals in Western Equatoria State live their daily lives, including their security situation and how they are served by various forms of public authority.

The following topics are covered in the survey: 1. Demographics; 2. Contribution to public goods; 3. Interactions with authority; 4. Security (called ‘resilience’ in the questionnaire); 5. Past experiences of violence; 6. Perceptions and opinions of South Sudan’s central government; 7. Access to information

Some key findings:

  • The population of Ezo and Tambura Counties is relatively homogenous in terms of first language spoken (which can be considered a proxy for ethnic group) and nationality. More than 90 per cent of respondents indicated Pazande as their first language, with only a small section indicating English, Dinka or Balanda. More than 95 per cent identify their nationality as South Sudanese.
  • Overall, the level of education is low: on (weighted) average, respondents completed 4.1 years of education whilst 28.3 per cent of respondents indicated they did not have any education.
  • The population of Ezo and Tambura Counties has been subject to substantial displacement; only 35.6 per cent of respondents classified themselves as a continuous resident. For those who left, it was common to come back to their original boma of residence. Only 7.2 per cent of respondents are classified as a ‘movee’, which means they are now living in a boma in which they have not previously lived. Continue reading
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