Security Sector Reform and the Paradoxical Tension between Local Ownership and Gender Equality

Dr Tony Welch OBE (member of the SCID Panel of Experts, Senior Fellow of the Centre for Security Governance, Senior Associate of the Folke Bernadotte Academy, and member of the Group of Experts of the 1325 Policy Group), Emmicki Roos (member of the SCID Panel of Experts and Executive Director of the 1325 Policy Group) and I (Eleanor) have just had an article we’ve been working on this past year published in Stability: International Journal of Security & StabilitySecurity Sector Reform and the Paradoxical Tension between Local Ownership and Gender Equality. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/sta.gj

The article analyses the tension or conflict that can exist between the principles of local ownership and gender equality that guide Security Sector Reform (SSR) programmes when gender discrimination and patriarchal values characterise the local environment (and ‘locals’ do not value gender equality). In these situations, international actors may be reluctant to advocate gender equality, regarding it as imposing culturally alien values and potentially destabilising to the SSR process. It is argued, however, that the tension between local ownership and gender equality is deceptive and merely serves to protect the power of dominant groups and disempower the marginalised, often serving to disguise the power relations at play in post-conflict environments and avoid addressing the security needs of those who are often at most risk. The paper concludes that rather than a tension existing between the two principles, in fact, local ownership without gender equality is meaningless. Moreover, failing to promote gender equality undermines the extent to which SSR programmes result in security and justice sector institutions that are representative of and responsive to the needs of both men and women. It can also perpetuate structural inequalities and conflict dynamics and, ultimately, limit the success of SSR and broader peacebuilding processes.

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