Security Sector Reform – Squeezing Out Corruption from the Start

In many countries, the post-conflict environment is dominated by Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) processes as well as the reconstruction of the security sector. Security sector reform (SSR) places security institutions under severe transition in a post-conflict environment. However, it is a fundamental step to ensure that the security establishments adapt to the new security needs of the society. The International Security Sector Advisory Team emphasises that a successful SSR has local ownership, is effective, accountable and holistic as well as takes into account the political and technical sides of the process [1]. Building systems to prevent and tackle corruption in the early stages of this transition is an important step in order to ensure that corruption will not entrench in the structures of security establishments.

Corruption as a phenomenon is an organisational issue with structural tendencies, which reaches beyond alleged misconducts of certain officials. Precisely for this reason, preventing the emergence of strong and extensive corruption in the early stages of SSR will enhance the possibility of blocking the establishment of structural corruption in these institutions. This transitional period is mostly managed and organised externally, international institutions being the main actors involved. Therefore, cooperation between different international institutions and local actors during the SSR process is important, in order to effectively influence security institutions from the start and ensure transparent and corruption free practices. For example in Kosovo, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was the leading force behind the post-conflict peacebuilding and the SSR. Furthermore, it is important to make sure that international organisations themselves are not undermining the SSR effort by engaging in corruption practices.

On the lower level, professionalising the security work force by offering fair wages and a safe working environment could decrease the incentives to engage in corruption. In Afghanistan, the corruption of the police force created mistrust of the police within the Afghan population. In Kosovo, the UNMIK faced similar problems while creating and training the post-conflict Kosovo police force. Creating security forces which are not viewed as legitimate by the population can have a negative impact on the peacebuilding effort. Taking a holistic approach to deal with the issue is a challenging but necessary way of tackling both individual and structural levels of corruption.

Post-conflict peacebuilding and anti-corruption efforts might seem like two separate issues with little common ground. However, SSR should be seen as a important moment in anti-corruption work and an excellent opportunity to contribute to the reform of the security institutions to become more democratic and transparent. This requires efficient tactics to demolish (possible) earlier corruption structures and ensure that fighting corruption will be placed in the post-conflict peacebulding agenda. Anti-corruption research and policy should further focus on transitional periods, such as security sector building or reform, since corruption is easier to tackle before it becomes a systemic, structural force.