Neo-colonial attitudes to security in war-torn nations out-of-date and unhelpful

October 18, 2018

Developed countries imposing their own Security Sector Reform (SSR) processes onto nations recovering from war often rely on entrenched colonial attitudes with no guarantee of success.

Research led by the University of Kent specifically looked at the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) and Nepal contrasting their outcomes and examining the reasons for success or failure of SSR policies based on European templates. They question whether the systems even work in their countries of origin where statistics show ongoing institutional racism.

SSR is a key feature of peacebuilding interventions and is usually undertaken by a state alongside national and international partners. Many programmes still aim to create a security sector following a European template, without sufficiently acknowledging that this might not work in countries outside of Europe.

Dr Nadine Ansorg of Kent's School of Politics and International Relations (POLIR) at Kent, together with Dr Julia Strasheim, Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Foundation, Hamburg, found that social and political dynamics, historical and cultural details, and the involvement of other nearby countries all have to be factored into when creating meaningful SSR policies for a nation.

In DRC, the high number of rebel groups from within and outside the country posed a major obstacle to a successful demobilisation of forces. Nepal, in a contained geographical area and without involvement of neighbouring countries and other vested interests, experienced a completely different outcome to DRC.

The research highlights the need to genuinely acknowledge that SSR programmes must respond to their specific contexts. A programme that works in one country will not necessarily work in another which may explain the mixed results in peacebuilding and the co-operation and tensions within reform programmes.

Dr Ansorg said: 'There is a strong streak of post-colonial, persistent Eurocentric concepts in international SSR programmes, by the United Nations, World Bank, and other donors. After all, the government also persistently embodies a neo-colonial attitude towards countries from the Global South, as the recent visit of British Prime Minister Theresa May to Africa showed, and not forgetting the words of former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the subject.'
The findings Veto Players in Post-Conflict DDR Programs: Evidence From Nepal and the DRC by Dr Nadine Ansorg and Dr Julia Strasheim are published in the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding.

It will also be included in a special publication: Co-operation, Contestation and Complexity in Post-Conflict Security Sector Reform edited by Dr Nadine Ansorg of the School of Politics and International Relations (POLIR), and GIGA (German Institute of Global and Area Studies), and Dr Eleanor Gordon, Monash University later this year.

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It was ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

In 2018 it was also ranked in the top 500 of Shanghai Ranking's Academic Ranking of World Universities and 47th in the Times Higher Education's (THE) new European Teaching Rankings.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

University of Kent

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