Local ownership

Local ownership requires donor support for domestic initiatives, not vice versa. Initiatives that are not driven by domestic actors are unlikely to reflect local needs or dynamics, to be implemented properly, or to be sustained (Nathan, 2007, p. 4). A ‘minimalist’ approach to local ownership aims only to involve national-level political elites, because they possess the capacity and legitimacy to implement reforms, while a ‘maximalist’ approach is more inclusive, recognising civil society and citizens as key stakeholders (Donais, 2008, p. 9). In practice, a minimalist approach is often taken (Mobekk, 2011).

Local ownership is possible at each of the layers of provision (state, non-state and local) and is deeply political and contested (Scheye, 2008). Owners may include national and local governments, security leadership and actors, non-state actors, political classes, economic elites, civil society, and non-organised and non-represented people. Within each of these categories, there are ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ – those who have access to political and economic influence and those who do not (Mobekk, 2011, pp. 233–234).

Challenges

Enhancing local ownership is particularly challenging in fragile and conflict-affected states where institutions are weak, capacities are limited and representative government is absent (OECD-DAC, 2007b).

Which locals? There are dilemmas involved with choosing local counterparts, and those who wield local power and authority may not be supportive of security and justice reforms or may act as spoilers. In many cases, donors work with accessible local elites or western-educated counterparts, which may produce results that match donor preferences, but do not truly represent local concerns (Martin & Wilson, 2008; Hansen & Wiharta, 2007).

Ownership of what? In programmes that pursue idealised versions of security and justice provision, the debate on local ownership is often reduced to influencing externally generated activities or buying into externally imposed architectures (Martin & Wilson, 2008), but true local ownership entails accepting local solutions that may not conform to western values of governance or international human rights norms (Hansen & Wiharta, 2007).

Funding and project cycle limitations: Building inclusive local ownership is a long-term process, but tight programme timelines and budget cycles often mean that local ownership is seen as a luxury (OECD-DAC, 2007b).

Approaches

Understand the local actors and the political context: Local ownership may not be readily identifiable or coherent at the point at which donors decide to engage. Programmes should be designed with local ownership in mind, with an inception phase that allows donors to develop their understanding of the political context and identify local drivers of reform (OECD-DAC, 2007b).

Local ownership should be defined broadly: Achieving local ownership begins with consultation and participation, and true local ownership may follow if a variety of local actors feel that their views are being heard and reflected (OECD-DAC, 2007b). This should include engagement with civil society and non-state actors, some of whom might be difficult to identify or might not operate in ways that donors feel comfortable with (Scheye, 2008). There is often a need for specific efforts to target women to ensure that they are engaged in security and justice processes (Nathan, 2008).

Trade-offs: According to Hansen and Wiharta (2007), implementing the principle of local ownership involves trade-offs and concessions. Locally driven initiatives may take longer than those that are implemented without thorough consultation. Locally proposed solutions may challenge international human rights norms, but may be more suited to local conditions and more affordable.

Tools and guidance

The following resources include practical guidance of how local ownership can be built into the design and implementation of security and justice programming:

  • The OECD-DAC Handbook for Security System Reform – Section 4: Designing Support Programmes for SSR Processes (see OECD-DAC, 2007b)
  • No Ownership, No Commitment: A Guide to Local Ownership of Security Sector Reform (see Nathan, 2007)
  • The UN Security Sector Reform Integrated Technical Guidance Notes – Section 2: National Ownership of Security Sector Reform (see UN, 2012)
  • Donais, T. (2008). Understanding Local Ownership in Security Sector Reform. In T. Donais (Ed.), Local Ownership and Security Sector Reform. DCAF Yearbook 2008. Geneva: Lit Verlag.
    See document online
  • Hansen, A.S., & Wiharta, S. (2007). The Transition to a Just Order: Establishing Local Ownership after Conflict – A Policy Report. Stockholm: Folke Bernadotte Academy.
    See document online
  • Martin, A., & Wilson, P. (2008). Security Sector Evolution: Which Locals? Ownership of What? In T. Donais (Ed.) Local Ownership and Security Sector Reform. DCAF Yearbook 2008. Geneva: Lit Verlag.
    See document online
  • Mobekk, E. (2011). Security Sector Reform and the Challenges of Ownership. In M. Sedra (Ed.) The Future of Security Sector Reform. Ontario: The Centre for International Governance Innovation.
    See document online
  • Nathan, L. (2007). No Ownership, No Commitment: A Guide to Local Ownership of Security Sector Reform. Birmingham: Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform, University of Birmingham.
    See document online
  • Nathan, L. (2008). The Challenge of Local Ownership of SSR: From Donor Rhetoric to Practice. In T. Donais (Ed.), Local Ownership and Security Sector Reform. DCAF Yearbook 2008. Geneva: Lit Verlag.
    See document online
  • OECD-DAC. (2007b). Handbook on Security System Reform: Supporting Security and Justice. Paris: OECD.
    See document online
  • Scheye, E. (2008). Unknotting Local Ownership Redux: Bringing Non-State/Local Justice Networks Back. In T. Donais (Ed.), Local Ownership and Security Sector Reform. DCAF Yearbook 2008. Geneva: Lit Verlag.
    See document online
  • UN. (2012). Security Sector Reform: Integrated Technical Guidance Notes. New York: United Nations SSR Task Force.
    See document online