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Security system reform and identity in divided societies: Lessons from Northern Ireland.

O'Rawe, Mary
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Research Brief. October. New York: International Center for Transitional Justice.

When a divided society attempts to make the transition from violent confl ict to peace, it
must engage with what in past governance arrangements made harmonious communal
living so dysfunctional and seemingly impossible. Th e new dispensation will, among
other things, face the daunting challenge of rehabilitating those state institutions most
responsible for violations of human rights. Security system reform (SSR) is generally writ
large in any transitional justice “to do” list. However, the reform of organizations cannot
be seen as an end in itself. Such reform only adds value to the extent that it provides
an entry point to address deeply felt, often identity-based grievances and paves the way
for wider systemic and holistic engagement, which facilitates people of diff ering backgrounds,
views and aspirations to feel respected, safe and secure.
In societies split dysfunctionally and violently along evident identity fault lines, the challenge
of guaranteeing security requires not piecemeal reform of police and/or military
organizations, but a holistic, “whole of governance” approach, with respect for human
dignity and diversity as cornerstones of any change process. How diff erent identities
are recognized and accommodated in terms of garnering support for the SSR process
through the design and implementation of specifi c reforms, although only one issue
requiring consideration, can be central to the legitimacy and success of the SSR project. (excerpt)


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