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SSR Programming Trends, Challenges and Emerging Issues Part II: Project Formulation

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on 6 March 2017

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Transcript of SSR Programming Trends, Challenges and Emerging Issues Part II: Project Formulation

2. Planning
Click here Donor Coordination and Planning
Click here to see Introduction
Click here to see Emerging Challenges
Click here to see SSR Positive Trends
SSR Programming Trends, Challenges and Emerging Issues -
Part II: Project Identification and Design


The selection of when a programme starts and finishes is often based on arbitrary decisions, or simply when workloads of programme managers subside. Detailing the optimal time to engage is therefore commonly an afterthought or overly simplified (eg. estimates are by year rather than quarters within the year). Yet, well thought out timings can prove instrumental in ensuring programme effectiveness, efficiency, or reducing unnecessary delays in start-up of programmes. Not enough attention is given to harmonizing programming milestones (eg. start of implementation) with national needs or opportunities. As an example, a number of SSR programmes have started during the transition cycles of elections. Such programmes have commonly suffered from delayed implementation or even poor results in the start-up phase due to poor availability of senior counterparts or uncertain political priorities. A more common challenge, however, has been disconnect of programme start and end dates from the timings of the national reform strategies. This has contributed to marginalization of such strategies or created parallel budgeting and planning processes.

The overall trend is for donors to have longer term engagements at country level in support of national SSR processes. This is either done through programmes with longer implementation timelines or through multiple successive programmes. Yet a frequent challenge has been to ensure continuity of efforts from one programme to the next, especially if there is staff turnover or a new implementing agency or contractor leading the programme. Donor planning is commonly restricted to single programmes, without a medium to long-term planning process that extends beyond the lifespan of those programmes. Few donors institute rolling planning cycles, whereby medium term plans are continuously revisited, revised and a forecast of activities and projects for the next 3 years is developed. The common excuse for the lack of such planning, both for donor agencies but also special missions, relates to uncertainty of funding being made available in the longer term but also little control over mission mandates which can change year to year based on political decisions in HQ. Individual programmes have at times overcome the uncertainties by conducting regular scenario planning exercises that aim to strategize the different approaches that the programme will take in the medium term depending on changes in funding or mandate, yet this practice remains unique and exceptional.

The gaps between when one programme ends and another begins has been on numerous occasions noted to negatively impact the momentum of reform and trust in the donor partner. A lack of overlap in programing has also been noted as slowing down start-up of follow on programmes. This is largely because as there is no lesson transfer from one programme to the next. Typically planning of the successive programme starts too late and when the existing programme is closing down.

Reduction in number of small scale projects. For small financial allocation preference is increasingly to use grants to CSO/NGO rather than dedicated programmes implemented by contractors for small scale projects while private contracting is increasingly becoming the standard practice for large scale programme interventions
Donors are increasingly utilising earmarked funds for SSR – as defined in country strategy papers – for one off large scale programmes rather than using the funds for smaller yet longer term successive programmes.
Overall donors are moving towards larger scale programmes. In parallel there is a move, especially by some multilateral agencies such as the EU, to reduce the number of small scale projects that they manage. This is a deliberate move to reduce the administrative burden associated with such projects. In such instances the preference has been to utilize grants to NGO or CSO to implement small scale interventions rather than using contractors for standalone projects.
Overall, earmarked funds for SSR, as defined in the country strategy paper for individual donors, are increasingly disbursed through single large scale SSR programme, typically of of 2-3 years, rather than several successive programmes which are comparatively smaller in scale. The decision of which approach is best (long-term and small vs. big bang and short-term) usually comes down to administrative costs rather than strategic considerations or needs of the local context. The trade-off, however, is that intense effort over a small period usually leads to a temptation to get results quickly and contributes to unevenness in the pace of reforms over the longer term. The benefit of using large scale programmes include the high profile associated with such programmes.
Terms of Reference
• In post-conflict contexts there is often no shortage of analysis or assessments. The impact of the collective work remains poor.
• Assessments remain donor driven and owned
• Ownership of the assessments and analysis is rarely with the analysis/planning departments within host country institutions. At times such institutions are not even made aware of donor assessments that are being undertaken, in turn limiting the utility of the assessments in supporting the work of those units.

With the proliferation of SSR or SSR related programmes there is also an evident growth in the number of assessments that are being undertaken. Yet, such assessments remain narrowly focused, often of poor quality or integrity, tend be procedural rather than diagnostic and rarely shared with other partners. In turn, such assessments serve as a poor guide to identify priority needs and gaps in reform and rather serve to simply validate previous conceptions of needs as seen by programme managers. Yet, such assessments increase the administrative burden on host Governments, who are forced to commit their time and resources to repeat similar or overlapping assessments with a multitude of donors. The overall impact of the analysis and assessments is largely tailored to aiding an individual programme rather than ensuring the effectiveness of the overall reform process and typically the analysis is only used once for a very specific and narrow purpose.

At times, especially in post-conflict contexts, the number of assessments undertaken exceeds the absorption capacity of local institutions to utilize the assessments to drive their own planning or management processes. In this regard, it is common to find that the analytical units of Ministries and other institutions are not engaged in, or even aware of, the assessments that are being undertaken. The lack of ownership of the assessments at these levels also undermines the potential added value of the assessments to inform national planning and management processes.

While consultations with civil society and a wider range of Government stakeholders have increasingly become standard practice in SSR programme design processes, such consultations have typically only served as a source of information rather than a genuine attempt at creating an inclusive process to develop locally owned analysis or programme components.
There are also common challenges in defining who needs to be consulted in the process. With limited resources and time given to programme design processes, consultations usually focus on a narrow range of stakeholders and rarely does this include end users. Consultations usually target those that are seen as constructive, well-informed, and perhaps even easily reached (eg. linguistic skills or availability). In addition, list of those interviewed usually includes senior managers (eg. Heads of Department) within institutions but rarely do consultations, including through focus groups, substantively reach out to operational level staff to gauge their needs and views.
Cross-sectoral consultations are also inconsistent. In this regard, it is common to find that programmes that focus on a single institution (eg. Police) only interview those that are in that pillar rather than across the sector (eg. prosecution). The common justification is that a police programme or penitentiary reform project should primarily focus its efforts at diagnosing problems stemming within that institutions. This approach is a common contributor to siloed programming.
Few donors have a clear and defined methodology for needs assessments
Significant varience in approach and scope of assessments - heavily reliany on skills and experience of team members

In the past ten years there has been little innovation or changes in the way SSR programmes are designed. Experimental or new approaches remain rare. For many of the leading SSR donors, risk aversion is a driving factor in influencing how individual donors pick and choose which elements of the initial needs assessment they will address in the eventual programmes. Most programme formulation processes remain activity driven, whereby activities are selected first and then expected results and outcomes defined thereafter to conform to those activities.
Convenience and ease of working remains a key influential factor in deciding what and how donors support national SSR processes
Alignment with national strategies is inconsistent
Elite capture of resources is common
Lack of balance in capacity building
Human rights features in objectives but less evident in defining approach
SSR programmes are usually decided and developed through a top down approach, whereby the decisions on where the programmes engage are approved and vetted by senior managers and policymakers both in the donor agency and also host country. SSR programmes thus continue to struggle with elite capture of resources with communities and end-users being given lesser opportunities to shape and develop such programmes. Thus some SSR programmes struggle with a selection bias in defining target beneficiaries and what gets done. Elite capture is evident in programmes implemented in both central levels as well as in regions. SSR programmes in rural areas have noted the influence of patronage and informal/formal organization of traditional systems as influencing how SSR programmes in those contexts are formulated.
While there is year to year a steady growth in the number of programmes that tackle security sector management and accountability issues, overall investment in governance reforms is still outpaced and overshadowed by standard ‘train and equip’ programmes. Yet, SSR programmes that have dedicated pillars for security sector governance reforms, as outlined in terms of reference or log frames, are also commonly struggling to achieve impactful results. Instead such programmes tend to quickly adapt the approach by streamlining governance objectives across all work of the programme. This has commonly contributed to giving governance efforts more traction and created windows of opportunity for more large scale and standalone governance initiatives later on. Overall, in post-conflict contexts programmes that exclusively focus on security sector governance issues have had poor results and limited sustainability.
Read More
Commonly gender mainstreaming goals are mentioned in project documents or in policy of development partners. Yet, it is rare to find gender mainstreamed into activities or in the monitoring and evaluation framework with appropriate gender indicators. In this regard, it is more common to find simply gender specific activities that are stand alone. It is still typical that gender considerations of the programme are only described in the programme document but not reflected in implementation, management, or approach.
Across various project design documents, including peacekeeping and special mission documents, there is a tendency to simply cut and paste gender mainstreaming paragraphs into the programme documents. This is largely a reflection of the poor attention to specific gender needs in the initial assessment but also the common perception that the paragraphs on gender mainstreaming are simply procedural components of the document rather than substantive aspects of the design.

Typically, consultations occur in the data collection process and then again in the programme verification process at the end of the design phase. There are few examples where there are robust consultative and inclusive processes in the mid-way point of the design process, which is in fact the most critical and influential part of the process. This includes few known attempts of programmes attempting to create a truly consultative process for selecting individual objectives, developing a programme theory of change, or even developing a concrete work plan. These aspects of the programme design are usually developed behind closed doors by donors.
To see part III click on the link
To see part I click on the link:
This section outlines the key trends, emerging issues and challenges typically encountered by programmes during the identification, design, and tender processes for SSR programmes. Many of the issues outlined in this section are not exclusive or particular only to SSR programming. Overall, donors are reformulating how they plan their programming, conduct needs assessments and formulate the logic model for their interventions. In contrast, there appear fewer innovations or developments in regards to tendering, implementation modalities and overall coordination of the preparatory phases with other donors.

The structure of this section includes an overview of the planning cycle for programming, how initial needs assessments are carried out, how implementation modalities are selected, and the processes used for tendering.

• Average size of individual programmes is increasing
• Longer country level engagement, including longer term programming
• Gradual increase in more sector wide programming (defence-police reform, criminal justice chain reform, security governance reform, etc)
• Programme design processes are shifting towards more multidisciplinary teams
• Some donors are spending more time and resources on programme design processes
• Growth of theory of change in programme documents, gradual shift away from just using log frames
• Complexity of target aims/objectives and activities is steadily increasing

• Programme design processes struggle to establish robust baselines against which progress could be measured over time
• Tendency to replicate tried and tested approaches irrespective of context and needs
• Limited inclination to venture into innovation
• Emerging clusters of programming, little variety in approach or areas of engagement
• Narrow scope applied to programme identification processes
• Key sections of programme documents, including gender mainstreaming, profile of required experts and monitoring/evaluation, are simply cut and paste from one project to the next

Donors typically share information regarding their planning only once a programme design process is initiated
Lack of information sharing simply comes down to lack of initiative or will to coordinate
Lack of rolling/continuous planning by donors
At country level, donors typically share information regarding their planning only once a programme design process is initiated, or even completed. There are relatively few examples of donors sharing multi-annual planning which details when individual programmes will start and finish beyond the immediate programme. This is partly explained by the lack of such planning altogether or uncertainty of availability of donor funding in the medium term. At times, however, lack of information sharing simply comes down to lack of initiative or will to coordinate. By seeking to coordinate with partners only once the project identification process is set in motion it typically becomes more difficult to change course or to agree a division of labour that will seek to optimize complementarity or reduce potential gaps in support over time.
The absence of such rolling planning or absence of information sharing regarding such plans with national counterparts commonly undermines national efforts to creating an iterative reform process or detailing sequencing of reforms. Even sharing rough estimates or indicative timelines of how support outlined in the country strategy paper will be sequenced or implemented (eg. single programme or multiple programmes) has shown to help promote more long-term planning.

Projects and assessments are often launched irrespective of consideration of dates and cycles. It is common to find that projects are initiated during or just prior to long administrative breaks (eg. summer vacation or election cycle), have a slow start up time and generally suffer to adhere to planned timelines. Assessments also undertaken without consideration for key dates (eg. vacations or other high level conferences) also have less effectiveness. Project managers and HQ staff tend to overlook the importance of selecting the right dates and being more strategic in when a programme starts and finishes.
Gaps in support from one project to the next impact momentum of reforms and trust
Planning of follow on programme comes too late, usually when previous programme is closing down
Limited transfer of know how from one programme to the next
Uncertainty over long-term support
There is a need for a long-term donor commitment to support the SSR process. Few donors plan for long-term support, but often end up providing it anyway (lack of long-term planning sacrifices benefits and opportunities of long term support).
Certainty of long-term support
Allows planning of complex reforms over a longer timeframe
Allows for more incremental implementation
SSR Project I
SSR Project II
Loss in reform momentum
Impacts trust and image
No transfer of know how and lessons learned
Effective Capacity building takes time and long-term commitment
Planning for the next project needs to take place while the previous project is still ongoing. Some overlap is good to ensure transfer of lessons learned from one project to the next and ensuring continuity
Common to see gaps in support (either disconnect in programmes or long pauses between programmes)
It takes staff time to know the context and understand the issues - in the longer-term staff better understand the context and needs (over time staff commonly change their original notions and perceptions and start to see themselves as primarily working for the national actors rather than the donor). Longer timelines or longer-term project sometimes save costs or cost the same as short-time frames and two separate short-term projects(eg. flights, procurement, intensity of work requires more personnel)
Loss of niche
Creates uncertainty in overall national reform process
It is common to find quick impact SSR projects in stabilisation environments
Aim to provide quick relief and address immediate operational priorities
Too often become a permanent implementation approach
Poor sustainability
Donors are too slow to transition towards long-term strategic reforms
In stabilization and post-conflict contexts, quick impact projects constitute a significant portion of SSR programmes. These short term interventions aim to provide immediate relief or help to address priority operational threats and needs. The challenge, however, has been the difficulty in transitioning from a quick impact approach to more strategic and incremental reform efforts. In this regard, many donor agencies have found that quick impact approaches become a long-term if not permanent implementation approach whereby one quick impact project is followed by another. Overall, quick impact projects, especially those focused on training, infrastructure and equipment have suffered from poor sustainability and long term impacts, and their overall contribution to the reform process remains marginal and limited to cosmetic changes.
Underlying problems with relevance of programmes can often be traced back to poor ToR of needs assessment
Restricted and minimal approach to assessments
Poor quality control of ToR
Limited time made available for assessment
Move towards broader scope (eg. criminal justice chain) of assessments
Multidisciplinary teams are becoming more common
Greater resources are spent on initial needs assessment
In evaluations that negatively score the relevance of programmes, the underlying problem can often be traced back to the original terms of reference for the initial scoping study or assessment. In this regard, it is common to find that such initial analytical work is largely restrictive, narrow in focus and used primarily to validate preconceived notions of needs rather than to conduct a thorough analysis of actual needs and to test those initial assumptions.

Part of the challenge is that the ToR ask the assessment team explores a particular problem or need that is very specific (eg. communication processes within a Ministry) rather than to look at management/accountability systems more broadly. In some cases the narrow approach to the assessment is sufficiently justified based on existing research, programming experience, or findings of complementary assessments. Yet, more commonly it is based simply on an arbitrary preference of the programme manager and limited overview of the full scale of needs. The resulting effect is that programmes focus on secondary priorities and needs while crucial gaps in capacity or systems remain unaddressed.

Given the limited time and resources made available for assessments, it is difficult to compensate for or overcome poor conceptualisation of the assessment once the team is on the ground. This is especially the case when there is only a single deployment to the field to conduct interviews. There are, however, growing examples of the initial needs assessments using multiple field visits to collect data. This has provided the teams with the opportunity to use the time in between missions to refine the methodology or make corrective measures in the scope and focus areas of the assessment based on the initial findings and analysis.
One of the initial problems is that field level or HQ staff that initiates the terms of reference for such assessment often lack experience in SSR or an adequate overview of what exists or is already being done. Such staff are rather tasked to usher in an SSR programme or initiate assessments because of the demands of a country strategy paper or directives from the capital. Despite good intentions the lack of experience in SSR is a contributing factor in the development of poor ToR or guidelines for SSR assessment teams. This in turn has been a contributing factor in the poor quality of the assessment itself and absence of integrity checking of the final assessment reports once the report is finalized. Few leading donors have a quality control process for the development of ToR for needs assessments and staff tasked with doing so have little recourse to seek advisory support from the outside.

While the vast majority of the initial SSR needs assessments remain institution or theme specific (eg. community policing) many of the leading donors have in the past few years have broadened the scope of their initial needs assessments in priority target countries. Countries such as Sweden, Norway and USA have all undertaken cross sector assessments as a basis for identifying programming priorities. In this regard, such agencies have used representatives from multiple Ministries (Eg. Home Affairs, Justice, Development) to conduct a joint assessment. Similarly the EU and UN also have their own recent examples of multidisciplinary teams being used to undergo gap analysis or needs assessments. The cross sector approach to the scope of the assessment has in many cases promoted more sectorial approaches to the subsequent programmes (eg. EU Mission to Ukraine: see case study). Given the associated costs of this comprehensive approach such broad assessments remain rare and limited to countries which are prioritized by HQ.

Common and re-occurring limitations of Terms of Reference for programme needs identification or institutional assessments:

• When engaging third party contractors, ToR provide little lead time (work days) to conduct a thorough document review and to effectively plan the mission.
• Single missions to conduct an assessment mission provide little opportunity to take corrective measures in case of challenges being encountered
• Budgets of assessment missions only allow for capital visits, with little time to broaden the depth and breadth of individual needs of various stakeholders and beneficiaries.
• Little scrutiny of the quality and integrity of the final report by stakeholders. It is common to see the report only shared with programme managers without providing partners and stakeholders the opportunity for a review of the findings and provide an additional quality control element.
• Little emphasis or few requirements for a clear methodology for data collection and consultations

Few donor agencies have developed a concrete assessment approach or methodology, despite an increase in the number and scope of assessments that are undertaken. This has led to significant variance in quality and integrity of assessments, especially in decentralized systems of programme management (eg. key initiator role for assessments is with Embassy or Mission). The challenge is compounded by a reliance on private contractors or roster members to carry out the eventual assessment, with each company having their own unique methodology or in certain cases lack of a structured methodology altogether.

Common elements that are missing in the baseline needs assessments:

• Balance between qualitative and quantitative data and indicators
• Robust examination of gender needs
• Balance between strategic, operational and tactical reforms
• Overly focusing on extremes: top level or local level;
• Data triangulation
• Exploring national and sector finances (expected trends, accurately gauging availability of funds). Establishing a clear analysis of affordability of proposals/recommendations.

The most common approach is to conduct independent assessments
Growth in the number of examples whereby bilateral agencies conduct their own assessments, reducing the reliance on third party contracting
Local ownership of assessment is commonly lacking

• Self-assessments, whereby national actors play a leading role on the team, remain rare
The most commonly deployed approach for an assessment for programme design processes is to use an independent assessment team. In such a modality, experts on the team are not directly affiliated with either the implementing agency or the beneficiaries of the assessment. The advantage of this modality is that it promotes a more objective view on the issues and at times provides greater credibility to the findings. The limitation of this approach, however, has been that the only output of such assessments is the report. Due to a need to ensure the report is concise and readable, only some of the knowledge and data collected during the assessment is captured in the final report. Additionally, the ownership of the assessment report is typically with the donor agency rather than national actors.

There is commonly a disconnect, if not even disagreement, between those that conduct the assessment and those that eventually are expected to implement the recommendations. To bridge this gap and ensure effective transfer of knowledge, some bilateral donors have recently begun to include members of the assessment team in the initial start-up phase of the resulting programmes (though this is not an option in programmes where private contractors are used for implementation, which would otherwise raise concern about potential conflict of interest).

There is a high reliance by various leading donor agencies on the use of private contracting modalities to undergo independent assessments. The choice of whether or not to utilize private contractors is usually influenced by restrictions in contracting procedures, which naturally favour the use of private contracting for any assessment mission, rather than any other strategic or efficiency considerations. Other challenges stem from the limited institutional capacity within the donor agency or Embassy to support such activities.

In recent years some bilateral donors have begun to make more concerted efforts to deploy teams with experts from their own institutions, rather than relying on external partners or companies, to conduct needs assessments in priority countries. Such examples, however, still remain exceptional across the donor community. Overall, the time spent on such assessments is usually longer and tends to look at higher level issues. Such teams also spend more time in high level meetings with counterparts compared to independent assessments undertaken by private contractors. The limitation of this approach has been the relative lack of experience within the teams in undertaking assessments. This is often reflected in the lack of any clear methodological approach to the assessment.

With the continued growth of SSR programming, there is also a growth in the number of assessments which are undertaken. As a side-effect, there is growing fatigue by host countries to continually make available time and resources to support such assessments. This includes growing reluctance and frustration in ensuring staff is available for interviews or providing supporting materials to support the assessment. In parallel, donors continue to have a preference for conducting their own assessments to inform programming. The few positive examples from 2 to 3 years ago of joint donor assessments, whereby various donors pooled their efforts to conduct assessments, have largely been reversed and few examples of such work can be found in the last two years.
Self-assessment processes for programme design processes, whereby national actors lead or take a prominent role in the assessment, remain rare. The preference is usually to deploy external actors to undertake such an exercise, even by donor agencies where authorisation powers rest or are shared with the host Government.

When conducting fully independent assessments, Embassy or Agency staff should participate in daily or periodic de-briefs with the team to gauge progress made but also to help capture some of the knowledge acquired during that day – which otherwise may not be reflected in the final report. This also allows such staff the opportunity for the staff to meet potential interlocutors and partners that otherwise they would not have a chance to meet.
Given the long-term, high number, and intensity of donor support to SSR in Liberia, over the years there has not been a shortage of assessments supported by the donor community. Yet, the challenge of most assessments has been that they have been donor driven and used solely to support programming decisions. National institutions rarely referenced any of the assessments or used them to guide their strategic reforms. In contrast, one of the most impactful assessments which was undertaken was a self-assessment of the Liberian National Police (LNP). This assessment was led by the LNP with support from United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) during a one week retreat. Since it was nationals driving the assessment, the exercise and findings were seen as credible, empowering and motivating by the actors that were later expected to lead the implementation of the recommendations stemming from the assessment. The nationals felt that they were in the driving seat for identifying the priority challenges and took ownership of the conclusions. In addition, the exercise focused on creating a balance in identifying what is done well, what needs to be sustained, what needs to be developed, and what needs to be changed/reformed rather than simply focusing on the gaps in the reform process.

Common to find the same few experts conducting various assessments
Personal experience and preferences shapes the scope and direction of assessment finding
Common to find assessment teams lacking experience in assessments, rather focus is on technical skills
The selection of team members for the initial assessment and programme design process is commonly the most influential part of determining the eventual outcome of the resulting programme or determining the quality and scope of the findings. Team members tend to do what they know best and follow tried and tested approaches. Due to contracting procedures, which limit the options of donor agencies to engage experts, it is also common to find that donors don’t always receive the quality of support initially foreseen or the selection is based on price rather than relevance.

For some donors with a more centralized system of management (eg. HQ plays a key role in managing or facilitating recruitment of experts for assessments), the over reliance on the same set of experts to undertake assessments means that globally there are patterns of the same programmes being replicated in very different contexts irrespective of relevance or local priorities. This pattern is also compounded by a relatively limited pool of SSR experts that have a combination of country specific, linguistic, thematic and assessment skills needed. The common patterns that result from the personal preferences or comfort zones of such experts include model police stations, case management and community policing programmes. There is a tendency to try to replicate these programmes based on previous tried and tested experiences in other countries. Lesson learning processes have shown the importance of diversifying team thinking and creating a competitive atmosphere within teams to challenge assumptions and to ensure that there is diligence in conducting a needs assessment reflective of the actual situation on the ground.

A positive trend amongst a number of leading SSR donor agencies is the shift towards more multidisciplinary teams to conduct the assessments. Some countries have been utilizing multi-Ministerial approaches, combining development and thematic expertise on the initial needs assessment teams. This includes an attempt to also engage experts from Ministries and Institutions from across the criminal justice chain to look at sectoral needs rather than a single institution in the chain. The added value of this approach is that it has contributed to more coordinated or Government wide approaches to implementation thereafter or even promote more sector wide programming.

• There is a shortage of experts that have experience in strategic level reforms
• Limited pool of experienced SSR practitioners
• Growing demand for support leading to overstretched capacities and increased reliance on staff with operational rather than reform/development experience.
• Tender documents are overly general in regards to identifying what skills are needed for individual experts (Eg. 7 years SSR experience)
More and more SSR programmes are anticipating the dynamic changes in SSR environments, whereby they will need to adapt approach or jump on windows of opportunity. As a response, donors are increasingly keeping larger parts of the project budgets un-allocated or retain a sizeable contingency budget. Such reserve funds have improved the adaptability of SSR programmes. Yet, the challenge is how to ensure that such flexibility of funding is appropriately and accounted for by private implementation partners, who otherwise are guided by strict log frames.

• Programme design processes struggle to establish robust baselines against which progress could be measured over time
• Tendency to replicate tried and tested approaches or programmes to various contexts
• Limited inclination to venture into innovation
• Emerging clusters of programming, little variety in approach or areas of engagement
• Narrow scope applied to programme identification processes
• Key sections of programme documents, including gender mainstreaming, profile of required experts and monitoring/evaluation, are simply cut and paste from one project to the next

Consultations with civil society during assessments have become standard practice
Consultations aim to gather data rather than build ownership and inclusive process for analysis
Cross-sectoral consultations remain rare
• Reduce burden on Government by sharing assessment findings or having joint assessments - not repeating the same assessments and taking the time and resources away from national actors
• A quick survey of existing assessments should be undertaken to determine if similar assessments have already been undertaken or there are remaining gaps in analysis. A follow on assessment should take into account previous recommendations and assess reforms/changes since baseline.
• All assessments should be public documents. In situations where sensitive data or findings are included in the assessment, an executive summary or other sections of the assessment should be made public.

• The same assessments are often repeated by various development partners - rather than build upon or complement already completed assessments.
• Development partners often send conflicting messages to Government on what needs to be done and how to do it

SSR projects are becoming more effective at providing tailored capacity building support to departments and units - with growing examples of evident improvements in capacity and competence of key units within Ministries or even entire institutions within the criminal justice chain. This is partly explained by programmes committing substantial resources to a single department. Yet, by overly focusing support towards single departments SSR projects have created imbalances in capacity within institutions - creating a two tier reform process. In turn, it is common to see powerful units use such support to indirectly take over mandates and responsibilities from other units. It is also common to see donors target units that already have higher competence and adequate language skills due to the convenience of working with such units and the likelihood of achieving results.
SSR programmes are either aligned to the needs of the Government or non-state actors, irregularly do they achieve relevance for both

• It is common to find that development partners are pushing a reform agenda that is very different to that of the host Government.
• Donors find that the policy/strategic framework weak or incomplete
• Donors find that Strategies are unrealistic, lack integrity
• Donors have their own priorities that they want to pursue
• Government is unable to ensure alignment due to poor capacity to manage development aid or are afraid of losing the funding

With assessments commonly providing numerous recommendations for engagement, teams undertaking programming choices typically have significant flexibility in deciding where and how to engage. The challenge, however, is that decisions on which objectives to pursue or actors to engage are commonly influenced by convenience rather than actual needs. There is a persistent trend of donors choosing objectives and target beneficiaries through a risk aversion approach (eg. risks associated with politics or effectiveness), avoiding reform areas which are susceptible to political resistance, or working in locations that are easily accessible.
Mitigation: When differences arise in priorities it is important to spend time ensuring that priorities are integrated into national plans or strategies rather than simply going around or avoiding such policies. This requires political engagement and longer project design phases to properly establish the policy/strategy basis for a programme beforehand
• Project priorities are selected before Government Strategy/Policy is in place. This creates a situation whereby projects dictate strategy or projects operate outside of a strategic framework
• Projects are supply driven: based on personal preferences or expertise of programme managers or project design team
• Projects focus on what is popular, easy, avoiding risk, or highly visible - not necessarily what is needed most.
• Donor timelines are different from Government action plans

• Who decides where key resources (training, equipment, financing) goes where?
• What criteria is used to determine programme resource allocations (gender, location, needs, level of crime, ethnicity, high profile, cost, etc)?
• How inclusive is the programme resource management decision making process?

While human rights based approach to SSR is increasingly lauded in policy debates, the attempts at fully utilizing such an approach remain exceptional and rare. Nonetheless, elements of the approach are gradually being incorporated into programme design. The most evident change is more frequent inclusion of human rights elements in the anticipated outcomes of the programme. Similarly, human rights training is becoming more commonly included in training at tactical and operational levels of SSR programmes. In contrast, it is rare and exceptional to find that human rights are mainstreamed across activities and objectives or a strong feature of monitoring/evaluation systems.
IT is being increasingly introduced in all contexts to enhance effectiveness of police forces (Eg. automated case management, cameras for investigations, or dash cameras in cars to enhance accountability).

IT programmes have poor sustainability and effectiveness largely because they are not properly maintained, training is expensive and difficult, and systems are not in place to use the technology (Eg. courts is some cases do not recognize photo evidence as sufficient and require physical proof from crime scenes because legal training does not account for the new technology, or in cases of automated case management timely and accurate data entry is not strictly enforced and lacks integrity). In many cases the focus is on introducing IT before change management is in place to effectively utilize the IT systems, leading to poor results.

There remains a divide between the development agenda and SSR. Key reforms such as decentralization, public finance management and civil service reforms which are implemented across Government often exclude the security sector, or limit their engagement and support within the sector. Comparatively, this means that such key reforms are often delayed or missing altogether in the sector and yet can make a substantial contribution to the quality of the overall SSR process. In some cases the omission of the security sector in such reforms tends to reinforce the perceived need to give the security sector specialized status and exemptions from the standard practice. Commonly projects engaged in cross-Government reforms shy away from the security and justice sectors due to fears of securitization of their programmes or to avoid the increased political burden of implementation which is often associated with the security sector. Similarly, SSR programme officers, who typically lack development experience, rarely engage with development actors to identify areas of potential collaboration or to facilitate their engagement in the sector.
To gain approval from HQ or Parliament, SSR programmes typically overpromise on what they plan to deliver
Recommendations of evaluations often point to a need to streamline efforts to fewer areas of enagagement (tendency to spread resources too thin)
In order to get a programme approved by Parliament, Ministry or other management body, SSR programme documents typically over promise in what they aim to accomplish. This is seen not only in getting the programme approved in the first place, but also as a means to get local stakeholder buy in. In turn programme underestimate the time required to achieve the necessary results, promote political will, the difficulties in sustaining advocacy efforts, or the methods required to transfer know how and build capacity.
Having unrealistic expectations at the onset and plans at the onset has frequently led to the devaluation of the important contributions made by the programme during the implementation phase. Focus of evaluations is typically given to the areas that were not achieved rather than the details of the progress made towards those goals. At national level, counterparts frequently cite their frustrations with underperformance of the programme based on prior promises or commitments. This has on occasion negatively impacted overall optimism in the reform process and effected the appetite for further reforms even if the overall reform process is incrementally moving in the right direction.
Recommendations in evaluations and case studies frequently point to a need to streamline efforts to fewer, more manageable areas. Less complex and focused programmes have also shown to have greater ownership and eventually sustainability as they are better adapted to the natural pace of the national reform process.

Use of theory of change in programme design is becoming increasingly common
Quality of programme theories of change remains poor
ToC is commonly developed at the end, rather than driving the design process
While log frames still remain a key programme document tool for most donor agencies, there is a trend to complement, or replace altogether, log frames with a theory of change. In this regard, there are growing examples of ToC being part of the programme documentation and it is increasingly becoming a standard practice for SSR programmes to develop a theory of change.

Overall, such a ToC has proven to be useful in detailing how a programme understands change/reform will occur, what work streams will contribute to individual outcomes and possible risks/assumptions along the way. A theory of change is seen as a way to develop more iterative and incremental programmes that adapt to changing needs, rather than applying a more straightjacket and prescriptive approach commonly associated with log frames.

Yet, given the relative inexperience of many SSR programme managers in developing a theory of change the quality of many ToC remains poor or inconsistent. The most reoccurring issue with SSR ToC is that there is commonly a strong disconnect between the expected outcomes and the actual inputs/outputs of the programme. During evaluations leads to attribution problems but also deficiencies in the logic model of the programme. Too often programmes overestimate the expected influence of activities on the expected outcomes.

A key limitation is that the theory of change is developed after the programme is completed, rather than as a tool to guide the design process itself. In practice programme design is still focused on identifying activities and areas of intervention and then finding outcomes from those interventions rather than working backwards from outcomes and impacts.

Little overall change in how SSR programmes are delivered
Reliance on private contracting
Little innovation
National agencies implement fewer programmes with national practitioners, channeling support through multilaterals instead or using private contractors
Small growth in number of budget support and small grants projects
Bilateral twinning technical assistance programmes are invaluable tools for sharing experience and assisting host Governments in key institutional, training or legal reforms. Yet, such programmes tend to deploy technical experts that lack experience in reform environments or in change management processes. As a result such programmes tend to focus on overly technical approaches to reform and struggle to develop effective theories of change that can support holistic and transformational reforms which take into account politics, sustainability, absorption capacity, and institutional culture.
In large part because of the growing number of budget support programmes implemented by the European Union, there are increasing number of examples of sector and general budget support programmes that have SSR components or disbursement indicators. While no comprehensive study has been conducted on the impacts of budget support on SSR processes, there are numerous examples of budget support disbursement indicators facilitating political dialogue on SSR issues. At times budget support operations has also contributed to improved ownership of the SSR process.
By default SSR projects/programmes turn to parallel implementation units to manage and implement programmes.
Examples of move away from parallel implemention units remain rare (eg. SSD programme in Burundi)
Parallel Implementation Units (PIU): What are they?
• Creating new structures (either for implementation or project management) for the sole purpose of supporting the project implementation
• Benefits: increases pace of implementation, allows the donor or implementing agency to retain control over the project, minimizes risk of corruption
• Limitations: reduces national ownership, makes capacity building less effective, accountability lines are drawn towards the development agency rather than national stakeholders, and national institutions have ad hoc or irregular role in shaping or managing the project
• Development agencies have committed to reducing or eliminating PIU (Paris Declaration)

PIU are most frequently developed to manage the project (eg. project management team and structure) or to support the project (eg. team created within a Ministry to support the work of the project). Parallel implementation Units are the norm in SSR projects - this is contrary to trends in development assistance of reducing the PIU and global commitments made by donors under the Paris Declaration. In this regard, SSR projects are rarely integrated into national structures and rather use standalone or dedicated management systems. SSR projects typically use management mechanisms that rely on international experts to manage and guide what gets done, with national actors playing only limited or ad hoc oversight, management or advisory functions in the management. Equally, SSR projects often develop working groups, steering committees, and even new agencies to support the implementation of the project that only serve to support project implementation and rarely are sustained beyond the project.

Projects are commonly designed with an implementation structure that is situated outside of national structures. Planning and management of the project takes place within the project team - not within a national led process. Attempts at masking the ownership deficit through steering committees is ineffective due to the irregular nature of such meetings and their inability to manage day to day priorities of the programme. It is commonly assumed that a steering committee is a sufficient mechanism in itself to ensure ownership of a project (though it is clear that in most cases such steering committees are ineffective, infrequent and lack the management and oversight capacity).

The creation of PIU is often a systematic default approach in project design, and not enough scrutiny or critical thinking takes place at the design stage to assess if such a structure is appropriate is given to other approaches or modalities that would better integrate the project within national structures or systems.

Parallel implementation units are efficient in producing the planned outputs but struggle to build national capacity. PIU often lead to lack of ownership and engagement of national actors in project management and planning. They also create extra burden on the capacity of national institutions and contribute to limited sustainability of project operations. The siloed nature of a PIU contributes to poor or irregular communication between stakeholder/counterparts and the programme. Commonly there is little regular guidance/feedback from Government on what (and how) the project should be working on - as steering committees are rarely effective in effectively guiding the project. A common challenge presented by PIU is that that project teams compete with national institutions for staff and projects substitute for national capacity rather than reinforce them.

With a PIU, there is limited accountability to national actors for programme performance. A PIU often results in Government treating the work of the project as above and beyond their regular work. PIU often struggle with sustainability, as they tend to play a capacity substitution role rather than capacity building role and it is unclear who (if not how) should take over their work once the project is completed. Through a PIU system it is difficult to provide effective mentoring and capacity building of national counterparts - as most of the work of the project team takes place in the offices of the project (away from national counterparts). New implementation mechanisms that are designed to meet donor needs or requirements for the project rather than the national needs often add extra burden on the already limited capacity of national institutions. When a project starts off as a PIU, it is difficult to ensure that gradually its outputs, structures, systems and processes are absorbed into national agencies. Opportunities to develop critical project management of national institutions are missed by limiting national involvement in project management of projects. A PIU can lead to overlap in functions or responsibilities with national institutions, or even lead to situations whereby the PIU is replacing national structures in performing certain tasks. Recruitment for the purpose of the project can lead to two tier salary scales within the country and lead to competition for qualified staff between the project and national Ministries.

The Burundi SSD programme remains a notable example of attempts to develop alternate project implementation mechanisms that have in fact avoided creating a PIU. The programme used existing staff from national institutions to lead programme implementation, with international experts only being used only on a limited basis.
• Consider integrating SSR projects within existing structures, departments or teams of national institutions rather than creating a standalone fit for purpose project implementation team.
• Consider using national staff employed by the institutions to play leading management and implementation roles within the project team from the onset. This can be in the form of a secondment. Don't take them away from their day job and don't pay them above national salaries.
• A clear exit strategy should detail how the work of the project management team will be incrementally taken over by national institutions
• At the project design stage (or approval stage) checklists should examine if the proposed project will require a PIU.
• Use seconded national staff to work as project managers
• Give a formal management role to national institutions: approving new recruitment, terms of reference, work plans, and performance reviews
• Invest extra time in the project identification phase to identify possible means of anchoring the project within an existing national structure

• Top-ups of national salary - creates unsustainable and parallel salary structures
• Request the creation of special units to handle the project management or implementation
• Use exclusively international experts for project implementation
• Assume a steering committee is sufficient for national ownership of the project
Re-current cost implication of programmes on national resources are rarely known, attempts at calculating such costs are rare
Few programme design processes look/examine the state of finances of partners and host government - issue is overly generalized.
Affordability of SSR processes and programmes is an increasingly discussed issue
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SSR programmes are commonly implemented in countries where the national Government relies almost exclusively on donor funding to sustain key reforms or even basic services. The lack of available capital budget to finance reforms or to sustain them is often the underlying reason for poor sustainability of SSR programmes. Yet, it is rare for programme design processes to analyze the extent to which the government will have the necessary finances to sustain the programme in line with fiscal forecasts (as defined by instruments such as the Medium Term Expenditure Framework). Similarly, programmes often state the need for Governments to take over financial responsibility for sustaining the programme but rarely do such programmes calculate what such costs are beyond vague generalizations.
Commonly gender mainstreaming goals are mentioned in project documents or in policy of development partners. Yet, it is rare to find gender mainstreamed into activities or in the monitoring and evaluation framework with appropriate gender indicators.
Gender components of programmes are often cut and paste from other documents/projects
Donors and Host Governments are increasingly using memorandum of understanding as basis for cooperation
There are increasing examples of donors and host Governments signing MoU or Compacts to outline mutual commitments and agreed approach to reform. Certain Compacts have included a strong emphasis on security sector governance reforms. Similarly, at country level MoU are increasingly used between individual donors (or even between different agencies of the same institution) to outline an agreed division of labour and develop complementary approaches. Certain compacts and MoU have also been effectively used to clarify limitations of the support, leading to more realistic expectations by the host Government and more realistic planning.
Too often MoU focus on administrative issues rather than performance commitments
The existing compacts are inconsistently shared with other donors or with the stakeholders which limits external accountability or transparency. In certain cases the MoU developed are too generic to serve as a strategic guide for cooperation. Commonly, the MoU and Compacts are rarely periodically reviewed for relevance and changes in context/priorities.
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There are increasing examples of donors and host Governments signing MoU or Compacts to outline mutual commitments and agreed approach to reform. Certain Compacts have included a strong emphasis on security sector governance reforms. Similarly, at country level MoU are increasingly used between individual donors (or even between different agencies of the same institution) to outline an agreed division of labour and develop complementary approaches. Certain compacts and MoU have also been effectively used to clarify limitations of the support, leading to more realistic expectations by the host Government and more realistic planning.

The existing compacts are inconsistently shared with other donors or with the stakeholders which limits external accountability or transparency. In certain cases the MoU developed are too generic to serve as a strategic guide for cooperation. Commonly, the MoU and Compacts are rarely periodically reviewed for relevance and changes in context/priorities.

Some of the common limitations of MoU include their limited mention of mutual performance commitments and rather the overall focus being on administrative issues (Eg. visa and diplomatic status). MoU are also rarely re-visisted and updated based on changes in context or priorities.

SSR programmes are more commonly and more effectively using incentive based systems to gain greater traction in high level governance reforms (eg. changes to legal frameworks, developing new structures, or introducing political sensitive reforms). Incentive based systems include sector budget support disbursement criteria, train and equip activities, or even prospect of increase in scope/size of further support. Certain long-term projects effectively use train and equip support as an incentive/entry point for the host Government to address management and accountability issues. In contrast, conditionality is less commonly applied by SSR programmes and is seen as ineffective and undermining national ownership.
The challenge, however, has been that programmes continue to struggle to select the right budget support indicators related to SSR. As a consequence the quality of indicators for disbursement is often poor.

Too often profiles for required experts are cut and paste from one programme document to the next, leading to generic job functions which are not tailored to the context or requirements of the programme. Programme design processes spent too little time defining and scrutinizing the staff requirements which would be commensurate to the expected outcomes/outputs. Also, soft skills, such as advisory or mentoring experience, are poorly emphasized in job descriptions and poorly tested in recruitment processes. Lastly, it is too often assumed that operational level experience will automatically translate to staff being effective in supporting a reform process.
There is an evident shortage of seasoned/experienced experts in SSR. The successive deployment of experts to hard ship postings, without a chance to work at HQ level in between postings, has at times contributed to fatigue of experts and impacted their commitment to their work. Cynicism amongst staff regarding what they are asked to do is common among staff working in difficult contexts. Yet, enthusiasm for the job is rarely tested in the hiring process – beyond simply examining a cover letter.
Increased number of examples of programmes using SSR name
Name of projects are often misleading and raise expectations
Many programmes mask themselves as SSR but in fact are simply classic security sector assistance programmes. Programmes that do no look at accountability, governance or management but rather only train and equip should not be labelled as SSR. Similarly, many countries or agencies still do not apply SSR terminology yet their programmes share common objectives and approaches with SSR.

It is common to find that donors raise expectations by using wrong titles for projects - 'pilot project' hints at a further continuation, or 'SSR programme' hints at holistic approach being taken in the programme.
Different labelling for SSR is applied globally. Some regions and countries shy away from using the term SSR completely. Yet, since such programmes apply similar principles and approaches terminology should not be a barrier to collaboration.

Depending on context and aims different programmes and countries are applying different terminology: security sector management, security sector transformation, security sector development, or justice reform. It is important to remember that the principles of SSR remain applicable in such reform processes as well but the slight variation in names may in certain contexts help to address sensitives, shape perception of intended outcomes, or transform stigmas associated with certain terminology.

Sometimes parallel streams - eg. human security - are simply labelled as SSR, not taking into account the distinctiveness (but complementary and overlapping) of the two disciplines.

10 years ago
Mentoring and advising gaps
Where do you go for specific and remote trouble shooting or advice?
More programmes, larger scale programmes but equal or less support staff at HQ
To see part IV click on the link
Please note that this tool is under continuous development. At the moment we are still in the early phase of data collection and analysis.
This is intended to be an open tool. We would greatly appreciate any comments, suggestions and contributions (examples, emerging practice, analysis, etc). Please let us know your views on trends, innovations and emerging issues through the ISSAT Community of Practice: http://issat.dcaf.ch/Share
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Much of the knowledge base underpinning SSR practice is fragmented, localized to individual donors, SSR practitioners or even programmes. In the absence of a robust evidence base and investment in global learning and monitoring platforms for SSR, much of what is known about SSR is based on anecdotal evidence or remains scattered through various evaluations or reports that are inconsistently shared in the public domain. This tool is a unique attempt to synthesize, document and collate some of the existing knowledge base on SSR that otherwise would remain in various reports or conference papers. The tool draws information from various ISSAT supported evaluations, assessments, and advocacy events but also reports, findings and lessons identified from the wider SSR practitioner community.
To take advantage of ISSAT’s unique position, working intimately with a large number of the leading actors in the field of SSR, significant effort is made in gathering and synthesizing emerging issues and trends in SSR. This is done to better understand how SSR is evolving and where emerging gaps in practice or effectiveness are forming. As part of this process the ISSAT methodology cell, a group of staff tasked with developing the ISSAT methodology, has focused on streamlining lesson learning throughout ISSAT support activities. ISSAT has institutionalised processes whereby all ISSAT advisory field support, training and advocacy and outreach activities feed into a centralised mapping of the various challenges/trends, emerging issues, and innovations. This includes issues found at the guidance and policy level, the way development partners are supporting SSR, or the common issues found in national SSR processes. The gathered knowledge is progressively synthesized and analyzed by the methodology cell to identify common issues and trends. The analysis is progressively documented and tracked through this database of trends, issues and challenges.

There are 4 sections to the trends, challenges and issues database.
Part 1: Policy, Concept and Approach to SSR (click: http://prezi.com/ldkv2cqvzuwf/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy)
Part II: Project Design and Formulation (click: http://prezi.com/n9-v8liuvfko/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy)
Part III: Project Implementation (click: http://prezi.com/ywvjaxxfx2nk/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy)
Part IV: Monitoring and Evaluation (click: http://prezi.com/cfg6qbvf0h1d/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy)

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While SSR good practice increasingly promotes a focus on outcomes rather than outputs, SSR contractual agreements between donor and private contracting companies still overly focus on defining expected outputs. Payments are conditional of certain outputs being met. It remains difficult to conceptualize how disbursement can be made based on outcomes - some of which are noticeable only after programme ends.
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