Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2009

"Fixing Broken Windows": Security Sector Reform in Palestine, Lebanon, and Yemen

Yezid Sayigh

October 2009

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


As they emerge from conflict, states can rarely commence the arduous task of reconstruction and consolidate their governments until they undertake extensive restructuring of their security forces. Palestine, Lebanon, and Yemen are all fractured, quasi-democratic states with divided societies, and deep disagreement over what constitutes the national interest. Successful reform in each will require security institutions that answer to democratically-elected civilian leaders, but the U.S. and European approach has thus far focused largely on providing military training and equipment, targeted toward counterterrorist capabilities. To enable real reform, the West must adopt a comprehensive approach which treats security reform as only one part of a broader political strategy, and encourage governments and security commanders in Palestine, Lebanon, and Yemen to buy into such a strategy. Donor states should invest resources commensurate with their declared objectives, improve coordination, and standardize practices. Above all, they should make it a priority to build the institutions and procedures that are essential for democratic governance of the security sector, without which reforms become bogged down in internal power struggles. Pursuing counterterrorism in the absence of the rule of law perpetuates the undemocratic governance of the security sector and undermines state building and post-confl ict reconstruction.