Respect and Security Sector Reform

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Security Sector Reform is now widely recognized as a crucial part of any conflict intervention or post-conflict reconstruction project. Where security forces are unable or unwilling to provide the population with basic safety and security, it is difficult if not impossible for other elements of societal development and healing to occur. While more attention is paid now to the moral elements of reform, such as inculcating respect for human rights and democratic governance, success in these elements of reform has been limited. Notably, though it has been the target of several major outside reform programs, the military of the Democratic Republic of Congo remains notorious for human rights abuses. This paper argues that the limited success of human rights training as part of SSR is a result not (only) of failures to teach human rights or build requisite systems of accountability, but rather of a fundamental need to reconceive what respecting human rights involves. Reform efforts need to treat human rights compliance as the effect of rebuilt, mutually respectful, practical social relationships, not as external standards to which compliance is secured by exhortation or incentive. This shift in conceptualization has implications for both the structure of reform programs and the way that outside reformers should conceive of their own social relationships with target militaries.