With Canada’s “whole-of-government” approach to security system reform (SSR) in places like Haiti and Afghanistan, a growing number of federal ministries and agencies have taken on international responsibilities in addition to their domestic portfolios. As such, groups not typically associated with global security missions — such as Public Safety Canada or the Department of Justice — now work closely with traditional foreign policy branches such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). In SSR — an umbrella term for processes designed to transform the security architecture of states in line with democratic principles — coordination between various actors is crucial. Justice reform in Haiti, for example, must proceed alongside police and penal reforms to ensure that the sector as a whole functions smoothly. But with different priorities and resources amongst these various actors, the execution of the collaborative component of SSR has been challenging. This has been the case with the Canadian Government’s efforts, as the knowledge and experience needed to do SSR vary among the many groups working in the field. With that in mind, Public Safety Canada invited the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) to host an event that would bring together the branches of the Government of Canada that work on SSR, expose participants to new perspectives on the topic and ask them to explore new approaches to collaboration. Held in Ottawa on March 11 and 12, 2010, “Security System Reform: Principles and Practice” was attended by representatives from ten branches of Canadian government, along with distinguished SSR experts from North America and Europe. Mark Sedra, Senior Fellow and Global and Human Security Program Leader at CIGI, opened with an overview of SSR and its evolution over the past 10 years. He also described the historic gaps between policy and practice that continue to challenge the SSR model, including the need for greater coordination between actors. As an example, Sedra mentioned post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan, where the SSR process was hindered by assigning five different countries a “pillar” of security sector reform without a concrete coordination plan. Throughout the first day of the event, experts built on this introduction in presentations that emphasized the benefits of a holistic approach to SSR. “SSR and the Rule of Law Triad” examined the critical relationship among police, justice and border security reform, while “Different Approaches to SSR” looked at lessons learned from the Dutch and American applications of SSR in Burundi and Liberia respectively. After each session, Government participants had the opportunity to ask questions before dividing into small “breakout” groups to brainstorm their own solutions to issues raised during the presentations. The following day, conference attendees were given the opportunity to apply their problem-solving skills in a more practical setting: a real-time SSR simulation exercise. While simulations are not uncommon in the security sector reform field, this activity was unique in that government participants were asked to play the role of their own respective agency or department within a fictional SSR scenario. With the SSR experts playing the roles of local officials, the Government participants had to find a way to implement a comprehensive SSR program in the fictional country of Litoria: a West African nation struggling to implement a peace agreement after a 20-year civil war. As a result, participants had to work closely together and look for synergies between departments in the hopes that the process would enhance their real-life working relationships. From the government perspective, the exercise was successful, with the various branches coming together to craft a whole-of-government approach to the situation. “I certainly learned a lot,” said Jason Valentin, Policy Advisor at Public Safety Canada and one of the organizers of the event. “Having participated in SSR discussions in government, now I'm starting to think about new angles and approaches.” Overall, participants said the two-day event achieved its objectives of expanding participants’ understanding of SSR and encouraging collaboration. “Here we got a level of critical thinking about SSR. People understood what they were talking about ... and asked themselves how they could become better organized and efficient on SSR. It's going to help everybody around [government] speak the same language,” said Mohamed Slaibeh, a policy analyst with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
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