Cover: New Security and Justice Sector Partnership Models

New Security and Justice Sector Partnership Models

Implications of the Arab Uprisings

Published May 14, 2014

by Michael J. McNerney, Jennifer D. P. Moroney, Peter Mandaville, Terry Hagen


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نماذج الشراكة الجديدة في قطاع الأمن والعدل: تداعيات الثورات العربية

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Research Questions

  1. What are the current approaches to U.S. security and justice sector assistance in the Middle East and North Africa?
  2. What are ideal features for new models for these partnerships, integrating U.S. security and reform objectives?
  3. Are there concrete and actionable options?

The United States faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities in strengthening security and justice sector partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa. Against the backdrop of the Arab uprisings, the U.S. government has issued policy guidance relating to foreign assistance more broadly and security sector assistance in particular. RAND researchers analyzed potential new partnership models that could help implement this guidance, simultaneously strengthening security and justice sector cooperation and promoting reform across the Arab world and beyond. They devised the Enhanced Partnership Planning Model, which focuses on improving collaborative planning, rather than on using assistance as leverage to require partner nations to do what the United States wants. The model serves as a flexible framework that could support tailored, rigorous SJS planning by U.S. and partner nation stakeholders. This framework can support both policy-makers and program managers as they seek to implement new policy guidelines that integrate elements of accountability and reform while continuing to advance core U.S. interests and equities in a rapidly evolving regional context.

Key Findings

Current Practices Present Opportunities for Improvement

  • Many security and justice stakeholders support improving U.S. Government coordination, and some have achieved success in designing effective performance benchmarks with foreign partners. There are also opportunities — often underexploited — for improving coordination among other actors in the region, such as the United Kingdom.
  • Many partners are interested in building more effective and professional security and justice sectors. While this does not equate to allowing imposition of U.S. standards on partner forces, it indicates that opportunities exist to help partners professionalize their own forces in their own ways.

These Opportunities Do Have Some Obstacles

  • Ongoing U.S. security interests frequently threaten to constrain reform initiatives.
  • Despite many efforts to improve these partnerships, there often exists a temptation to continue "business as usual" approaches, rather than rock the boat.
  • Given the variation in these relationships and the challenges in predicting partner nation reactions to change, U.S. efforts to exert leverage on partners in a heavy-handed way could be politically dangerous.
  • There is sometimes a lack of incentives to improve the integration of U.S. Government activities or to improve coordination with other actors in a region.
  • Congressional interests and expectations can lead to a siege mentality among policy-makers and planners, thus reinforcing a natural aversion to risk.


  • Recommendations fall into three categories: planning, assessing, and resourcing.
  • Planning: Establish a formalized structure for discussions in specific sectors. Regular planning meetings under this structure would help integrate stakeholders.
  • Planning: Establish integrated country strategies as the focus of regular discussions about joint objectives and partnership activities.
  • Planning: Identify likely resource constraints as early as possible in planning and mitigate negative effects.
  • Assessing: Come to mutual agreement, through dialogue with partner nations and based on common analysis of security sector priorities and needs, regarding key sectors and program areas that merit assessment to maximize outcomes and mutual benefit.
  • Assessing: Together with the partner nation, select a pilot project on a topic of mutual interest in the security and justice sectors.
  • Assessing: Work with partner nation to identify specific benchmarks and timeline milestones ("check-in points") for the target project that both the United States and partner nation can use to assess performance and progress.
  • Assessing: Where appropriate and where the broader bilateral relationship permits, consider formalizing the benchmarks and milestones in a written document.
  • Assessing: Integrate these steps and actions into strategies to ensure that they reflect broader U.S. strategic goals in the partner nation.
  • Resourcing: Ensure assessment results reach resource managers and associated recommendations in time to inform their decisions.
  • Resourcing: Ensure resource managers take part in planning and assessing meetings with the partner.
  • Resourcing: Communicate using a Memorandum of Understanding or other more formal communique.

This research was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD). NSRD conducts research and analysis on defense and national security topics for U.S. and allied defense, foreign policy, homeland security, and intelligence communities and foundations, as well as other nongovernmental organizations that support defense and national security analysis.

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