Skip to main content


Back to Resources

Tool 7: Non-state justice and security providers and security sector reform

22 May, 2023



Tool 7 bridges the gap between research and practice on the inclusion of Non-State Actors (NSAs) in SSR/G processes. It helps to understand the why to engage NSAs and the how to do so by highlighting ways of engaging with NSAs that are in line with the principles of “do no harm” and that are mindful of SSR/G principles and best practices.

This Tool will develop the policy and practical opportunities and challenges for including Non-State Security and Justice Providers in SSR/G strategies and programmes in the West Africa region where it is common to find local communities that perceive informal institutions as more effective in resolving disputes and as more legitimate actors. 

As insecurity has intensified, so has the prevalence of community self-defence groups. Most striking is not only the multiplication of non-state security actors but the correlation with the decline of state security actors due to their diminished credibility, lack of presence, and widespread abuses.

About the toolkit

At the request of the ECOWAS commission, DCAF has developed several publications collectively entitled “The Toolkit for Security Sector Reform and Governance in West Africa". The main objective is to support the implementation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional regulatory framework for SSR/SSG through practical advice and guidance tailored to the West African context and based on regional experiences. It specifically aims to facilitate policy development, implementation, and management of SSR processes at the national level.

This framework has been translated into practical guidance that takes into account the national contexts of West Africa and elucidates, for instance, the issues of parliamentary oversight, good financial governance of institutions, as well as the consideration of gender dimensions in SSR/SSG. One of the main challenges has been to develop tools that can be understood and used by the various stakeholders, including the Executive, the Parliament, the Judiciary, civil security sector oversight institutions, and civil society. This should contribute to the development and strengthening of a West African security strategy to support the regalian imperative of democratic governance, protection, and defence.


Fiona Schnell