Policing Security Sector Reform and State Building

Questions:  What is the relationships between political leaders and the police?  Under what conditions to the police engage in different forms of violence? Under what conditions do states make changes to their law enforcement agencies? Under what conditions to states accept international security sector assistance for police reforms?   What are the local effects of institutional changes to the police?

Methods: Field experiment, lab-in-the-field experiment, and cross-national analysis

Book Manuscript:

The Politics of Police Change Around the World
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Law enforcement agencies around the world hold (or are supposed to hold) the monopoly over the use of legitimate force within states.  Their consolidation of this power goes hand in hand with the consolidation of states.  Yet, the police often engage in abuse of their authority.  The first part of this book, thus, asks the question: Under what condition do the police engage in different forms of violence.   I posit that police autonomy and cohesion determine the prevalence and types of violence that the police perpetrate.

Police autonomy and cohesion also help explain the conditions under which changes to the police fore are likely to occur. These changes could take the form of reforms, including diversity, oversight and professionalism, or it could take the form of increased militarization.

Finally, international security sector assistance plays an important role in shaping police forces around the world.  Thus, the book also answers the question: Under what conditions do states accept police assistance?  What type of assistance do they receive?  What are the consequences of this assistance?

I use both cross-national/sub-national data sets, field experiments, lab-in-the-field experiments, and surveys to answer these questions.

Related Papers 

Karim, Sabrina. “Relational State Building in Areas of Limited Statehood: Experimental Evidence on Attitudes about the Police,” American Political Science Review, 114(2): 536-551

Blair, Robert, Sabrina Karim, Benjamin Morse, 2019. “Building Trust in a Reformed Security Sector: Evidence from a Field Experiment with the Liberian National Police,” American Political Science Review, 113(3): 641–657

Karim, Sabrina. 2019. “Restoring Confidence in Post-Conflict Security Sectors: Survey Evidence from Liberia on Female Ratio Balancing Reforms,” British Journal of Political Science, 49(3): 799–821

Blair, Robert, Sabrina Karim, Michael Gilligan, and Kyle Beardsley. “Policing Ethnicity: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence on Discrimination, Cooperation and Ethnic Balancing in the Liberian National Police,” Quarterly Journal of Political Science,

Karim, Sabrina, Michael Gilligan, Robert Blair, and Kyle Beardsley, 2018.“International Gender Balancing Reforms in Post-Conflict Countries: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence from the Liberian National Police,” International Studies Quarterly, 62(3): 618–631

Huber, Laura and Sabrina Karim. 2018. “The Internationalization of Security Sector Gender Reform in Post-Conflict Countries,” Conflict Management and Peace Science, 35(3): 263–279

Karim, Sabrina and Ryan Gorman 2016. “Building a More Competent Security Sector: The Case of the Liberian National Police,” International Peacekeeping  Vol. 23(1): 158-191

Pruett, Lindsey, Alex Dyzenhaus, Sabrina Karim, and Dao Freeman, “Election Violence Prevention During Democratic Transitions: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Police and Youth in Liberia”

Gender, Conflict, and Peacekeeping

Questions: What causes variation in female peacekeeping?   What are the experiences of female peacekeepers? How can sexual exploitation and abuse be prevented in peacekeeping missions?  How do peacekeeping missions promote gender equality?

Methods: Representative surveys, cross-national analysis, qualitative methods

Book Manuscript 1:

Karim, Sabrina and Kyle Beardsley. 2017 Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping: Women, Peace, and Security in Post-Conflict States . Oxford University Press Read more

Recent developments such as Sweden’s’ Feminist Foreign Policy, the “Hillary Doctrine,” and the integration of women into combat roles in the U.S. have propelled gender equality to the forefront of international politics. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, however, has been integrating gender equality into peacekeeping missions for nearly two decades—as part of the women, peace and security agenda that has been most clearly articulated in UNSC Resolution 1325.  To what extent have peacekeeping operations achieved gender equality in peacekeeping operations and been vehicles for promoting gender equality in post-conflict states?  While there have been major improvements related to women’s participation and protection, there is still much left to be desired. In Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping, we argue that gender power imbalances between the sexes and among genders place restrictions on the participation of women in peacekeeping missions.  Specifically, discrimination, a relegation of women to safe spaces, and sexual exploitation, abuse, harassment, and violence (SEAHV) continue to threaten progress on gender equality.  Using unique cross-national data on sex-disaggregated participation of peacekeepers and on the allegations of SEAHV, as well as original data from the UN Mission in Liberia, we examine the origins and consequences of these challenges. We also identify and examine how increasing the representation of women in peacekeeping forces, and even more importantly through enhancing a more holistic value for “equal opportunity,” can enable peacekeeping operations to overcome the challenges posed by power imbalances and be more of an example of and vehicle for gender equality globally.

Book Manuscript 2

Karim, Sabrina and Daniel Hill Jr. From Gender Equality to the Status of Women: Concepts and Measurement in Conflict and Peace Studies Read more

This book manuscript re-evaluates the literature on gender, international politics, and conflict. Doing so reveals that the term “gender equality” is often used to refer to several distinct concepts, which we label women’s inclusion, women’s rights, and harm to women, and beliefs about gender roles.  We argue that these concepts are not equivalent to gender equality, though they focus on women’s role in society and can be measured using observable indicators.  In addition to providing a new conceptual clarity and framework for studying gender and women,  we also create new scales for the four concepts using latent variable modeling.  This technique avoids many of the problems associated with current measurement schemes.  We then use our scales to demonstrate how better conceptualization and measurement can alter existing theories and findings related to peace and conflict.  In particular, the second half of the book develops a dozen distinct mechanisms for how women’s inclusion, women’s rights, and harm to women, and beliefs about gender roles affect conflict outcomes and vice versa.  We test our hypotheses using our newly developed scales.

Other Related Publications:

Karim, Sabrina. 2019. “Balancing Incentives among Actors: A Carrots and Sticks Approach to Reputation in UN Peacekeeping Missions,” American Journal of International Law (Unbound)

Beber, Bernd, Michael Gilligan, Jenny Guardado Rodriguez, Sabrina Karim. 2017. “Peacekeeping, International Norms, and Transactional Sex in Monrovia, Liberia,” International Organization, 71(1): 1-30

Karim, Sabrina. 2017. ”Re-Evaluating Peacekeeping Effectiveness: Does Gender Neutrality Inhibit Progress?” International Interactions, 43(5): 822-847

Karim, Sabrina and Kyle Beardsley. 2016. “Explaining Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Peacekeeping Missions: The Role of Female Peacekeepers and Gender Equality in Contributing Countries,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 53(1): 100-115

Karim, Sabrina and Kyle Beardsley. 2013. “Female Peacekeepers and Gender Balancing: Token Gestures or Informed Policymaking?” International Interactions, Volume 39(4): 461- 488

U.N. peacekeeping and transactional sex,” Monkey Cage Blog Post, (with Michael Gilligan, Bernd Beber, Jenny Guardado Rodriguez)


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