Security Sector Reform and State Building

Questions:  Why has international security assistance failed?  What are the local effects of international security assistance programs after they have been implemented?  To what extent do certain security sector reforms affect group dynamics within the security sector?

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

Book Manuscript:

International Security Assistance in Post-Conflict Countries
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The security forces of nation-states have traditionally been developed through practice the of combatting rivals, insurgents, rebellions, and criminals.  In weak, post-conflict countries, where the development of the security forces is necessary for peace and stability, this trajectory is interrupted by third party state builders—whether the United Nations or the United States—who intervene and help rebuild the military and police forces of the country.

This book assesses the nature of this security assistance.  It asks why some assistance programs more successful than others.  Success is defined by security forces that are both effective in providing security and also restrained in their use of violence against civilians.  It finds that international security assistance programs have focused on either restraining reforms of effective reforms, but not on methods for cultivating the culture necessary for success.  The book argues that this is best done through programs that develop cohesion in the security forces as well as respected leaders.  It concludes by calling for a re-evalautuon of the way that security assistance is administered to weak, post-conflict countries.

Related Papers 

Karim, Sabrina. 2017. “Restoring Confidence in Post-Conflict Security Sectors: Survey Evidence from Liberia on Female Ratio Balancing Reforms,” British Journal of Political Science , DOI:

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

“Gender Balancing in the Security Sector: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence from the Liberian National Police” (with Kyle Beardsley, Michael Gilligan, and Robert Blair)

“Policing Ethnicity: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence on Discrimination, Cooperation and Ethnic Balancing in the Liberian National Police” (with Kyle Beardsley, Michael Gilligan, and Robert Blair)

Building Trust in a Reformed Security Sector: A Field Experiment in Liberia (with Robert Blair and Ben Morse)

Karim, Sabrina. “Do Security Sector Reforms Improve State Building? Results from a Field Experiment with the Liberian National Police”

Karim, Sabrina. “Does the Messenger Matter for Improving Post-Conflict Rule of Law? Results from Two Field Experiments on Security Sector Reform in Liberia”

Karim, Sabrina and Drew Wagstaff. “An Alternative Peacekeeping Security Dividend: Minimizing Conflict Recurrence through Gains in State Power”

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:

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.

Other Related Publications:

Karim, Sabrina. 2016. ”Re-Evaluating Peacekeeping Effectiveness: Does Gender Neutrality Inhibit Progress?” International Interactions , DOI:10.1080/03050629.2017.1231113

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

Huber, Laura and Sabrina Karim. 2017. “The Internationalization of Security Sector Gender Reform in Post-Conflict Countries,” Conflict Management and Peace Science , forthcoming

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. 2016. “Women and Peacemaking/Peacekeeping,” In Oxford Bibliographies in International Relations , Edited by Patrick James. New York: Oxford University Press

Karim, Sabrina. (Forthcoming) “The Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Peacekeeping Missions: Participation of and Protection by Female Peacekeepers in the U.N Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).” Oxford Handbook on Women, Peace and Security, Edited by Sarah E. Davies and Jacqui True, Oxford University Press.

Karim, Sabrina. (Forthcoming) “Gender and Peacekeeping.” Routledge Handbook of Gender and Security, Edited by Caron E. Gentry, Laura J. Shepherd and Laura Sjoberg, Routledge.

Karim, Sabrina. “Women in UN Peacekeeping,” In Gender and Women in Military Affairs: A Comparative Study, Edited by Robert Egnell, Georgetown University Press

Karim, Sabrina and Marsha Henry “Gender and Peacekeeping,” In Oxford Handbook on Gender and Conflict, Edited by Naomi Cahn, Nahla Valji, Dina Haynes, and Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Forthcoming (with Marsha Henry)

“Ladies Last: Peacekeeping and Gendered Protection,” In A Systematic Understanding of Gender, Peace, and Security: Implementing UNSC 1325, Edited by Ismene Gizelis and Louise Olsson, Oxford: Routledge, 2015 (with Kyle Beardsley)

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)