Thin Security?
: The challenge of engaging informal security actors in DFID’s security sector reform programme in Sierra Leone

  • Lisa Ellen Denney

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) has undertaken a highly innovative development strategy in Sierra Leone, reforming the security sector of the post-conflict state in order to ensure a stable environment in which investment and development can occur. Yet in doing so, DFID has not engaged with the actual locus of security provision in Sierra Leone and the effectiveness of reforms thus remains limited. This thesis seeks to understand why DFID has been unable to engage with informal security actors in its security sector reform (SSR) programme in Sierra Leone. Informal security actors are the dominant providers of policing and justice in Sierra Leone, with approximately 80 per cent of the population relying upon their services. Despite this, however, this thesis illustrates that DFID’s bureaucratic and political nature produce particular understandings of security and the causes of war that focus overwhelmingly on state capacity and security provision. As a result, DFID engages with only state security providers and state failure aspects of the causes of war. Ultimately, this approach limits the ability of DFID’s SSR programme to comprehensively address the causes of conflict and sustainably transform security provision in Sierra Leone. These limitations must be overcome if DFID is to remain at the forefront of SSR policy and practice.
Date of Award21 Apr 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorHidemi Suganami (Supervisor) & Alastair Finlan (Supervisor)

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