The impact of Security Force Assistance on State Fragility (SFAssist)

The impact of Security Force Assistance on State Fragility (SFAssist)
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen visits the Bnaslawa training camp for training Peshmerga fighters, in Erbil, Iraq, 27 October 2015. Photo: Rainer Jensen, EPA/NTB Scanpix
Led by Øystein H. Rolandsen
Jan 2018 - Mar 2021

The SFAssist project aims to advance the understanding of how security force assistance (SFA) affects the coercive capacity of developing states, as well as its impact on peace, human rights, gender, development and democracy.

The project team intends to help create better informed policy-making and public debate, and improved practice by training institutions, on the effects of SFA in regions affected by state fragility. It will contribute to improved decisions on where and when to provide SFA, and how to design programmes with minimal risk of negative consequences.

The provision of SFA is worth billions of dollars each year, and involves providing arms, military training and advice. It has become a key strategy of Western governments to address new security challenges in developing countries, such as violent extremism, migration, and organized crime. Elements of SFA have been recognized for decades as components of development assistance aimed at improving governance in developing countries.

However, the effects of SFA have been subject to little research, and little is known about it's effects. Providers of SFA often intend to professionalize recipient armed forces, making them more disciplined, effective fighters in order to uphold democratic institutions and the rule of law. But some analysts have pointed to SFA as increasing risks that recipients will themselves be involved in corruption, coups, illicit proliferation of donated arms, and violations of human rights. Since training comprises a key element of SFA, the project aims to examine how gender norms are affected by the experience of participating in a training programme.

This three-year project maps global provision of SFA for the first time, and investigates in detail the provision of SFA by Norway and its Western allies (foremost the US, EU, the UK and France) in partner countries located in highly fragile regions (North, West and East Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan). Combining document analysis and highly interactive fieldwork (interviews and focus group discussions) we will use the research team's unique competence in military affairs in developing countries to advance our knowledge within a field of study where policy-relevant knowledge is sorely needed.


Non-refereed Journal Article

Marsh, Nicholas (2018) The Availability Puzzle: Considering the Relationship between Arms and Violence Taking Place within States, The Journal of Research Institute for the History of Global Arms Transfer 6(2): 3–21.

Conference Paper

Marsh, Nicholas (2018) Relationships between Arms Availability and Violence, presented at Relationships between Arms Availability and Violence, Meiji University, Tokyo, 28 March.
Marsh, Nicholas & Øystein H. Rolandsen (2018) The impact of foreign security force assistance on security and governance in Mali, presented at Workshop on Security Force Assistance in Fragile States, Peace Research Institute Oslo, 5–7 December.

Report - External Series

Dick, Shannon; Bruno Hellendorf; Ishtiaq Khan; Nicholas Marsh; Robert Muggah; Robert Perkins; Rachel Stohl; Nathan Thompson; Katherine Aguirre Tobón; Pieter Wezeman; Siemon Wezeman; & Katherine Young (2018) ATT Monitor Report 2018, ATT Monitor Annual Repot. ATT Monitor.


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