Security Sector Reform in Yemen and Libya

In the wake of the Arab Spring and transitions in Yemen and Libya, instability poses challenges for reforming the existing security apparatus. The Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East debated ongoing developments in the security sector in both countries during an event on March 28 featuring Hafez al-Bukari, director of the Yemen Polling Center (YPC) and Fiona Mangan, program officer with the Rule of Law Center at the United States Institute of Peace, with Danya Greenfield moderating.

Al-Bukari’s PowerPoint (pdf)

Al-Bukari detailed the findings of a nationwide YPC survey on public perceptions of the police and the security environment in Yemen.  He noted that the survey confirmed a high degree of variance in public opinion among the different regions across the country as to the most important security concerns and risks. Given his findings, al-Bukari advocated a security reform plan to address the concerns of each area of the country, rather than a one-size-fits-all nationwide approach.

Mangan presented her initial observations from USIP’s ongoing justice and security sector research and a recent assessment of Libya’s prison system. She noted that because Libya, unlike Yemen, experienced an armed revolution to overthrow Qaddafi, thousands of former armed revolutionaries now play an active security role in the country. The means by which these armed militias were disbanded or absorbed into the security forces will be a key consideration in the debate over security sector reform in Libya. 

During the discussion it was evident that Yemen and Libya face remarkably similar security sector challenges despite the large geographical distance separating the two countries. As each country embarks on security sector reform, they would be advised to watch the other to learn important lessons for what they should duplicate or avoid.

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