Foreign Police Assistance: Lessons from the Field

Nepal Police (Photo Credit: Shobhakar Budhathoki)

My institute held an event on Friday:  Foreign Police Assistance:  Lessons from the Field.   Having worked on justice and police reform efforts in post-conflict countries over the past 13 years, I am passionate about this topic. To me, rule of law reform is not just a technical exercise, but a path to peace. At its foundation, rule of law is about people, their relationships and the values that the society holds and upholds.  It is about fairness, justice and accountability for everyone, no matter what your station in life.  Without that, we will continue to be stuck in a cycle of violence.  There will be no peace.

I was a panelist at the event and spoke about the need to find ways to be smarter about what we do before we invest money and other resources into justice and security reform efforts overseas.

I specifically discussed the critical need to engage in an operational analysis beforehand.  In addition, I addressed the need  to find ways to work at the local level, from the “bottom up,” while at the same time, working from the institutional level or “top down.”

To that end, to address instability and crime in a post-conflict environment, even before engaging in any form of justice and security sector reform, we need to take time to listen and engage through mechanisms such as justice and security dialogue (JSD) (see previous post that discusses “JSD” in detail) and a well-crafted access to justice survey.

I concluded my remarks emphasizing that a platform is needed for people to voice their grievances, provide meaningful input and participate in the formulation of policy recommendations.  This is particularly important in the present day context of what we are seeing in the middle east and north Africa.  There is a demand for justice, security, and accountability— defining features of the rule of law.  There is a call in the streets for having a voice in the process of reform and change.  We would do well to heed that call and ensure that police assistance programs reflect these voices.

C-SPAN covered the event so it is on video.  Here is the link:

Foreign Police Assistance: Lessons from the Field

Seven U.S. federal agencies collectively spend billions of dollars annually on training and equipping police in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, and elsewhere abroad.  Indeed, effective, accountable local police are a vital stopgap against terrorism, narcotics-trafficking and crime.  Yet, U.S. approaches toward civilian law enforcement assistance vary considerably from country to country, mission to mission, and agency to agency.

On July 8, the U.S. Institute of Peace will bring together field experts from USAID, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense to examine various approaches to U.S. law enforcement assistance.  The session will introduce USAID’s newly released Field Guide for USAID Democracy and Governance Officers: Assistance to Civilian Law Enforcement in Developing Countries and USIP will present lessons learned from police participation in its justice and security dialogues in Nepal and other countries.  We hope you can join us.


  • David YangIntroduction
    Director of the Office of Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID
  • John BuchananPanelist
    Author, Field Guide for USAID Democracy and Governance Officers: Assistance to Civilian Law Enforcement in Developing Countries
    Deputy Director, International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Lieutenant General James DubikPanelist
    Senior Fellow, Institute for the Study of War
    Former Commander, Multi National Security Transition Command-Iraq
  • Michele GreensteinPanelist
    Deputy Director, Office of Criminal Justice Assistance and Partnership, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Colette RauschPanelist
    Director, Rule of Law Center, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Robert PeritoModerator
    Director, Security Sector Governance Center, U.S. Institute of Peace