New Policy Brief: Trust-Building in Security and Rule of Law Partnerships: Risks, Biases and Knowledge Gaps

Viktoria Budde, Dr. Karoline Eickhoff

For effective and legitimate governance, it is essential that citizens trust the political leadership of their country. The behaviour of state security institutions, such as the police and the military, is crucial in determining how citizens assess the trustworthiness of their government. Relationship-building between citizens and security-related state institutions is therefore often part of projects that aim to reform security sectors. Such projects are usually carried out in contexts facing political instability and violent conflicts. However, political assumptions about how this trust is to be promoted with the help of projects within security sectors are often only vaguely described. Research suggests that trust is a very complex, context-specific and sometimes ambivalent social phenomenon. Which theoretical controversies around trust are most relevant for policy makers and practitioners? What are the underlying assumptions of these projects? Viktoria Budde and Karoline Eickhoff highlight relevant research findings to stimulate debate on risks, biases and knowledge gaps related to trust-building in security sector reform processes and ultimately improve projects.

In this joint policy brief of the Berghof Foundation and IFSH, the underlying assumptions at the policy level are examined in terms of how trust is built in partnerships for security and the rule of law (SRoL). Based on textual analysis and interviews, two common "Theories of Change" are examined as assumed causal pathways for SRoL programmes to strengthen citizens' trust in security-related state institutions. These causal assumptions are then critically analysed in light of recent findings in research on trust from various disciplines. The Policy Brief is a result of the research project on the role of trust in security partnerships that is jointly realised by IFSH and the Berghof Foundation. Financial support is granted by the Dutch Knowledge Platform Security and the Rule of Law.

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Budde, Viktoria, Karoline Eickhoff. 2021. 
Trust-Building in Security and Rule of Law Partnerships: Risks, Biases and Knowledge Gaps.
Berghof Policy Brief 12. Berlin: Berghof Foundation.