The international community is currently facing a dilemma: While trust- building between representatives of state institutions and the population is one of the fundamental components of cooperation between donors and recipient countries in the security sector, dwindling trust in state institutions is observable worldwide. Even trust-building initiatives between citizens and, for example, the police and the military do not always seem to improve the situation. Therefore, fundamental assumptions about the role of trust and how trust-building works in societies facing conflict need to be reconsidered.

In this research report, the authors analyse established assumptions of the international community on the role of trust between state and society, and contrast them with academic findings. They reveal which assumptions are footed on scientific evidence, and suggest, which strategies should be re-examined. Finally, they identify knowledge gaps that researchers should address in the future if trust-building between state security actors and the society is to be placed on firmer scientific footing. This research report is the result of a research cooperation between IFSH and the Berghof Foundation.