Risks Versus Transformational Opportunities in Gender-Responsive Security Sector Reform


Gordon, Eleanor, Ciara McHugh, and Jane Townsley. 2020. "Risks Versus Transformational Opportunities in Gender-Responsive Security Sector Reform." Journal of Global Security Studies. doi:10.1093/jogss/ogaa028.

Authors: Eleanor Gordon, Ciara McHugh, Jane Townsley


This article investigates the gap between policy and practice in gender-responsive security sector reform (SSR) by exploring the ways in which risks perceived to be associated with gender-responsive SSR in conflict-affected environments legitimize inaction. A typology of risks is presented, which range from risks to individuals, security sector institutions, and peacebuilding efforts and encompass security, programmatic, fiduciary, and reputational risks. The risks are analyzed to consider the extent to which they are present and could be managed, mitigated, or avoided, rather than stall action. This article argues that the process of determining what constitutes a risk, and what constitutes a risk worth taking, is inherently political and serves to reinforce dominant power relations, including gendered power relations. The article then discusses the risks that result from inaction and the opportunities that are missed when arguments about risk trump gender responsiveness. As a result, it is argued that gender inequalities persist, women continue to be marginalized within and beyond the security sector, and transformational opportunities that could lead to sustainable peace are missed. The article concludes by arguing that the potential risks resulting from not advancing gender-responsive SSR far outweigh the perceived risks associated with it.

Keywords: security sector reform, gender, risks, transformational opportunities, peacebuilding

Topics: Conflict, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Peacebuilding, Security Sector Reform

Year: 2020

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