Alan McCrum, senior associate at Siren Associates. 

Despite ongoing changes in the state security structure, Lebanon has not engaged in an all-encompassing security sector reform. The absence of a functioning government has spawned a number of foreign donor initiatives in its place, but many of these programs overstate their objectives and are driven more by donor interests than those of the beneficiaries they are meant to serve. 

There are, however, beacons of hope. The introduction of an Internal Security Forces (ISF) Code of Conduct, predicated on the standards of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is a significant development. So too is the establishment of a community-policing model in Ras Beirut, which has enabled local cultural change and greater levels of integrity, ownership, and officer initiative. This is demonstrated by arrests of individuals who blatantly tried to bribe Ras Beirut officers.1 

The ISF has also introduced its first local policing analysis unit in Ras Beirut, developed by local officers and supported by a donor who worked collaboratively with the officers to help create ownership and pride. For the first time in the ISF’s history, formal selection and recruitment techniques were utilized to ensure merit-based selection—and team-based officer training then supported this. The early results have been extremely encouraging; in the first twelve months of the project the local crime rate was reduced by 40 percent, traffic violations decreased by 20 percent, and there was a substantial decrease in levels of “antisocial behavior.” The analysis unit identified key areas of learning and areas of weakness and good practice, and for the first time there was real internal collaboration.

The challenge ahead will be moving from this island of excellence to a center of excellence across Beirut and then throughout Lebanon. Much work needs to be done to consolidate and mainstream this new community policing philosophy. The effective use of community policing and community engagement, which is accepted broadly in the United Kingdom as a critical success factor in support of its counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST), suggests that building and enhancing community policing should increase the resilience of communities to violent extremism, help prevent individuals from becoming “terrorists,” and develop the rule of law, all of which are critical to counterterrorism efforts.

Within security sector reform, it is important to recognize that counterterrorism, human rights, and community policing are not mutually exclusive. Counterterrorism measures need human rights standards to ensure that their implementation does not undermine their very purpose, which is to protect and maintain a democratic society. Fundamentally, security sector reform in Lebanon cannot solve many of the profound gaps in political legitimacy that lead to security deficits and to violence there, but it can make an important contribution to changing the behavior and attitudes about the relationship between power and people. To do so, at its core security sector reform must have principles of public legitimacy, accountability, and transparency. The aim now is to build on local measures—like those in Ras Beirut—that have already been proven successful.


1. Based on interviews conducted at the Ras Beirut police station.