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Security Assistance

Explore research on the use of security assistance as a tool to help prevent mass atrocities.

Overview of the Evidence on Security Assistance

Our research review includes 20 reports that address the effects of security assistance on closely related outcomes, such as civilian killings, human rights violations, and conflict recurrence. We did not find any studies meeting our inclusion criteria that addressed the effects of security assistance on mass atrocities. Our research review found the following:

  • A mix of findings as to whether security assistance was effective in helping prevent mass atrocities or closely-related outcomes, and
  • Limited evidence on which specific factors contribute to the effectiveness of security assistance in helping prevent mass atrocities.

About Security Assistance


Security assistance is support provided by a government in the form of “defense articles, military education and training, and other defense-related services to eligible foreign governments by grant, loan, credit, cash sales, or lease” (Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports and Cooperation).

Theory of Change

If security assistance increases the expected benefits of alternative courses of action to committing mass atrocities, it would reduce the likelihood or severity of mass atrocities. In addition, if security assistance enables a state to provide physical protection to civilian populations, to increase costs to other armed actors of committing atrocities (e.g., by attacking them in response to atrocities), or to destroy or degrade other groups’ capacities to commit atrocities, it would reduce the likelihood or severity of mass atrocities.

Strategies This Tool Can Support

(1) Dissuading potential perpetrators from committing mass atrocities
(2) Degrading potential perpetrators’ capacity to commit atrocities
(3) Protecting vulnerable civilian populations