Security Sector Reform
Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to hold a debate in October on security sector reform (SSR), a theme that was last discussed following a briefing by the Secretary-General on 12 May 2008. Nigeria will chair the debate, with either its president or foreign minister likely to preside, and is likely to circulate a concept paper early in October.
The Secretary-General is expected to brief the Council before the debate. A presidential statement will likely be issued at the debate’s conclusion.
Since 1989 in newly independent Namibia, UN agencies have been involved in the development of security structures in post-conflict situations. In recent years, this process has become known as SSR.
The Council held its first and to date only thematic debate on SSR at the initiative of Slovakia in February 2007. It sought to balance concerns by emphasising the “sovereign right and the primary responsibility of the country concerned” to determine the national approach and priorities, while underlining the importance of international input.
As a follow-up, South Africa and Slovakia held a workshop on African perspectives on SSR in November 2007.
In response to the Council’s request for clarity on UN approaches to SSR, the Secretary-General published a report on 23 January 2008, setting out ten guiding principles. These began with the goal of SSR: to develop effective and accountable security institutions in a state, underpinned by respect for human rights and the rule of law.
For more details, please see our 14 February 2007 Update Report on Security Sector Reform.
Key Recent Developments
On 12 May 2008, when it last addressed SSR, the Council was briefed by the Secretary-General on his report. In addressing the Council, the Secretary-General—following discussions with member states—underscored that the UN should engage in SSR at the request of national governments or in response to Council mandates and General Assembly resolutions. Council members centred on the apparent need for a coordinated, coherent approach on one hand and acknowledgement that reform must be tailored to—and “owned” by—the individual country, on the other.
In a presidential statement adopted following informal consultations, the Council reiterated that the approach and priorities to SSR were the primary responsibility of the country concerned.
On 14 May 2010, Nigeria, South Africa and the Netherlands held a High-Level Forum on African perspectives on SSR in New York. The discussions focused on national ownership, coordination of assistance and the regional dimensions of SSR.
The forum’s final report concluded that for the SSR process to be viable, the reforming state had a responsibility to implement the parameters for reform. It noted that in the long term, external donors could not bear the responsibility for coordinating SSR; it had to be borne by the state concerned.
A key issue for the Council is how SSR can best be used as a peacebuilding and conflict prevention tool.
A related issue is how the Council can best use this tool in mandates it designs for post-conflict situations.
A further issue for the Council is striking a balance between assisting states in building the security sector and promoting national ownership of security structures.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The issue has not been discussed by the Council in a thematic debate since 2008. In addition to Nigeria, Council President in October, South Africa has over the years shown strong commitment to SSR and is supportive of the Council’s closer focus on the matter. There are likely to be some political sensitivities though, with the UN membership at large. In 2007, during the open debate, the Non-Aligned Movement said that the Council, with its limited membership, was not the “appropriate framework to plan, or even to direct, activities…aimed at carrying out reforms in the security sector.” Moreover, that it was national governments, not the international community, which should prescribe the road ahead in post-conflict situations.
- African Perspectives on Security Sector Reform, High-level Forum Report, New York, 14 May 2010. Available at http://issat.dcaf.ch.