April 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2014
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Security Sector Reform

Expected Council Action

In April, the Council expects to hold an open debate on security sector reform (SSR) and consider the Secretary-General’s 13 August 2013 report “Securing States and Societies: Strengthening the UN Comprehensive Support to SSR”.

The first-ever stand-alone resolution on SSR is the likely outcome.


On 20 February 2007, under the presidency of Slovakia, the Council held its first open debate on SSR. (In a 12 July 2005 presidential statement, the Council had emphasised that SSR is “an essential element of any stabilisation process in post-conflict environments” and acknowledged the need for adequate preparation and coherent approaches by the UN in addressing it.) In its concept note, Slovakia highlighted the wide range of SSR activities the UN system was already engaged in, although not necessarily under the label of SSR, and the need for a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated UN approach (S/2007/72). (Prior to the debate, on 16 February, the UK facilitated an “Arria-formula” meeting on SSR.)

The presidential statement that was adopted as a result of the debate stressed the critical importance of SSR in post-conflict environments and underlined the sovereignty and primary responsibility of the country concerned to determine priorities towards SSR (S/PRST/2007/3). Although recognising the need to consider SSR priorities while mandating new UN operations, the statement underlined how SSR can be a long-term process that continues well beyond the duration of a peacekeeping operation. The statement also requested the Secretary-General to report on lessons learned as well as core SSR functions the UN system can perform.

The report, entitled “Securing Peace and Development: the role of the UN in supporting SSR”, was discussed during a briefing on 12 May 2008 under the UK presidency (S/2008/39). The report observed that UN support for SSR had largely been pursued as an ad hoc undertaking, hampered by weak capacity and insufficient resources to deliver effective support to national authorities. It also identified 10 principles that should guide UN engagement in SSR, drawing the distinction between “normative” (setting international standards and guidelines) and “operational” roles (from needs assessment to monitoring progress). A presidential statement reiterated some of the key issues of the previous statement and underlined how UN support for SSR had to take place within a broad framework of the rule of law (S/PRST/2008/14).

The Council again held an open debate on SSR on 12 October 2011, under the presidency of Nigeria, with Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru chairing the debate. The presidential statement adopted pursuant to the debate noted that, even though the bulk of international assistance in the area of SSR takes place in, and is directed to countries in Africa, there is a need to expand the consideration given to African perspectives on SSR (S/PRST/2011/19). The statement welcomed the partnership between the UN and the AU in developing a continental SSR policy framework for its implementation. In the context of multidimensional peacekeeping operations, the Council stressed the need to continue to include, as appropriate, SSR aspects as an integral part of planning of UN operations. The statement also requested the Secretary-General to submit an assessment of UN support for SSR, including efforts in Africa, and make recommendations on how best to strengthen its approach.

Acknowledging that only rarely is the UN an exclusive actor in an SSR process, the Secretary-General’s assessment highlighted the progress in the normative and operational roles of the UN regarding SSR (S/2013/480). The report identified some of the remaining challenges, such as the linkages of SSR with broader processes of political reform, the difficulties of measuring qualitative impact or the lack of funding for sector-wide “software” areas such as institutional governance or oversight as opposed to “hardware” areas such as training or equipment. Furthermore, the report focused on the issue of national ownership. Building on the guidance note on national ownership prepared by the inter-agency UN SSR Task Force, the report described the challenge of supporting host governments while promoting inclusiveness and engaging civil society, particularly vulnerable groups. The report also stressed the impact of external and irregular funding in the sustainability and national ownership of SSR.

Key issues

A key issue for the Council is how the UN can ensure national ownership without compromising key principles and guidelines.

A related issue is identifying the added value of the UN at a time of limited funding for SSR in order to partner with regional organisations and bilateral donors.

A further related issue is how to adopt a framework that is applicable to different situations in such context-specific processes.


The Council could adopt a resolution:

  • reiterating the sovereign right and primary responsibility of the country concerned to determine its national approach to, and priorities for, security sector reform;
  • urging member states concerned to ensure the inclusiveness of SSR processes through engaging civil society, including women and vulnerable groups;
  • stressing the paramount importance of accountability in post-conflict settings; and
  • calling on the actors within  the UN system and bilateral donors to coordinate and join efforts to reduce duplication in SSR-related activities.
Council and Wider Dynamics

The Council has not discussed the issue in a thematic debate since 2011, and it took Council members eight months to take up the latest report of the Secretary-General on SSR. Although nowadays SSR is a standard element in the mandates of multidimensional peacekeeping operations, there is likely to be some political sensitivity. Some Council members are reluctant for the Security Council to be too prescriptive in post-conflict settings. (In previous open debates, the Non-Aligned Movement has showed its reluctance regarding the Council’s role on SSR, as opposed to the General Assembly or other UN bodies such as the Peacebuilding Commission.) Concerns over national ownership and UN principles when it comes to SSR might frame the negotiation of the resolution, as has happened with previous presidential statements.

Some Council members have raised questions about the limited progress in SSR supported by UN missions in contexts of political transition, where it seems to be a secondary priority. For example, the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya, which included tasks related to the restoration of public security such as defence sector reform, does not include them in the recently adopted resolution 2144.

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Security Council Presidential Statements
12 October 2011 S/PRST/2011/19 This presidential statement followed a debate on security sector reform.
12 May 2008 S/PRST/2008/14 This as a presidential statement recognising that “the establishment of an effective, professional and accountable security sector is one of the necessary elements” for peace and development and that it should be a “nationally-owned” process “within a broad framework of the rule of law.”
21 February 2007 S/PRST/2007/3 This presidential statement recognised the link between security sector reform, DDR and small arms and light weapons control.
Secretary-General’s Reports
13 August 2013 S/2013/480 This was the Secretary-General’s report “Securing States and societies: strengthening the United Nations comprehensive support to security sector reform”.
23 January 2008 S/2008/39 This was a report from the Secretary-General on “Securing peace and development: the role of the United Nations in supporting security sector reform”.
Security Council Letter
8 February 2007 S/2007/72 This contained the concept paper for the Council’s thematic debate on SSR.
Security Council Meeting Records
12 October 2012 S/PV.6630 This was an open debate on SSR under the presidency of Nigeria.
12 May 2008 S/PV.5889 This was a briefing on SSR under the UK presidency.
20 February 2007 S/PV.5632 This was the first open debate on SSR under the presidency of Slovakia.

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