Security Sector Reform
Expected Council Action
In December, Council president South Africa is expected to convene a ministerial-level debate on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: Security Sector Governance and Reform (SSR)”. South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, will preside over the meeting, which will be held via videoconference. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaїl Chergui is expected to brief. Representatives of several member states that are on the Council agenda and that have undertaken SSR processes, including Colombia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Iraq, are expected to participate in accordance with rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure.
A resolution is a possible outcome.
Background and Key Recent Developments
Security Sector Reform (SSR) is a term which has been widely used in General Assembly and Security Council documents. While the definition of SSR is constantly evolving, the core aim of SSR remains to improve safety and enhance the effectiveness and accountability of security institutions controlled by civilians, including those of defence, law enforcement, corrections, intelligence services, and border management. Security Sector Governance and Reform (SSG/R) describes how to facilitate the application of principles of good governance to public security provision, including accountability and rule of law.
The Security Council began discussing SSR as a thematic issue in 2007 when it convened its first open debate on the matter during Slovakia’s February presidency. The Council adopted a presidential statement following the debate that stressed the importance of SSR in post-conflict environments and underlined the sovereignty and primary responsibility of the country concerned in determining its SSR priorities. The statement also requested the Secretary-General to report on lessons learned as well as core SSR functions the UN system can perform. The subsequent report, “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. 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.
The Council held a second open debate on SSR on 12 October 2011, under the presidency of Nigeria. The presidential statement adopted following the debate noted that the bulk of international assistance in the area of SSR takes place in, and is directed to, countries in Africa, and stated that there is a need to expand the consideration given to African perspectives on SSR. The statement welcomed the partnership between the UN and the AU in developing a continental policy framework for SSR 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 the planning of UN operations.
On 28 April 2014, the Security Council adopted resolution 2151, the first thematic resolution on SSR, following an open debate again convened by Nigeria, which had returned to the Council after two years and which spearheaded the resolution. It recognised that SSR should be a nationally owned process, and in this regard, it recalled the sovereign right and the primary responsibility of the states concerned to determine their respective SSR approaches and priorities. While noting the support provided by bilateral and regional actors, resolution 2151 focused on the key role of the UN system in SSR. Among other things, it requested the Secretary-General to develop additional guidance to help UN officials in delivering on mandated SSR tasks and to highlight updates on progress in SSR, where relevant, in reporting to the Council.
On 20 August 2015, the Council convened for a briefing under Nigeria’s presidency to take stock of the implementation of resolution 2151 by the UN system, with an emphasis on implementation by the Security Council. At the meeting, Council members acknowledged the important role that SSR plays in stabilising countries in post-conflict situations and expressed support for more focused engagement by UN peace operations in SSR efforts based on national ownership and in cooperation with regional organisations such as the AU. Some Council members referred to the need to involve the voices of women, youth and civil society in reform efforts and to increase women’s participation in the security sector.
Since 2014, the Council has adopted no fewer than 20 country‐specific resolutions mandating ten peace operations to implement an increasingly wide range of SSR tasks. Concurrently, the Secretary-General’s independent reviews of peace operations such as the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) highlighted the role that UN support for SSR plays in advancing political solutions to conflict. Additionally, peace agreements signed since 2010 increasingly contain comprehensive provisions on SSG/R, due to changes in conflict dynamics, as discussions arose around the possible integration of armed groups that laid down their arms in post-conflict security arrangements. Such agreements include those signed in South Sudan (2015, 2018), Mali (2016), the Central African Republic (2019) and Sudan (2020). Also, the AU identified SSR as a key element in its initiative to “silence the guns in Africa” as part of its Agenda 2063.
The Group of Friends of Security Sector Reform was formed in 2007, with the aim of offering member states a platform to discuss possible action to shape and advance the UN SSR agenda. The Group is currently co-chaired by Slovakia and South Africa. South Africa identified SSR as one of its foreign policy priorities and hosted several meetings to promote the development of the SSR agenda, such as a high-level dialogue on “Global Experiences in SSR”, co-hosted by Slovakia and South Africa in May 2017. In April 2018, Slovakia and South Africa also co-hosted a high-level roundtable on “Security Sector Reform and Sustaining Peace”.
Key Issues and Options
According to the concept note prepared by South Africa ahead of the meeting, December’s Council debate on SSG/R aims to draw linkages between SSR, peacebuilding and sustaining peace, with the goal of integrating the concept across all three pillars of the UN system.
A key priority for the Council is to promote the implementation of resolution 2151 while continuing to ensure national ownership of SSR processes without compromising key principles and guidelines. Challenges in this regard include the difficulties faced by the UN system in securing national authorities’ commitment to holding national dialogues on SSR; forging a common national vision for security; and developing national security policies, strategies and plans.
The concept note states that another gap is that although SSR is a political process as much as a technical one, SSR mandates often do not highlight security sector governance or inclusiveness and the participation of all segments of society in national SSR processes. A priority in this regard is to increase the representation of women in the security sector to create more inclusive institutions that garner broader trust from the population. The Council may wish to provide guidance on the need for inclusive national agreements related to Security Sector Governance when considering good offices, mediation and the facilitation of political dialogue.
Another priority for the Council is to provide UN peace operations with tools to implement their role in supporting the coordination of international assistance to SSG/R. The Council may therefore consider asking the Secretariat to issue a guidance on how to better link mandate priorities and sequencing to assist UN peace operations in performing SSG/R related tasks.
A further issue relates to the fact that while many member states integrate security sector reforms into their national recovery, prevention and peacebuilding strategies, underfunding hinders implementation. Council members may consider ways to facilitate predictable and sustainable financing for the security sector in various post-conflict situations.
While SSR has become a standard element in the mandates of several peacekeeping operations, some Council members remain cautious about UN engagement in security management and are reluctant for the Security Council to be too prescriptive in post-conflict settings.
During the negotiations on resolution 2151, at least one permanent member opposed language encouraging the mainstreaming of SSR in peace operation mandates. As a result, the final text of the resolution included qualifiers that narrowed the resolution to situations where the peace operation’s mandate already includes SSR. Additionally, it appears that at least one member opposed language that sought to underline the importance of an effective vetting process to exclude from the security sector perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, and it was eventually not included in the resolution.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SECURITY SECTOR REFORM
|Security Council Resolutions|
|28 April 2014S/RES/2151||This was the first-ever stand-alone resolution on security sector reform.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|12 October 2011S/PRST/2011/19||Highlighted the need to expand the consideration given to African perspectives on security sector reform.|
|21 February 2007S/PRST/2007/3||This presidential statement recognised the link between security sector reform, DDR and small arms and light weapons control.|
|Security Council Letters|
|25 November 2020S/2020/1145||This letter contained a concept note prepared by South Africa ahead of the ministerial-level debate on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: Security Sector Governance and Reform (SSR)”.|
|13 August 2013S/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 2008S/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 Meeting Records|
|20 August 2015S/PV.7508||This was a briefing on SSR.|
|12 October 2012S/PV.6630||This was an open debate on SSR under the presidency of Nigeria.|
|12 May 2008S/PV.5889||This was a debate on security sector reform in which the Security Council heard statements on this subject by the Secretary-General, Slovakian Minister for Foreign Affairs Ján Kubis, South African Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Susan van der Merwe, and the Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission, Ambassador Yukio Takasu of Japan.|
|20 February 2007S/PV.5632||This was the record of the Council thematic debate on SSR.|