Security Sector Reform
Expected Council Action
In March, Council President Mozambique is expected to convene an open briefing on security sector reform. Representatives from the UN Secretariat, African Union (AU), and civil society are expected to brief. There is no planned outcome from the meeting.
Background and Key Recent Developments
While the definition of security sector reform (SSR) has evolved over the years, the core aim of SSR remains to enhance the effectiveness and accountability of domestic security institutions, such as defence, law enforcement, corrections, intelligence services, and border management. Security sector governance and reform (SSG/R) encompasses how to facilitate the application of the principles of good governance to the provision of public security, including accountability and the rule of law.
The Security Council first discussed SSR as a thematic issue in 2007 in an open debate during Slovakia’s February presidency. The Council issued 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 could 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 issued after 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 highlighted the need to give greater consideration to African perspectives on SSR. It also 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. The debate and resolution were initiated by Nigeria, following its return to the Council after two years. While reaffirming that SSR should be a nationally owned process, resolution 2151 focused on the key role of the UN system in supporting 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 in reporting to the Council.
On 20 August 2015, the Council convened for a briefing under Nigeria’s presidency to take stock of the UN system’s implementation of resolution 2151. 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.
On 3 December 2020, under South Africa’s presidency, the Council convened a ministerial-level debate on SSR. Following that meeting, the Council adopted resolution 2553, which built upon and updated resolution 2151. This second thematic resolution on SSR contained new language reflecting progress in the implementation of the SSR agenda since 2014 and broader developments in the UN’s approach to the issue. It referenced the need to facilitate inclusivity in SSR processes, including by considering the needs of the entire population and promoting the participation of women in the security sector. It also sought to address gaps in the implementation of resolution 2151, including through strengthened provisions on reporting by the Secretary-General on SSR in country-specific updates to the Council. Additionally, resolution 2553 requested the Secretary-General to submit a stand-alone report to the Security Council on his efforts to strengthen the UN’s comprehensive approach to SSR. That report was published in March 2022.
Since 2014, the Council has adopted over 20 country‐specific resolutions mandating 11 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), have highlighted the role that UN support for SSR plays in advancing political solutions to conflict. Additionally, peace agreements signed since 2010 increasingly contain provisions on SSG/R, recognising the importance of integrating armed groups 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).
Key Issues and Options
This meeting will provide Security Council members with an opportunity to review implementation of resolutions 2151 and 2553. It will also allow them to consider the challenges and recommendations that the Secretary-General’s latest report identified in the UN’s provision of support for SSR.
One area that may be a focus for some members is how the Council could improve its oversight of SSR in the context of peace processes. In this context, Council members may consider establishing a more regular reporting cycle on the topic. They may also encourage the Secretary-General to include SSR reporting more systematically in relevant country-specific updates to the Council, in accordance with resolution 2553.
Another central challenge is to acknowledge SSR as an inherently political activity rather than a purely technical exercise. As the Secretary-General noted in his report, “[w]hile capacity-building is important […] it is vital to understand the political and economic role of [security] institutions from the perspective of different actors and communities”. The Council may therefore wish to consider mechanisms to strengthen linkages between UN-supported SSR activities and broader political processes in relevant country situations, including through the UN Inter-Agency Security Sector Reform Task Force and the Global Focal Point for the Rule of Law, with a view towards reaffirming the primacy of politics and a unified UN approach to the issue.
Relatedly, the Secretary-General’s report noted difficulties in the coordination of SSR support between the UN and other actors, such as regional organisations and donor countries. The Council may therefore wish to consider mechanisms to strengthen coordination in both the multilateral and bilateral provision of SSR support to host countries. Enhancing partnerships with regional organisations such as the AU may also be discussed in this context.
Another key SSR priority for the Council arises in the context of peacekeeping transitions. As an operation draws down, it is critical to ensure the orderly handover of tasks to the UN country team. In this regard, the Council may wish to study best practices from relatively successful transitions, such as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), including the role of the Peacebuilding Fund in ensuring sustainable financing for continued SSR activities.
Finally, regarding the enhanced representation and participation of women in the security sector, the Secretary-General’s report notes that gender is featured in the language of only four out of 11 peacekeeping mandates on SSR. As such, Council members may consider adding gender-responsive SSR provisions to relevant mandates currently lacking such language.
While SSR has become a standard element in the mandates of multidimensional peacekeeping operations, some Council members remain cautious about UN engagement in security management and are averse to what they consider overly prescriptive approaches from the Security Council in post-conflict settings. In this regard, Council members at the March meeting are likely to express typically divergent views on certain cross-cutting thematic issues, such as the extent to which the UN should promote human rights and a gender perspective in its support of national SSR processes.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SECURITY SECTOR REFORM
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 December 2020S/RES/2553||This was the second thematic resolution on security sector reform.|
|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)”.|
|15 March 2022S/2022/280||This was a report from the Secretary-General on “Strengthening security sector reform.”|
|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|
|8 December 2020S/2020/1176||This letter contained a record of the statements made at the Security Council meeting on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: Security Sector Governance and Reform (SSG/R)”, which took place on 3 December 2020.|
|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.|