Security Sector Reform (SSR) is the political and technical process of improving state and human security by making security provision, management and oversight more effective and more accountable, within a framework of democratic civilian control, rule of law and respect for human rights. The goal of SSR is to apply the principles of good governance to the security sector.
SSR concerns all state and non-state actors involved in security provision, management and oversight, and emphasizes the links between their roles, responsibilities and actions. SSR also involves aspects of justice provision, management and oversight, because security and justice are closely related.
SSR can include a wide range of different reform activities covering all political and technical aspects of security, including, among others, legislative initiatives; policy making; awareness-raising and public information campaigns; management and administrative capacity building; infrastructure development; and improved training and equipment.
Security Sector Governance (SSG) refers to the process by which accountable security institutions supply security as a public good via established transparent policies and practices.
Accountability of security institutions is affected by democratic oversight performed by a range of stakeholders including democratic institutions, government, civil society and the media.
Security sector reform is the process by which security institutions are subordinated to oversight mechanisms, vetting and lustration in order to deliver transparent and accountable public services as a public good. Security sector governance reinforces the rule of law.
The ‘OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security’ was adopted in 1994. It is a politically binding instrument that calls for the democratic control not only of the military, but also other security forces including paramilitary, police and intelligence services. The Code considers democratic control of the security sector to be an essential element for stability and security.
The concepts of good governance and human rights are mutually reinforcing. Human rights principles not only provide a set of values to guide the work of governments and other political and social actors, but also a set of performance standards against which these actors can be held accountable. Moreover, human rights principles inform the content of good governance efforts in the development of legislative frameworks, policies, programmes, budgetary allocations and other measures.
The blueprint for gender and peacekeeping work for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is rooted in Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), the first Resolution to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women. The resolution stresses the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peacebuilding and peacekeeping.
Democratic governance of the security sector and human development are crucial to securing peace and public accountability: human development will be held back in any country where the military, police and other security-related institutions hold sway over democratic institutions, are not democratically accountable for much of their power, or are fragmented and anarchic.
2005 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1713 ‘Recommendation on Democratic Oversight of the Security Sector in Member States’
The Assembly, conscious of the fact that the proper functioning of democracy and respect for human rights are the Council of Europe’s main concern, recommends that the Committee of Ministers prepare and adopt guidelines for governments setting out the political rules, standards and practical approaches required to apply the principle of democratic supervision of the entire security sector in member states.
The OECD reference papers outline that a democratic and accountable security system helps prevent the outbreak and recurrence of violent conflict and provide the basis of stability for economic and social development. This marks a major shift in donor attention as donors acknowledge the importance of these issues for governance and hence for creating the right conditions for poverty reduction.
2006 A Concept for European Community Support for Security Sector Reform
The concept sets out principles and norms for the Community’s engagement in SSR, based on support in different countries and settings, relevant policy frameworks, outlining the rationale for SSR as an important part of Community support and ensuring more coordinated and strategic approaches to Community activities falling under the different policy instruments: recognition that SSR is a cross-cutting issue.
2007 Statement by the President of the United Nations Security Council ‘The Maintenance of International Peace and Security: the role of the Security Council in supporting security sector reform’
The Security Council stresses that reforming the security sector in post-conflict environments is critical to the consolidation of peace and stability, promoting poverty reduction, the rule of law and good governance. A professional, effective and accountable security sector, and accessible and impartial law-enforcement and justice sectors are equally necessary to laying the foundations for peace and sustainable development.
The Report reflects the growing importance of SSR at the global level and the need for the international community to address it in an efficient, effective, coherent and coordinated manner. The report underlines that security, human rights and development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing conditions for sustainable peace, the fundamental elements of which can only be achieved within a rule of law framework.
2009 UNSG Report ‘Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict’
The immediate post-conflict period offers a window of opportunity to provide basic security, deliver peace dividends, shore up and build confidence in the political process, strengthen core national capacity to lead peacebuilding efforts and lay the foundations for sustainable development. If countries quickly develop a vision and strategy to address these objectives early on, the chances of sustainable peace increase.
2010 Statement by the President of the United Nations Security Council ‘Maintenance of International Peace and Security: optimizing the use of preventive diplomacy tools’
The Security Council reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding, and reiterates its call to increase the equal participation, representation and full involvement of women in preventive diplomacy efforts and all related decision-making processes with regard to conflict resolution and peacebuilding in line with resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), and 1889 (2009).
2011 World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development
The Report looks across global disciplines and experiences to offer some ideas and practical recommendations on how to move beyond conflict and fragility and secure development. Key findings include: institutional legitimacy is the key to stability; investing in citizen security, justice, and jobs is essential to reducing violence; confronting these challenges effectively means that institutions need to change.
2013 UNSG Report ‘Securing States and Societies: strengthening the United Nations comprehensive support to security sector reform’
This Report contains a number of recommendations on how the United Nations, Member States and partners can further support security sector reform through encouraging inclusive and sustainable national ownership; promoting security service delivery; building capacities for reform that better link component-specific and sector-wide initiatives; expanding and deepening partnerships; encouraging dialogue and knowledge-sharing; and further enhancing inter-agency coherence and coordination.
2013 African Union Policy Framework on Security Sector Reform
In this Framework, the African Union reiterates its recognition of, and commitment to, existing normative frameworks on SSR, particularly those developed by the United Nations and other multilateral actors. The AU policy framework on SSR emanates from the recognition of the continuing gap between existing approaches to SSR and deficits in the delivery and governance of security in many AU Member States.
2014 UN Security Council Resolution 2151: The Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Security Sector Reform: challenges and opportunities
The UNSC adopts its first stand-alone resolution on security sector reform, reaffirming the importance of SSR in stabilizing countries recovering from conflict and resolving to prioritise reform aspects in both peacekeeping and special political missions. The Council reiterates the centrality of national ownership for security sector reform processes, recognising the need to consider host country perspectives in the formulation of relevant mandates.
2015 European Commission and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission on capacity building in support of security and developments CBSD 28 April 2015
The EU recognises that creating the political, social and economic conditions for stability are essential for a country's security and a prerequisite for development. Consequently, capacity building – including institution building, security sector reform and human capability development – has become a key element in the support the EU offers to third countries.
2016 European Commission and HR/VP Joint Communication ‘Elements for an EU-wide strategic framework to support security sector reform’
This new policy framework aims to enhance the EU's effectiveness in promoting and supporting partner countries' efforts to ensure security for individuals and the state. Based on the assumption that security should be anchored in respect for the rule of law, human rights and good governance principles, the framework applies to all EU actors, instruments and contexts.
2016 Council of the European Union ‘Council conclusions on EU-wide strategic framework to support Security Sector Reform (SSR)
The Council calls on all EU actors to move towards swift implementation of the EU SSR framework by : applying the principles of the EU SSR framework in planning and implementation; improving understanding of the security sector; developing 'coordination matrices' based on common priorities ; coordinating activities; developing joint monitoring, evaluation and risk management guidelines; and ensuring the availability of SSR expertise.
DCAF/ISSAT has developed a series of online courses that are available to professionals currently working on, or interested in, Security Sector Reform and/or related topics in the areas of security, defence, police, justice, conflict management, advising, and peace support operations. Currently, there are four ISSAT online courses available:
All courses include additional resource materials such as policy papers and documents, videos, podcasts and/or simulations aimed at providing participants with practical knowledge on the subject.
Participants will receive a certificate upon successful completion of each course.