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UN and SSG/R

DCAF works with the United Nations to strengthen its approach to security sector reform (SSR) in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2553 (2020). To that end, we work closely with members of the UN Inter-Agency SSR Task Force, in particular the SSR Unit of the UN Department for Peace Operations.

Similarly, DCAF regularly supports the UN Group of Friends of SSR through the provision of conceptual support and policy advice. In general, an increasing focus is placed on the development of empirical knowledge that responds to operational needs of UN staff at headquarters and in the field. 


Photo: Devra Berkowitz, UN Photo
DCAF has accompanied us throughout the development of the UN security sector reform agenda. DCAF assessment tools and expertise enhance our efforts to create protective environments in fragile settings and address causes of structural violence.
Alexandre Zouev Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions United Nations Department of Peace Operations


Within our broader support to the UN, we engage on the following policy and research activities: 
•    Raising awareness of the role of SSR in the implementation of two major UN agendas: (1) the sustaining peace agenda and (2) the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
•    Mapping UN efforts to support the reform of national defence sectors;
•    Learning from past experiences in the integration of ex-combatants into the security sector;
•    Enhancing multilateral cooperation in the field of SSR and;
•    Improving coherence between policy and practice; 

Given the coercive power of the armed forces and their potential for repression in many contexts, supporting the professionalization, effectiveness, and good governance of these institutions are key elements for sustaining peace. Thus, the same principles of SSG/R should apply to the reform of the defence institutions as they are considered to be key components of most national security sectors. 

With this concern in mind, and within the broader ongoing review of the 2011 UN Defence Sector Reform (DSR) Policy, the SSR Unit of the UN Department of Peace Operations commissioned DCAF to perform a desk-based mapping study of Security Council mandates on DSR and to analyse the implementation of those mandates based on a review of regular country-specific reports of the Secretary-General. 

This research aims to provide valuable insights for the review of the 2011 UN DSR Policy, with a particular focus on the development of mandates and reporting practices. 
This project is funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

Publications and further reading



At the heart of any peace process lies power sharing arrangements. Within these negotiations, the integration of ex-combatants into the security sector is often one of the most sensitive and crucial issues that need to be addressed. While the integration process may provide opportunities to “buy the peace”, there are several challenges to its success, with questions ranging from political incentives to financial sustainability. 

Against this background, and at the request of the SSR Unit of the UN Department of Peace Operations, we have engaged in research to identify broad trends and lessons relating to the integration of former combatants into the security sector. This research draws on (1) an in-depth review of the broader literature, (2) eight case studies developed on the basis of desk research, and (3) interviews with experts from Burundi (2004-2005), Democratic Republic of the Congo (2004-2008), El Salvador (1992-1994), Kosovo (1999-2002), Philippines (1996-1999); South Africa (1994-2002), Nepal (2006-2013), and Sudan (2006-2009).This project builds on earlier research conducted by DCAF at the request of the UN Department of Peace Operations and the UN Development Programme. 

This project is funded by the SSR Unit of the UN Department for Peace Operations and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

Publications and further reading



Multilateral organizations play an important role in shaping the SSR agenda through the conceptual development of policy and guidance, and by engaging in the provision of a wide range of SSR support on the ground. However, despite their significant engagement in this area, there is no predictability in terms of the type of support that multilateral organizations will adopt and implement. As a result, considerable time and resources are often lost while each organization individually assesses the same conflict, maps the activities of other actors, and agrees on a division of labour.

To understand these dynamics and to identify avenues for enhanced cooperation, the UN  Department for Peace Operations’ SSR Unit commissioned DCAF to undertake a mapping study covering the SSR approaches of the UN, AU, EU, and OSCE. The findings of this multi-year research project on multilateral approaches to supporting nationally-led SSR processes have been published in a report, which eventually resulted in an agreement among representatives of the four organizations to prioritise a set of recommendations for enhancing cooperation. This included, for instance, the need to explore the commonalities and differences in the existing SSG/R assessment methodologies as a basis for undertaking more systematic joint assessments.

This project has been funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

Publications and further reading




DCAF has supported the publication of a new edited volume, The United Nations and Security Sector Reform: Policy and Practice. 
This publication goes beyond theory to draw on the practical experiences of UN staff members as well as external SSR experts. Together, they offer an in-depth exploration of the UN approach to SSR from a global perspective. Their contributions are worthy testimonies to the challenges of multilateralism in SSG/R, as well as the many results achieved thus far.

The new volume was launched in January 2020 at a high-level event at the UN Headquarters in New York, which featured a keynote speech by the President of the 74th Session of the UN's General Assembly.

This publication has been funded by DCAF Core Funding and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. 

Publications and further reading



DCAF regularly provides support to the UN Group of Friends of SSR, chaired by Slovakia and South Africa. Beyond the conceptual support and the policy advice provided in several of their regular meetings, we have also actively supported the Group in the organization of high-level events. 

This includes, for example, support towards the organization of a ‘High-Level Roundtable on Security Sector Reform and Sustaining Peace’ which took place at the UN’s New York headquarters in April 2018. Co-hosted by Slovakia and South Africa on behalf of the UN Group of Friends of SSR, the roundtable took place on the eve of the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace. The two panels brought together high-level representatives of states and multilateral organizations to discuss lessons learned from nationally-owned SSR experiences, which highlighted the pressing need for strengthening partnerships and adequate funding for SSR.

This project has benefitted from funding by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and by the Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation (SAIDC). 

Publications and further reading



DCAF’s early policy and research work contributed to the development of the UN’s policy and guidance framework on Security Sector Reform (SSR), including the first UN Security Council Presidential Statement on SSR (2007), the UN Secretary-General’s Report on SSR (2008), the UN Integrated Technical Guidance Notes on SSR (2012), and the module on ‘DDR and SSR’ in the UN Integrated DDR Standards.

Below are some examples of the publications emerging from the research processes which have informed these policy frameworks.


Vincenza Scherrer, Deputy Head, Policy and Research Division (

Will McDermott, Principal Programme Manager, Policy and Research Division (

Taynja Abdel Baghy, Project Officer, Policy and Research Division (