SSR has evolved as a core element of many UN peacekeeping and special political missions. The goal of the United Nations in SSR is to support States and societies in developing effective and accountable security.
The UN has been assisting national authorities in reforming their security sector for decades but for a long time these efforts were ad-hoc and disjointed. In recent years, as requests for support to SSR and mandates have become more complex, the UN has started developed a coherent and comprehensive approach to SSR and its institutional capacity to support SSR. In 2007, a SSR unit was created within the UN DPKO’s Office for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI) in New York to support dedicated SSR sections in field missions.
The first Secretary-General’s report on SSR entitled “Securing Peace and Development: The Role of the United Nations in Supporting Security Sector Reform” (2008) had provided an overarching framework to guide development of UN policy and technical guidance. Since 2008, the number of Security Council resolutions referencing SSR has risen from 14 to 37 and number of peacekeeping operations supporting SSR has grown from 3 to 13. The second SG report on SSR, entitled “Securing States and societies: strengthening the United Nations comprehensive support to security sector reform” (A/67/970– S/2013/480), took stock of this growing area of UN engagement and offered recommendations to further strengthen the Organization’s comprehensive approach. Finally, on 28 April 2014, the Security Council unanimously adopted its first stand-alone resolution on security sector reform (SSR).
The UN support to SSR is based on a set of guiding principles: SSR support has to be anchored on national ownership, UN approach to SSR must be context-specific, gender- sensitive, it should ideally begin at the outset of a peace process and based on a clearly defined strategy; national and international efforts should be coordinated and monitoring and evaluation against established benchmarks is essential to track the progress of SSR.
The United Nations is never the only actor supporting national authorities’ SSR efforts. The bulk of SSR support comes from bilateral partners; other actors are intergovernmental organizations, e.g. African Union, ECOWAS, European Union, NATO, OSCE, World Bank etc. as well as national actors and international and national NGOs. The added value of the UN support among all these actors lies in its global mandate, political neutrality and legitimacy which gives the Organization unique position to contribute to specific dimensions of SSR; rather than implementing SSR support projects and programs, SSR Units in UN DPKO missions are best suited to coordinate SSR activities of international partners, to assist national authorities at the political-strategic level; to provide technical advice to security institutions and oversight mechanisms; and to build their capacities.