At high-level debate, UN officials urge boosted efforts for security sector reform

12 February 2015

Security sector reform, good governance, the rule of law, and accountable institutions are critical building blocks for a sustainable future, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson declared today as he urged a greater international focus on security sector reform as part of an effort to strengthen the links between peace and security, development, and human rights.

“Security spending alone, without good governance and the rule of law, does not necessarily result in higher levels of safety and stability for citizens, countries or regions. Nor does it necessarily enhance development,” Mr. Eliasson said addressing the high-level meeting of the Group of Friends of Security Sector Reform earlier today at UN Headquarters in New York.

He added that from Liberia and the Central African Republic to Somalia, security sector reform efforts had to be deeply embedded within the country itself, rather than imposed from the outside, and he observed that commitment from host governments remained “absolutely critical.”

According to the UN, security sector reform is a process which aims to “enhance effective and accountable security for the State and its peoples” by transforming the security sectors – defence, law enforcement, corrections, intelligence services and institutions responsible for border management, customs and civil emergencies – into more accountable and professional institutions which fully respect human rights and the rule of law.

Providing an example, Mr. Eliasson pointed to Guinea where, under the leadership of the President, a $12 million UN Peacebuilding Fund allocation had successfully supported “a difficult political transition.” Yet in South Sudan, a lack of broad-based political agreement on security sector reform or on how to resolve the country’s ongoing political crisis had left the young African nation teetering on the brink of a massive security and humanitarian crisis.

To secure the full implementation of security sector reform, the Deputy Secretary-General suggested what he described as four “cross-cutting priorities”: securing political commitments and leadership by incorporating security sector reform into the mandates of senior leaders; integrating such reform with critical peacekeeping and peacebuilding tasks; deepening and broadening partnerships; and strengthening the evaluation capacity of the UN and Member States.

Also addressing the High-Level debate, Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions, Dmitry Titov, similarly warned that poorly trained and inadequately equipped security forces are “a threat not only to safety and stability, but also basic rights, such as the freedom of expression” – a problem which has become “all too common” in peacekeeping settings.

To that point, he proposed three priorities which, he said, should be applied within a peace operating context: the training and equipping of national security forces and the development of national governance capacities; the creation of operational partnerships; and the establishment of inclusive political agreements that ensure the popular legitimacy of the State and national ownership of security sector reform.

“Weak institutions and flaws in the rule of law are among the most serious obstacles to sustainable development,” Mr. Eliasson continued. “Inclusive and accountable security institutions, that uphold the rule of law and respect human rights, are a necessary element for sustainable development.”


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