All must work together to address challenges and priorities in order to strengthen the Organization’s engagement on security sector reform, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today as he spotlighted efforts to date.
Alexandre Zouev, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department for Peace Operations, outlining progress on security sector reform, reported that a systemwide programme of action has been launched; strategic partnerships have been strengthened; and a standing capacity in the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, has been established. However, there are major challenges at the country level due to the lack of inclusive national ownership and leadership, the related reluctance of national parties and international partners, the absence of resources and barriers to women’s participation.
Since addressing these challenges requires strong United Nations leadership, he said the Organization has developed a security sector reform policy, conducted public expenditure reviews and developed the first-ever global report on women in the defence sector, among other things. For its part, the Council must provide predictable mandates; systematically integrate national ownership, the primacy of political solutions and governance-focused and gender-sensitive approaches in its instructions; and ensure adequate funding. Without the necessary financial and human resources, the credibility of the United Nations is undermined and its ability to support the people it serves is undercut, he warned.
Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the African Union, noting the tenth anniversary of the bloc’s security sector reform framework, highlighted the importance of reform for a continent affected by consistent conflict. Several core principles of this framework, he pointed out, align with the United Nations framework, including African solidarity and partnership, regional integration and national ownership and commitment.
With member States facing challenges on reform, the African Union has partnered with African mechanisms on conflict prevention and has engaged in a knowledge-based regional partnership, he said, pledging the bloc’s continued coordination and collaboration.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers underscored the importance of national ownership with several echoing the need for funding as others issued warnings and prescriptions on security sector reform.
The representative of Japan, emphasizing the significance of inclusive ownership, stressed that transparency, accountability, respect for human rights and the rule of law are fundamental in ensuring people’s trust. Reform must be tailored and aligned with each country’s values and norms. While reform can be an arduous and time-consuming task, any discontinuation will have a significant and long-term impact on people’s lives, he cautioned.
China’s representative pointed out that security sector reform is essential in post-conflict environments. However, only a targeted approach is useful in that different countries have different policies and cultures. By not adhering to the principle of national ownership, the imposition of universal standards could undermine the situation. For post-conflict countries in particular, the United Nations can help by providing intelligence, early warning systems and logistics; strengthening its communications with them; and ensuring clear, orderly plans when downsizing its missions. For its part, the Council should also listen to the Governments that have asked for irrelevant sanctions to be lifted, especially since those measures hinder the ability to reform.
The representative of Brazil similarly warned that the imposition of blanket solutions could result in failure and reverse hard-won achievements. While security sector reform lies at the crossroads of peacekeeping and peacebuilding in that deficiencies in security are a root cause of conflict, reform must not be understood as a solution, but rather as part of a coordinated development strategy. There must also be coordination and cooperation among multiple players, he stressed, encouraging the United Nations to engage with the African Union and other regional and subregional organizations through information exchange, experience-sharing and training.
Gabon’s delegate asserted that the role and involvement of these organizations remains decisive. As cooperation through strategic partnerships and sufficient funding for African Union peace operations can create the enabling environment for peace on her continent, she urged the Council to build on this momentum by establishing better adapted, more realistic and adequately financed disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.
Slovakia’s representative – noting that the programme of action on security sector reform carries out the most critical initiatives that the Organization, its Member States and its partners must undertake to generate impact at the country level – called on Member States to provide their support. They should resource the standing capacity in Brindisi through the regular budget or the peacekeeping support account, he insisted.
Responding to his fellow Council member, Albania’s representative said that, while outside assistance has its part to play, regional organizations and bilateral frameworks can only provide added value. States themselves must develop reform strategies which systematically mainstream gender perspectives while also strengthening the rule of law at all levels. “Experience has proved without any doubt that societies that are rooted in freedoms give people more power, choices and rights – leading to better governance and progress [and] allowing societies to become more prosperous, educated, healthy and happy,” he pointed out.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Mozambique, United States, Switzerland, Ecuador, Malta, United Kingdom, Ghana, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, France and South Africa.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 4:58 p.m.
ALEXANDRE ZOUEV, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions of the Department for Peace Operations, said that the Secretary-General’s report outlines a new bold vision which focuses on the primacy of politics and governance while providing concrete recommendations on implementing Council resolution 2553 (2020). Outlining progress, he noted that a systemwide programme of action has been launched to guide its implementation; strategic partnerships – including with the African Union, European Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and World Bank Group – have been strengthened; and the Organization’s standing capacity in the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi has been established. This nimble team in Italy has become indispensable for flexible, timely, high-quality support for peace operations, country teams and national institutions, particularly in the context of crisis and mission downsizing, he reported. As an example, security sector reform experts helped the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) mobilize resources and capacities for its transition while facilitating consultations with the World Bank Group on a public expenditure review of its security sector.
While these achievements are commendable, the United Nations is facing major challenges in accomplishing its mandated tasks, particularly at the country-level where inclusive national ownership and leadership is lacking, he pointed out. Without buy-in from the highest national authorities, the Organization lacks the foundation for its support and for sustainable peace more broadly. National parties and international partners are often reluctant to integrate security sector reform into the early stages of mediation and peace processes, thereby risking the recurrence of conflict when key questions around reform remain unresolved for too long. Too often, critical progress cannot be financially sustained after the drawdown of peace operations, risking a relapse into conflict, he continued, noting also the barriers to women’s participation due to deeply embedded gender stereotypes.
Addressing these challenges requires strong United Nations leadership, he insisted. The Council must provide predictable mandates for peace operations to assist security institutions and build democratically governed, accountable, inclusive and people-centred services. There must also be strategic and impactful interventions informed by political economy analyses that identify barriers and articulate incentives for national actors to commit to reform. To tackle these shortcomings, he said the Secretary-General has asked all to strengthen the role of United Nations leadership in building and fostering national leadership, which the Organization has worked on through a security sector reform policy and dedicated guidance tools. It has also provided technical advice to parties during mediation processes; prioritized the implementation of security sector reform provisions in peace processes; ensured financial stability through public expenditure reviews; and developed the first-ever global report on the status of women in the defence sector, he reported.
As implementing resolution 2553 (2020) starts with well-tailored and prioritized mandates, he encouraged the Council to systematically integrate key tenets – national ownership, the primacy of political solutions, and governance-focused and gender-sensitive approaches during all stages of reform – in its instructions. Mandates without the necessary financial and human resources to fulfil them undermine the credibility of the United Nations and undercut its ability to support the people it serves, he warned, urging Member States to support the new programme of action. A fixed cycle of reporting from the Secretary-General will also strengthen the Council’s consideration of security sector reform and the Organization’s collective support to national reform efforts. “Each aspect of strengthening the UN’s engagement on security sector reform will continue to rely on all of us working together to address the challenges and priorities outlined by the Security Council and the Secretary-General,” he emphasized.
BANKOLE ADEOYE, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the African Union, said today’s session is very important to the Union and timely as it coincides with the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the bloc’s Security Sector Reform Framework. Security sector reform is a key component of the African Union’s efforts to silence the guns and achieve peace. For a continent affected by consistent conflict, the framework is a key component as the Union works to achieve resilience and peace dividends. The 2016 African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa, by the year 2030, acknowledges the challenges to develop an African defence and security sector that is professional and disciplined with balanced civilian oversight and control.
He noted several core principles of the African Union Security Sector Reform Policy Framework, which align with the United Nations framework. These principles include African solidarity and partnership; regional integration; national ownership and national commitment; and expanding security sector reform as a larger approach for peace that includes the role of women. The current United Nations report provides an overview of the security sector reform landscape. It inspired the African Union Commission to begin a critical analysis on concrete outcomes. Member States continue to face challenges when demonstrating reform, such as inadequate resources and competing Government challenges. At the regional level, the Union partners with African mechanisms on conflict prevention and through a knowledge-based regional partnership. He assured the United Nations that the African Union remains a steadfast partner. It is committed to mainstreaming security sector reforms and working methods in all its endeavours. It is working with regional organizations. It looks forward to finding ways to deepen coordination and collaboration.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique), Security Council President for the month, speaking in his national capacity and noting the complexity of the security sector reform process, underscored the importance of State ownership in defining strategies and priorities. New challenges to peace and security, such as climate change, cyberthreats and terrorism, require a shift in the security sector response, he said, calling for reinforced complementarities through cooperation and partnership at the national, regional and international levels. He emphasized the importance of improving civil society participation, especially women and youth, noting that they can play an important role as key transformative agents for the prevention and resolution of conflicts at the local level. Reforms implemented through national dialogue, wide consultations and participation by various actors are likely to be more successful. In that regard, it is vital to understand the political and economic role of institutions, dynamics of power-sharing, resource distribution, local culture and formal legislation that govern society, he said.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), emphasizing the importance of inclusive ownership, stressed that transparency, accountability, respect for human rights and the rule of law are fundamental in ensuring the trust of people. Reform must be tailored and aligned with each country’s values and norms. While reform itself is an inevitably arduous task that requires time for the consolidation of achievements, any discontinuation has a significant and long-term impact on people’s lives, he cautioned. In light of this, there must be sufficient national resources to strengthen institutions, as well as technical capacity-building to make the process more sustainable. International partnerships are also essential for boosting national efforts, he continued, noting that the Organization’s peace missions are best placed to coordinate global efforts. In addition to a comprehensive approach that addresses the complex humanitarian-development-peace nexus of security sector reform, close communication and information-sharing at the technical level should be further encouraged with the Organization’s entities at the hub on the ground. An integrated strategy shared by all relevant stakeholders will lead to more predictability and the further mobilization of financial resources, he pointed out before spotlighting his Government’s efforts on reform with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States), voicing his support for security sector reform as a tool for promoting international peace and security, joined other speakers, as well as the Secretary-General, in underlining the importance of inclusive national ownership. He advocated for the full participation of local populations, including women and youth, adding that locally driven, consultative mechanisms – such as ones carried out in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire – can make security sector reform processes more sustainable. Demonstrable human rights compliance is another critical component, he said, noting that security sectors will not gain the trust of local populations without it. Emphasizing the need to require security sector reform early in peace processes, and to avoid leaving security disputes unresolved, he also warned against deferring security sector-related tasks to short-term arrangements. He also called for more transparent cooperation between partners and more joint planning, while spotlighting the many opportunities for capacity-building detailed throughout the Secretary-General’s report.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), underlining the importance of governance and security-sector reform for peace, security and lasting development, spotlighted the contributions of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. She also said that investing in effective security institutions means investing in lasting peace and conflict prevention, but that doing so must follow a clear process to make sure that tensions do not resurface. Further, supporting security sector reform means strengthening the rule of law, and because the security sector must support the specific security needs of a population as a whole, the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in institutions and decision-making should be ensured. She went on to say that United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions can play an important role in improving governance, emphasizing that such support must be part of a national political process that develops the capacity of security sector institutions. Adding that successful security sector reform is often key to allowing missions to drawdown and withdraw, she stressed that the Council must strengthen the role missions play in such reform and encourage greater cooperation between peacekeeping operations, special political missions and country teams.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador), underscoring the importance of the institutional ability of States to manage resources for the security sector, called on international and regional financial institutions to provide support. Spotlighting the role of international and South-South cooperation in this area, he supported the need for incorporating a gender perspective and developing effective monitoring accountability mechanisms. More so, he underscored the importance of ensuring child protection across all reforms of the security sector through appropriate military training and screening systems. Turning to the emerging threats, including transnational organized crime and illicit arms trafficking of weapons, he said demobilization, reintegration and reconciliation efforts must be accompanied by measures and goals for disarmament, national management of small arms and light weapons, and compliance with arms embargoes. Reiterating the importance of better integrating the functions of police, justice and penitentiary systems, defence and border management, and security services, he urged States to bring this aspect into peace mission mandates, particularly during transitional phases.
FRANCESCA GATT (Malta) said strengthening the United Nations comprehensive approach to security sector reform and broader support for this approach is essential to develop sustainable, secure and stable institutions and environments around the world. Security sector reform is a long-term and political process, and security governance is central to the women, peace and security agenda. Knowing who is at greatest risk of perpetration and victimization is essential to meet the security needs of men, women and children. Translating this operationally will require training and capacity-building across the armed forces, police, border guards and intelligence services. Vetting and codes of conduct are crucial to ensure the security sector is a trusted partner. Gender-responsive legal, judicial and security sector reform can help overcome obstacles in women’s access to justice. Her delegation welcomes the progress made in mainstreaming child protection into military training, standard operating procedures and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. Child protection units in national security forces and effective mechanisms to assess age help prevent underage recruitment. By incorporating security sector governance and reform into strategic partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, as well as through existing mechanisms, the United Nations can strengthen security sector reform.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said his country has invested in security sector reform and governance at home and overseas. A democratically accountable and well-functioning security sector is integral for the protection of citizens, especially since trust between citizens and the State is premised on the existence of institutions that serve and protect their needs. As Co-Chair of the Security Working Group for Libya, his Government will continue to support efforts for the joint work and eventual unification of Libya’s militaries into one that is both accountable to an elected Government and able to tackle security challenges comprehensively. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s efforts to strengthen the United Nations comprehensive approach to security sector reform, he underscored the Organization’s strong comparative advantage, which is underpinned by its experience and prioritization of integrity, transparency and accountability. Since the Council has an important role in driving the application of best practices on security sector reform, cooperation among members should shape fit-for-purpose mandates to guide the engagement of peace operations and improve the coordination of international support. All must also do more to advance women’s inclusion in security sector reform processes, he continued, spotlighting his Government’s new national action plan and pledging its continue advocacy.
DAI BING (China) said security sector reform is essential in post-conflict environments and needs to be explored as a way to achieve peace. It is necessary to adhere to the principle of national ownership as different countries have different polices and cultures. Only a targeted approach can be useful. Imposing universal standards and best practices without accounting for new developments on the ground may be counterproductive and undermine the situation. Many post-conflict countries face security threats, such as from terrorist groups and armed groups, and a professional and diligent security sector is an important facet of their development. Poverty eradication is an important part of maintaining security in post-conflict countries. Deepened partnership-building is also important as many post-conflict countries have limited resources to promote security sector reform. The United Nations can help by providing intelligence, early warning systems and logistics. United Nations missions must strengthen communications with the concerned countries, especially when downsizing missions, and provide clear, orderly plans. The African Union policy framework is helpful. The negative impact of sanctions should be eliminated. Many Governments have asked for sanctions to be lifted as the sanctions hinder their ability to achieve security reform. He urged the Council to listen to their voices and lift sanctions that are irrelevant.
SAMUEL ASARE (Ghana), underscoring the importance of national ownership and leadership in peace efforts, said the Council, through its resolution and mandates, should reinforce the existing commitments of national actors and help unlock the resources required for advisory and technical assistance. Moreover, the Council, through its periodic consideration of the security sector reform agenda, could assess performance across different peace operations to understand practices that have yielded the best results and challenges that are unique. In this regard, it could further leverage the Inter-Agency Security Sector Reform Task Force for a whole-of-United-Nations approach to security sector reform, spanning the peace spectrum, including prevention, conflict resolution, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and sustainable peace and development. He encouraged the Council’s continuing interest in security sector reform even after a peace operation has transitioned, including through its engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission and other relevant bodies that support the development of expertise and capacity at the national and local levels.
LILLY STELLA NGYEMA NDONG (Gabon) stressed that an effective reform depends on two fundamental pillars: human security in all its forms and State ownership. As lasting peace can only be built with local communities, their participation is essential. States must draft reforms in a manner which is underpinned by a strong community basis and considers both needs and specificities. Against this backdrop, the role and involvement of regional and subregional organizations remains decisive, she stressed, spotlighting the African Union’s policy framework on security sector reform. Cooperation between these organizations and the United Nations through strategic partnerships and predictable and adequate funding for African Union peace operations can create an enabling environment for sustainable peace in Africa. The Council must build on this momentum by establishing better adapted, more realistic and adequately financed disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. States must intensify their support in building up the institutional capacities of fragile countries to plan, mobilize, budget, allocate and spend national resources responsibly on security, she added, underscoring the important role of the Peacebuilding Commission in that regard. She also urged the international community to strengthen the rule of law and ensure that State security apparatuses serve people.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) said Government policies aimed at setting up State institutions, security sector and a functioning army are all critical in post-conflict settings, as those elements help ensure a country’s sovereignty. Such processes should consider a society’s unique historical, cultural and political features, she said, noting that, in many developing countries – especially in Africa – State institutions were frequently transferred from colonial to post-colonial Governments, and failed to consider such critical features. Noting that many post-conflict countries are regrettably not in a position to rebuild their security institutions on their own, she said any assistance provided by the international community must be based on the consent of the Government, as well as respect for national sovereignty and political independence. Security sector reform proposals must not be based on rushed agreements, nor “prescriptions from the outside”. Meanwhile, she warned that sanctions – including those imposed by the Council – should never impede the reform process, which could ultimately result in the resumption of conflict. Noting that security sector reform is resource-intensive, she went on to spotlight the crucial roles played by United Nations peacekeepers, Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund, and stressed the need for patience.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), emphasizing that security sector reform must be nationally owned and led, said that, while international actors can play a critical role to help set up frameworks and to support their implementation, these must be co-designed with the priorities of national stakeholders at the centre. “The security sector cannot be gender neutral because the impact of insecurity is not gender neutral,” he added. In that regard, the Council must not only increase the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in national security sectors, but also include gender-related language in its mandates on security sector reform. He highlighted that security sector reform is an eminently political process, not only a technical one, and must be considered as such. Noting mediation efforts in the Council that differentiate between political and security tracks, he said that that approach only works if there is open communication between the diverse set of stakeholders negotiating the different arrangements. Political buy-in is essential, and the logistics of processes including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, or security sector reform, must closely follow the political lead.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that, while outside assistance has its part to play, national and local-level ownership remain key. Since local governments, civil society and non-governmental organizations provide critical contributions to initial reforms and long-term governance, regional organizations and bilateral frameworks can only be successful as value added to dedicated and genuine efforts at the national level. For its part, the United Nations has a key role in supporting Member States on the development of credible and effective security sectors, including through its peacekeeping operations and political missions. Such operations, however, must have sufficient, predictable and sustainable funding and must improve their communication and public outreach. He then encouraged States to develop reform strategies and programmes which systematically mainstream gender perspectives as this is both “the right and smart thing to do”. The rule of law must be also strengthened at all levels, he continued, stressing that effective and fair justice systems mean better respect for human rights and greater accountability. “Experience has proved without any doubt that societies that are rooted in freedoms give people more power, choices and rights – leading to better governance and progress [and] allowing societies to become more prosperous, educated, healthy and happy,” he pointed out.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) stressed that security sector reform must be a part of a project which covers all political and governance issues. France is ensuring that peacekeeping operations are making security sector reform an essential component, he said, spotlighting efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to that end. As reform cannot be implemented unless and until there is political will from the host State, he pointed out that this is also necessary for the trust of international partners, which in turn is based on respect for the Council’s mandates. It also depends on respect for human rights, the rule of law and inclusive processes that meet the needs of all within society, as well as on the mobilization of national resources. He then highlighted the need to coordinate action on the ground, especially between the United Nations and other actors and in ensuring that support on reform from peacekeeping operations continues during the transition to country teams. “We must ensure that fragility and security voids don’t undermine the foundation of States and don’t benefit actors who harm people,” he emphasized, underlining the Council’s collective duty to support reform processes.
LUÍS GUILHERME PARGA CINTRA (Brazil), stressing that national ownership must be the guiding principle, warned that the imposition of blanket solutions could result in failure and the reversal of hard-won achievements. As an intrinsically political process, reform involves the implementation of governance rules, institutional reorganization and resource distribution. While security sector reform lies at the crossroad of peacekeeping and peacebuilding in that deficiencies in the security sector are a root cause of conflict, reform must not be understood as a solution in itself, but rather as part of a coordinated development strategy. Reconstruction and development resources should be utilized in a balanced manner so as to ensure necessary spending; social spending should be coordinated with a view to alleviate poverty, promote sustainable development and eradicate breeding grounds for conflict; and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants should be an integral part of this process, he emphasized. However, reform requires coordination and cooperation among multiple players, he pointed out, encouraging special political missions and country teams to play an active role in assisting concerned countries. The Organization must strengthen its coordination and cooperation with the African Union and other regional and subregional organizations through information exchange, experience-sharing and training, he insisted.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia) said that the programme of action carries out the most critical initiatives that the Organization, its Member States and its partners must undertake if they are to generate impact at the country level – including on emerging security challenges, peace agreements, public expenditure reviews, national security planning, gender and youth – and through the newly established standing capacity in Brindisi. Announcing that his country will be making its second financial contribution to this programme, he encouraged other Member States to do the same. In addition to supporting the programme of action, Member States should also officially establish and resource the standing capacity on security sector reform and security sector governance from either the regular budget or the peacekeeping support account, he insisted.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa), reiterating that that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to security sector reform and governance, said it is largely a political process. Underscoring that security sector reform is successful when it is inclusive, she spotlighted the need for including the private sector, traditional leaders, religious communities, women and youth. She said the involvement of women and youth is one of the core elements of the women, peace and security and the youth, peace and security agendas. Further, she welcomed suggestions of establishing a consistent timeframe for the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2553 (2020) and urged Council members to join efforts to integrate the tenets of this resolution into country-specific mandates to ensure they are aligned with the new vision of the Organization on security sector reform. She also called for mobilizing financial support for the implementation of the Programme of Action, including for the standing capacity on security sector reform and governance based in Brindisi.