Security sector reform in African countries emerging from conflict vital, UN says

24 Oct 2011

Security sector reform in African countries emerging from conflict vital, UN says

12 October 2011 – The Security Council today debated the need to reform the security sector in African countries emerging from conflict, with the United Nations peacekeeping chief calling it crucial to ensuring stability, reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development.


"In Liberia, for example, unresolved security sector governance and management issues in the mid-1990s contributed to the re-emergence of conflict and a dramatic 80 per cent downturn in its economy," Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous told the 15-member body of the West African country that slipped back into bloody civil war after a 1995 peace deal.

"Ineffective and poorly governed security sectors can become decisive obstacles to stability, poverty reduction, sustainable development and peacebuilding. The United Nations has therefore increasingly sought to assist countries affected by conflict to build effective, accountable and affordable security sectors within the broad framework of the rule of law," he stressed.

Speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Ladsous noted that a significant portion of UN support for security sector reform (SSR) is directed to countries in Africa, but experience has shown that there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach, and the Organization and its partners must be adaptable and capable of responding quickly.

Among the varied and increasingly complex actions the UN has undertaken, Mr. Ladsous cited training and infrastructure development in Burundi; capacity-building for management and oversight of security institutions in Liberia; development of national security policies and strategies for Somalia and Côte d'Ivoire; and aid in coordinating international partners to support national priorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Guinea-Bissau.

"Many Member States, in Africa and elsewhere, have recognized that security sector governance is necessary for early recovery from conflict, economic development and sustainable peacebuilding, as well as regional stability and international peacekeeping," he said, noting that the African Union (AU) is at the forefront of developing a specific SSR framework.

"We have also learned that many security threats can only be contained by a regional approach as indicated, for example, by the fact that a number of African countries are working together to end the scourge of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)," he added.

The LRA was formed in the late 1980s and for over 15 years its attacks were mainly directed against Ugandan civilians and security forces. But after being dislodged by Ugandan forces in 2002, it exported its rampage to the country's neighbours, including the DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Mr. Ladsous noted that a number of African countries, including Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, are becoming crucial providers of SSR aid to fellow African States, with many of them also active troop- and police-contributors to UN operations, and he praised the efforts of the UN inter-agency SSR Task Force and SSR Unit in providing field support, deploying experts and training specialists.

In a presidential statement, the Council underscored the vital need for SSR to bolster progress in other sectors.

"In light of ongoing conflict in Africa, the Security Council reiterates the link between security sector reform and socio-economic development, and underlines that such reform efforts should be situated within the broader and more comprehensive spectrum of peacebuilding," it said.

The statement stressed that SSR should be a nationally owned process, with each country having primary responsibility to determine its approach and priorities. It also highlighted the importance of improving women's participation in conflict prevention and resolution, the maintenance of peace, and in national armed and security forces, and hailed the UN-AU partnership in developing a continental SSR policy framework.