A New German SSR Strategy: The View from New York

31 July 2018   ·   Alexandre Zouev

In developing its new SSR strategy, the German government could emphasize (1) security sector governance initiatives that demonstrably respond to people’s security needs; (2) making immediate security efforts coherent with long-term security governance strategies; (3) coordination of international assistance and (4) sustained funding and operational support.

Germany’s initiative to develop a new security sector reform (SSR) strategy is a promising opportunity for expanded German leadership within multinational frameworks in support of the development of effective and accountable security and justice institutions. I am pleased to provide a few reflections in my capacity as Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). 

Since first launching the UN approach to SSR in 2007, we have made great strides in developing a framework for SSR support that is grounded in the needs of recipient countries and balances technical support to individual components of the security sector with efforts to enhance sector-wide governance and civilian oversight. In addition, we have successfully worked towards improved coordination of international assistance. Our approach is based on the understanding – expressed in Security Council resolution 2151 – that SSR must be in support of, and informed by, broader national political processes.

Prevention and Sustaining Peace

The Secretary-General’s prevention and sustaining peace agenda anticipates the provision of UN support to security and justice reform in contexts spanning the peace continuum. The UN supports SSR not only in peace operations, but also in non-mission settings – in response to national requests – and in transition settings, where peace operations are withdrawing but where ongoing SSR support is needed. Support for security sector governance and reform is both a preventive measure and a long-term development goal.

SSR is also important to sustaining peace efforts in related areas such as the rule of law. In the aftermath of conflict, government counterparts may be reluctant to pursue accountability for serious crimes attributed to state agents. However, fighting impunity is essential to fostering or repairing the social contract on which stability depends. Where SSR has the necessary political traction and national ownership, it can serve as an entry point for sensitive rule of law reform efforts. In particular, UN police, justice, corrections, SSR and human rights experts aim to strengthen the institutional capacity and national resolve to (1) investigate and prosecute serious crimes attributed to national security forces, and to (2) vet potential candidates, to exclude those proven responsible for serious human rights violations or abuses from the forces. 

Need for coordination and continuity of funding

As noted during the recent High-Level Roundtable on SSR and Sustaining Peace, the sustaining peace agenda highlights the need for coordination and continuity of funding and resources for security and justice reform throughout stabilization, transition, and development processes.

One such mechanism for a comprehensive approach within the UN is the Global Focal Point arrangement for Police, Justice and Corrections (GFP). Key partners include DPKO and UNDP (as co-leaders) as well as OHCHRUNHCR, UNODC, and UN Women. Since 2012, these peacekeeping, development, political and other actors have coordinated through the GFP to respond to requests for complex and politically-nuanced rule of law and security assistance prior to, during, and after conflict. They conduct joint assessments, planning, programming, resource mobilization, and delivery under the guidance of national partners and UN in-country leadership.

What can Germany do?

In developing its SSR policy, Germany might consider committing itself to the principle of supporting evidence-based security policy. In operational terms, it might want to emphasize its support for (1) security sector governance initiatives that are demonstrably responsive to the population’s security needs; (2) national commitment to providing citizens with improved immediate security that is coherent with long-term security governance strategies; (3) coordination of international assistance; and (4) sustained funding and operational support from both national and external sources.

Such an approach would not only benefit international SSR support efforts – it would also provide an important risk management strategy for other areas of German support. By grounding training, equipment, and security infrastructure within a governance framework centered on accountability and civilian control, and enhancing continuity and coordination of support, SSR efforts become more effective and sustainable. Put simply: support for efficient and accountable security governance and coordination ensures that investments in “hardware” and capabilities are well-spent. 

Ultimately, the content of SSR support strategies, like national SSR initiatives, is determined by individual member states. However, when the international community works together, within UN frameworks and coordination mechanisms, we can do more together to sustain peace.

We look forward to continuing to work closely with Germany on the development and implementation of policies intended to prevent conflict and foster stability.

Vereinte Nationen Friedenseinsätze Security Sector Reform Frieden & Sicherheit

Alexandre Zouev

Alexandre Zouev is Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions at the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).