Skip to main content

National statements

Statement to the UN Security Council regarding the maintenance of international peace and security in Africa: Security Sector Reform (SSR)

Thematic issues

  • Accountability
  • Central Africa
  • Central African Republic
  • Conflict Prevention
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Justice
  • Liberia
  • Peace and Security
  • Peacebuilding
  • Peacekeeping
  • Policing
  • Protection of Civilians
  • Regional Organisations
  • Timor-Leste
  • Women


Maintenance of International Peace and Security in Africa: Security Sector Reform (SSR)

Statement by H.E. Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr President

I would like to join others in thanking you for convening this important debate. Security Sector Reform (SSR) is some of the most vital work this Council can mandate. An effective and accountable security sector is a prerequisite for peace and stability. These, in turn, are preconditions for development and prosperity – as underlined by the World Development Report. SSR therefore needs to be seen in a far broader context than peacekeeping. It is an integral element of the spectrum of peacebuilding and development. It can also play an important conflict prevention role.

Mr President,

Of course, the primary focus of this debate is SSR in Africa. However, Australia has learned a number of lessons from our cooperation on SSR with the countries of our own region – the Asia-Pacific – which we believe it may be useful to share. I would like to focus on three of these:

First, the importance of national ownership and leadership. Member states are the central providers of security in their countries. This is both their sovereign right and responsibility. National ownership is critical to ensuring legitimacy and sustainability of SSR efforts. The role of the international community is to enhance the ability of states to fulfill this responsibility.

In addition to ownership, it is important to speak of national leadership. Effective SSR requires national authorities to generate and drive forward a strategic vision for their security sectors. This requires political commitment. It also requires strong buy-in from those involved, and from civil society. The participation of women is essential.

There must be a collective commitment by the state and international actors to uphold international and domestic laws. History has shown us that this is vital to maintaining support for the security sector as it develops.

SSR cannot be a short-term exercise. Long term horizons are required to foster a culture of transparency and accountability and to build confidence and the necessary constituency for change.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), an Australia-led regional mission, has taught us valuable lessons on the importance of national ownership. Mechanisms for such ownership have evolved over time, and today cooperation between RAMSI and the Solomon Islands Government is governed by a Partnership Arrangement which sets out mutually-agreed milestones and timeframes. By way of example, the police component of RAMSI has gradually stepped back from front-line policing to focus on capacity building, such as leadership development and review of the policing and security legislative framework.

The second lesson is the importance of taking a comprehensive, integrated approach. Many SSR initiatives founder or fail because of their narrow technical focus and inadequate understanding of the social and political contexts. SSR requires a comprehensive approach, beyond simple 'train and equip' programs.

SSR should ideally take place as part of wider public sector reform, and focus not only on the military, but also civil society, police and the justice sector. The most effective reform is matched and complemented by the development of strong democratic institutions, including parliamentary oversight of security forces.

Just as SSR must be seen as part of the spectrum of peacebuilding and development, so too SSR plans and strategies should be integrated with states' broader development planning – for example long-term budget planning.

RAMSI provides a strong model for an integrated approach. From the outset, it worked to support reform in all aspects of the security sector, from the police, customs, border control, prisons and the judicial system to public financial management institutions.

Through international engagement in Timor-Leste, we have learned the pitfalls of too narrow a focus on technical assistance, particularly the risks of trying to adopt one size fits all policing and military models. Second-generation SSR in that country places an appropriate emphasis on capacity development, institution building, governance and civilian oversight.

The third lesson is the key role that can be played by regional organisations and south-south and triangular cooperation. Regional and sub-regional organisations can have a unique legitimacy, and important role in fostering regional cooperation. Regional organizations and neighbouring states can have comparative advantages in terms of cultural awareness and language skills.

Again, RAMSI, which operates under the auspices of the Pacific Islands Forum, provides a strong example. Over the past eight years, thousands of police, military and civilian personnel from across the region have served with the mission, bringing important experience, cultural perspectives and language skills to RAMSI's work in support of governance in Solomon Islands.

In Africa, we note the impressive work the African Union is taking forward in the field of SSR, particularly the development of the Continental Security Sector Reform Policy Framework. We stand ready to assist, particularly in the area of protection of civilians. We also note that today's debate is providing an important opportunity for us to hear the voices and perspectives of African states, such as Nigeria and South Africa, who are providing SSR support and assistance to fellow African countries.

Mr President

I would like to make some brief comments on the role of the UN. Given the importance of locating SRR within the broad peacebuilding and development spectrum, UN actors need to work in a coordinated and integrated manner. The SSR Taskforce, co-chaired by DPKO and UNDP, plays a key role in this regard. We would encourage the Council to continue to mandate multidimensional peace operations that integrate conflict resolution, peace building and longer-term development activities. The Council needs to ensure that mandates are appropriate and realistic. The UN also needs to collaborate closely with the World Bank and other development actors on budget and financial management aspects of SSR, and on longer term development perspectives.

The UN can play a vital role in assisting nationally-led coordination on SSR,
by supporting needs assessments and providing strategic advice and guidance.
It can also help facilitate national dialogue on SSR – a strong example
is the consultative process undertaken in the Central African Republic to build
the foundation for the national security strategy. We note that the UN is seeking
to take forward a similar process in Côte d'Ivoire.

The UN also has an important role to play in supporting the SSR work of regional organisations – we commend UN-AU cooperation on the Continental Security Sector Reform Policy Framework – and facilitating south-south cooperation.

I would also like to highlight the important work of the Peacebuilding Commission – particularly in sharing lessons-learned, providing political accompaniment to national governments in their SSR work, and assisting with resource mobilization. Australia has been pleased to support the development of regional justice and security hubs in Liberia, one of the key areas of focus of the Liberia PBC configuration.

The Peacebuilding Fund – to which Australia is a donor – has a unique niche role, given its ability to take risks and catalyse other donor support.

We hope the response to the Civilian Capacity Review will enhance the UN's ability to bring in the right capacities in the critical immediate post-conflict window to support national SSR efforts.

Mr President

I thank you again for convening this debate. At its essence, Security Sector
Reform is about reshaping the institutions that serve and protect a country's
citizens. There are few subjects more important for the Council's time.

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
Back to top