20 August 2015
7508th Meeting (AM)

Well-Trained, Oriented Peacekeepers ‘Country’s Best Defence against Violence’, Senior Official Tells Security Council as It Considers Security Sector Reform

Security sector professionalization should be at the core of the mandates and activities of United Nations peace operations where appropriate, a top peacekeeping official told the Security Council this morning.

“Well-trained, well-supported and service-oriented police and military professionals are a country’s best defence against the violence and instability that threaten both lives and livelihoods,” said Dmitry Titov, the Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at a special briefing on security sector reform.

The Director of the Crisis Response Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Izumi Nakamitsu and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura also gave briefings this morning, after which the Council members made statements.

According to the concept note (document S/2015/614), prepared by the Nigerian presidency of the Council, the purpose of today’s meeting was to focus on how the Council might improve its engagement on security reform, and identify key priorities in the implementation of resolution 2151 (2014), the only stand-alone resolution on the issue, which was adopted during Nigeria’s previous presidency.

While the resolution stressed national ownership of the process, the recently released recommendations of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations called for more effective and coordinated international support in which the United Nations played central role.

Despite the undeniable correlation between performance of a country’s security apparatus and overall fragility, Mr. Titov said, some Member States understandably expressed caution about United Nations engagement in security management.  However, he noted, it was a clear principle that security sector reform could only be achieved if host countries agreed to it.  In turn, it was the Organization’s role, while sharing best practices, to support nationally owned efforts.  “No one can import or impose a security system,” he said.

Currently, 17 United Nations peace operations were providing security reform assistance, he said.  Among the principles underpinning that assistance was the notion that security management was most effective when linked to broader reforms and also focused on justice, corrections, policing and border management.  Governments were supported in developing plans and convening international partners.  Such assistance should help delivery on protection of civilians, prevention of sexual violence and other key mandated activities.

In all such areas, the system could do better, he acknowledged, citing South Sudan, where he said an effective security dialogue had not been fostered.  Such examples demonstrated the political imperative for sustained — and well-resourced — efforts towards security sector reform in peace operations.  Noting cooperation with other partners and regional organizations, he stressed that regional cooperation should be enhanced in conformity with resolution 2151 (2014).

While peace-operation engagement in security sector reform must concentrate on post-conflict situations, it often had a preventive purpose in some circumstances and should be incorporated early in all relevant operations, he said.  Special agreements for such engagements could be facilitated by the Security Council, which could also encourage the Peacekeeping Department to provide more details on national and international efforts in that vital area.  In any case, all peace operations should “ideally leave behind at least a basic, functioning security and rule of law system”, he concluded.

Ms. Bangura highlighted the critical nexus between sexual crimes and dysfunctional security sectors and the incomplete reintegration of former combatants.  In promoting national ownership of redressing such problems, the focus should be on gaining commitments at the highest political levels, she said, noting that joint communiqués had been signed with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Somalia and South Sudan, which included the need to ensure the primacy of clear messages on preventing sexual violence.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, such a communiqué had begun to yield tangible results, she said, with 135 individuals, including troops and national police, convicted in 2014 of sexual crimes by military tribunals.  In Guinea, technical support to domestic judges had resulted in 16 indictments on sexual charges.  Moving forward, she stressed that sexual violence prevention should be mainstreamed in all reform processes and be viewed as a fundamental indicator of programme success.  Greater representation of women in security institutions at all levels was particularly important to help create forces that respected and protected women and children, in times both of war and peace.

Ms. Nakamitsu said security sector reform required both concerted efforts in the lifetime of United Nations peace operations and longer-term, sustained support. It was critical, therefore, to sequence and strategically prioritize various tasks.  Addressing the negative power bases in the security services of post-conflict countries was one of the most challenging aspects of post-conflict reconstruction, she said, stressing the need for predictable and reliable funding sources for national capacity-building efforts.

At the country level, she said, it was important to ensure the right balance between technical expertise and guidance on the one hand and political accompaniment on the other.  More efficient use of the Organization’s resources and a coherent strategy among all actors, as well as the full ownership and political commitment of national stakeholders, were essential.  Tangible results must be immediately felt by ordinary people, in the broader context of safe environments for communities.

In their statements, Council Members affirmed the vital importance of security sector reform for stabilizing fragile countries.  Most supported more focused engagement of United Nations peace operations in that effort based on national ownership and commitment and in cooperation with regional organizations, with some specifically discussing the role of the African Union.

Venezuela’s representative underlined the importance of integrating opposition forces into national structures in post-conflict situations and called for lessons to be learned from the collapse of the security institutions in Iraq and Libya following foreign intervention, with the subsequent rise of terrorism.

Also speaking were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Lithuania, Jordan, United States, Angola, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Chile, Chad, China, Spain, Malaysia, France and Nigeria.

The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:31 p.m.


PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation), citing several examples, agreed that security reform was one of the most important components of peacekeeping and broader rebuilding processes.  Only a holistic approach could succeed.  He affirmed the need for national ownership, as well as for international assistance guided by respect for national sovereignty.  Assistance should be guided by capacity-building and led by the United Nations.  Peacebuilding mechanisms of the Organization were especially important.  The particularity of each situation also should be taken into account, and integral partnerships must be formed for the purpose with regional organizations.  Also of great importance was garnering expertise in security management for peacekeeping and other relevant United Nations operations.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said the international community needed to focus attention on whether the voices of women, youth and civil society were being heard by those implementing security sector reforms, and whether there was effective enough vetting to bar abusers from joining police and military ranks.  Reform activities must involve all segments of society and respond to the concerns of the most affected and vulnerable groups in order to ensure common ownership and prevent lingering grievances from resurfacing.  An exclusively male police force would raise legitimate concerns among local women about their safety and security and would most likely prevent them from reporting sexual or other abuses.  Similarly, lack of accountability for past crimes could lead to a resurgence of conflict.  The success of reform required clarity on the effectiveness of particular measures and on the best ways to avoid mistakes.

MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said that previous debates proved that today’s topic was important to avoiding a relapse in conflict in countries emerging from it.  United Nations engagement should be based on fundamental principles of host country responsibility, national ownership and sovereign rights to identify national priorities.  Stressing new challenges, such as increased complexity of peace mandates and a growing number of operations, he said it was vital to establish transparent cooperation among the Council, troop-contributing and host countries.  At the same time, the political nature of security sector reform should not be overlooked.  Consultations, therefore, and an integrated approach were required, with the involvement of all political stakeholders.  Security sector reform must be included in mediation processes, as well.  The Council could be more effective in more clearly drafting mandates that encompassed security reform and setting out the clear responsibility of host countries in that regard.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said the Council must stress the importance of security sector reform, which built the resiliency of fragile States.  Resolution 2151 (2014) rightly placed national ownership as a key principle in implementing security sector reform.  Such reforms were successful in Timor-Leste, Liberia and Sierra Leone, among other countries.  But, when the attention of the international community faded, so did that reform.  In the Central African Republic, progress in that regard had stalled, owing to internal wrangling and other issues, allowing the nation to relapse into conflict.  At the same time, national ownership did not mean that the international community should remain passive.  He welcomed the idea of creating a compact between the United Nations and host countries, which, when efforts faded, could remind host countries about their responsibility.  The speaker urged the Government of South Sudan to sign the peace agreement on the table, as the status quo was recipe for more cases of rape and murder.  Police had a growing role in law enforcement and civilian protection, and United Nations police units needed to provide more training to help increase women’s participation in the security sector.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said security sector reform was a key element in multidimensional peace operations and a foundation of sustainable development.  Security sector reform must be based on national ownership.  In his country, a legal framework was created, entailing measures such as promotion of entrepreneurship training for former combatants.  Also important to implementing security sector reform was including civil society and enhancing the host-country’s capacity.  Resolution 2151 (2014) was a milestone text that established security sector reform mandates in many peace operations.  It must be recognized that the process was a political endeavour, and thus, should not be treated solely as a technical one.  The role of special representatives, through their good offices, was critical.  He also stressed the importance of partnerships among the United Nations, African Union, European Union and other entities, as well as the need for sharing experiences and dividing labour.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), agreeing with the importance of security sector reform in consolidating stability in fragile countries, stressed its links with broader reform processes and highlighted the political dimensions of such efforts.  National ownership and responsibility was critical; under no circumstances could processes be imposed, he stated.  Unfortunately, security reform was not now as central in peacekeeping and peacebuilding as it should be, he added.  He also underlined the importance of integrating opposition forces into post-conflict security structures.  Finally, he called for lessons to be learned from the collapse of the security institutions in Iraq and Libya following foreign intervention, with the subsequent proliferation of terrorism.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said that Governments and their institutions must be dealt with honestly, including their shortcomings.  Better-sequenced and better- prioritized mandates were needed for peacekeeping operations, as well as assurances that the possible withdrawal of the operations was closely followed.  Local leaders must drive security sector reforms themselves.  All of the tools available to the United Nations must be utilized to assist that process, which must be fully gender-sensitive.  His country was supporting security sector reform in Sierra Leone and elsewhere because security and access to justice was a fundamental right, the abridgement of which had resulted in hundreds of thousands killed since the subject was last discussed.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) stressed that tailored approaches were needed for all security reform situations and coordination was needed between all actors, with Special Representatives taking on a greater role in many instances.  Security reform should be embedded in mandates from the start, and the Council could better empower operations to support national plans for reform initiatives.  He endorsed women’s full participation at all levels of such efforts.  In addition, he stressed that reporting on security sector reform should be more comprehensive.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said that political will and more careful attention from various actors, including special envoys of the Secretary-General and force commanders of peacekeeping operations, were needed in the context of the strategic importance of security sector reform.  The main objective of such reform was to establish national institutions, which were inclusive and accountable, and to base those reforms on long-term polices, while building on existing institutions.  Because security sector reform took place in a political context, national ownership was crucial.  The judicial and prison systems required training and funds, as without prosecutions and adequate resources, they worked in a vacuum.  It was important to learn from countries that had successfully emerged from conflict and established a credible security sector.  South-South cooperation could be used to exchange experiences.  He noted his country’s provision of technical assistance to Haiti, and in closing, said that equal participation of women at all stages was vital with international support based on local realities and national priorities.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) stressed that creating a professional security sector was a difficult undertaking, requiring means, a conducive socio-political environment, and the participation of the United Nations and other players.  The Organization’s activities in support of national security sector reform had come up against certain difficulties, including institutional weakness and lack of resources in host countries.  The Security Council should conduct consultations with host countries about those difficulties when creating peacekeeping operations.  Countries in question must set priorities, and outside players, including the United Nations, must take into account their concerns and needs.  United Nations support to national security sector reform was crucial in the absence of domestic institutions.  The African Union’s action framework for security sector reform guided nations on the continent to take more effective measures.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants was equally important.  Chad implemented programmes with neighbouring countries, contributing to protecting national borders from transnational extremist threats.

WANG MIN (China) said that the United Nations had actively helped some countries resume functioning security sectors.  But, Member States needed to review ways to improve assistance to countries where such efforts were not successful.  Highlighting some key elements, he said that the United Nations and other entities should respect sovereignty and national ownership and avoid micromanagement.  Different needs of countries must be taken into account as there was no one-size-fits-all solution.  Security sector reform needed to be integrated in planning and coordination towards achieving socio-economic development.  Regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union, had accumulated ample knowledge and thus could play a greater role by sharing information and best practices.

FANCISCO JAVIER GASSO MATOSES (Spain), affirming the importance of security sector reform despite its difficulty, said that international cooperation was necessary under national leadership and in cooperation with regional organizations.  He noted his country’s support for security reform in a range of situations, where engagement with civil society was also seen as important.  Building trust was critical, so that the entire nation, including women, saw itself as participating in the process.  Security and peace must be seen as public goods, along with democratic control, accountability and justice.  Stressing the long-term nature of security reform efforts, he added that involvement of peacekeeping operations must be gradual and progressive, followed by continued engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), concurring with the importance of security sector reform and grave concern expressed over sexual violence, said that it was critical for all members of security organizations to be held to account for violations.  He underlined the importance of the Peacebuilding Commission in supporting security sector reform by helping to ensure coherent coordination between all partners and national control of the process.  The Commission should work more closely with the Security Council and other relevant actors on the issue.  Limiting the supply of weapons to fragile countries was also of great importance.  He stressed as well the political dimension of the security reform process and the importance of incorporating national priorities into peace operation activities.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France) also stressed the political dimension of security sector reform and the need for local commitment and inclusive engagement in the process, noting that the goals of such reform, after all, were integral to the very operation of the State.  Draw-down processes were particularly important, as they involved handing over security responsibilities to national forces.  The immediate deployment of security reform expertise by peacekeeping operations was not always needed; priorities and sequencing had to be established, as well as space for the development of national plans.  In establishing the right sequencing in each situation, the Council should have an increased role in security reform, and for that purpose, additional details on the issue should be provided by Special Representatives in their briefings.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria), speaking in her national capacity, stressed the importance of coordination and division of labour within the United Nations system and between various entities in supporting security sector reform because national capacity for coordination was limited.  She highlighted the concept of creating a security sector reform compact — a framework that could provide predictability, prevent duplication of efforts and resources, and strengthen accountability.  The compact could also help the United Nations focus on its role through time-bound and targeted action.  It was important to remember that States bore the primary responsibility for ensuring security within their borders.

She said the global framework on security sector reform expounded by the United Nations must be used flexibly, taking into account the needs of host countries.  The African Union’s framework, established in 2013, addressed the complexity of balancing formality and customary informality that existed locally.  Emphasizing the role of security sector reform in preventing conflict and the nexus between security and development, she called for increased attention to security sector reform issues by the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.  To implement resolution 2151 (2014), she said “all hands have to be on deck”, as concerted and collective efforts were necessary to ensure success.

For information media. Not an official record.