3 December 2020

Security Council Updates Reform Text to Address Gaps in Post-Conflict States, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2553 (2020)

Minister Highlights South Sudan’s Efforts to Maintain Overall Stability, While Saying Mission ‘Found Wanting in Some Areas’

The Security Council updated a resolution on security sector reform today, adding new provisions aimed at addressing gaps in implementing such transformation in fragile and post-conflict States, with the voting results announced virtually in accordance with the temporary silence procedure* established during the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2553 (2020), the Council reaffirmed the importance of security sector reform in peacebuilding and sustaining peace, including conflict prevention and post-conflict stabilization.  The 15-member organ also encouraged Member States to develop context-specific security sector reform strategies that mainstream a gender perspective and increase women’s representation at all levels of the security sector.  It also recognized the role that youth should play in contributing to conflict prevention, peacebuilding and recovery.

Today’s resolution is the second on this thematic issue, reflecting the evolving situation since the Council adopted the first – resolution 2151 (2014) –six years ago under Nigeria’s presidency.

Seeking to enhance the ability of the United Nations to perform its role in supporting national security sector reform processes, the Council encouraged the Secretary-General’s special representatives in peace operations to fully integrate security sector reform and governance into their good-offices efforts.  Further, it called upon special representatives to consider security sector reform in their efforts to advance peace processes and extend State authority.

Earlier, the Council convened a ministerial-level debate on the subject under the auspices of South Africa, President for December.  Members heard briefings from Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations; Alexandre Zouev, Assistant Secretary‑General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, Department of Peace Operations; and Smaïl Chergui, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security.

Ms. Keita said there is bold recognition that security sector governance is a key element of United Nations support to States across the entire peace continuum — from prevention and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and development.  For instance, the Peacebuilding Fund invested $21 million from 2017 to 2019 in support of such efforts in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea and Liberia, she noted.  Citing a United Nations-World Bank joint study showing the critical importance of security sector reform in preventing conflict, she said such cases are seen in Indonesia, Kenya, Timor-Leste and Tunisia.

Security sector reform should also be part of larger political strategies in such places as Afghanistan, Liberia and Sierra Leone, she continued, emphasizing that such processes are more sustainable when they include women, youth and other minority groups.  However, expectations must be realistic as reform is a complex long-term endeavour spanning generations, she cautioned, pointing out that it requires deep understanding of root causes of conflict, sustained political will and balancing the security needs of all stakeholders.  “Security sector reform can succeed only when it is part of the wider political process,” she stressed.

Welcoming the alignment of Security Council-mandated tasks to support peace processes, stabilization and civilian protection, she said the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) uses good offices and mediation to advance the implementation of security sector reform under the Algiers Agreement.  The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) provides technical and logistical support for the recruitment and deployment of security sector personnel.

She said the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) supports the military justice system while the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) uses good offices and technical expertise to help implement a national reform model.  These missions help inject critical capacity in the sector, she added, while cautioning that social contracts remain fragile in many settings, with trust in State security services lacking.  She went on to underline the essential need for coordination and close cooperation among partners on the ground, given the complexity of tasks.  Citing the cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, she said it is critical to silencing the guns on the continent.  The European Union is also a key long-standing partner, with bilateral projects often the most influential, she added.

Emphasizing that lasting security will remain elusive if processes exclude women and other groups, she pointed out that the sector is largely dominated by men.  Inclusive security sector reform requires strong political will to break patriarchal norms, introduce gender-parity quotas and promote women to leadership positions, she said.  MINUSCA helped to build facilities for women soldiers while MINUSMA supported the establishment of a victim-centred mechanism to prevent perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence from jointing the Malian army, she recalled.  MONUSCO provided support in prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence, she added.

She urged the Security Council and Member States to optimally position the United Nations in advancing nationally owned security sector reform by recognizing security sector reform as a political process and linking mandates on such undertakings to broader political processes.  It is also important to systematically recognize the value of partnership and support inclusive reform, including prioritizing women’s participation in national security services and removing systemic barriers to their recruitment, she said.

Mr. Zouev highlighted United Nations support for peace and sustainable development efforts in 15 countries, citing initiatives in Burkina Faso and the Gambia as catalytic programmes established to increase women’s participation throughout the whole sector.  In Yemen and elsewhere, security reform analysis has helped with confidence-building and peace negotiations, he pointed out.

The United Nations has continued to strengthen its cooperation with the African Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), among other regional entities, he said, adding that its focal points and other mechanisms ensure coherence in such partnerships.  He went on to cite persisting challenges confronting security sector, including lack of capacity in the designated United Nations offices and missions.

Governments and country teams often lack the capacity to maintain reforms carried out under peacekeeping mandates, he continued.  Emphasizing the need for donor funds in that regard, he noted that the Peacebuilding Fund and other financial mechanisms can help to fill the gaps.  He called for more extensive reporting to the Security Council on security reform by peace operations and other mandated entities.

Mr. Chergui noted that the African Union’s Master Road Map of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by the Year 2020 acknowledges that the failure to transform the region’s defence and security forces into professional national institutions, subject to civilian oversight and control, has often led to the eruption of conflict, perpetuating cycles of violence and disrupting stabilization and peacebuilding efforts.

He went on to state that, since the adoption of the African Union Security Sector Reform Policy Framework in 2013, the regional bloc has continued to help its member States address security sector governance and reform.  Reform of national security institutions constitutes a major pillar of the African Union’s Policy on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development.  However, a deficit in security governance constitutes a major cause of most political and armed conflicts in Africa, he said, adding that this explains the inclusion of security sector governance and reform provisions in the texts of most peace agreements and political settlements across the continent.

The African Union helps Member States to develop and strengthen inclusive national policies, strategies and plans, as well as to undertake dialogue aimed at building professional and accountable security institutions.  He also highlighted the important role of women and youth in security governance and sustaining peace.  The African Union is helping Member States address cultural barriers and related stereotypes that perpetuate women’s underrepresentation in national defence and security forces, he said, pointing to its Operational Guidance Note on Gender and Security Sector Reform.

As the United Nations continues to help stabilize Member States faced with political instability, he said, it is critical that such support deploy available funds to address concrete national priorities rather than administrative overheads.  That is a concern that member States have raised to the African Union in various forums, he noted.  While grateful for the efforts of international partners in providing concrete support, for the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force, for instance, the need for predictable and sustainable funding for such security support remains a concern, he emphasized, pointing out that security sector governance and reform activities have not been spared the pandemic’s effects.  The African Union will continue to adapt its interventions to that unprecedented reality in order to meet the expectations of its member States, he said.

Ministers, Deputy Ministers and other representatives then took the floor.

Naledi Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Council President for December, spoke in her national capacity, saying that, through bilateral engagements, her country has provided policy, institutional and structural advice on security sector reform, as well as training of personnel in Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho and South Sudan, among other countries.  As Co-Chair, with Slovakia, of the Group of Friends of Security Sector Reform, South Africa convenes regular engagements to draw experiences, lessons learned and insights in the area of sustaining peace and security sector reform, with a view to strengthening the work of the United Nations in that area, she added.  Most United Nations peace operations and special political missions are increasingly mandated to support security sector reform, in close cooperation with host States, she said, noting that more and more peace agreements contain provisions on security sector governance and reform, as in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Haiti, Mali, South Sudan and Sudan.

However, more remains to be done, she emphasized, pointing out that ineffective security sector reform initiatives result from misalignment between national priorities and the support provided by bilateral and international partners, as well as poor coordination among the partners and by national authorities.  To ensure that security sector reform can support long-term sustainable peace, it must be informed by, and address the needs of, the entire population with the active involvement of women, youth and civil society actors.  Indeed, the full, equal and meaningful participation of women through the development of security sector reform strategies that are gender‑responsive remains a vital component of any peacebuilding effort.  South Africa has undertaken to update resolution 2151 (2014) to make it more relevant, considering the evolving situation, she added.

Sophie Wilmes, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belgium, emphasized the need for a holistic approach to security sector reform, as well as integrated efforts to strengthen respect for human rights and the rule of law, and to achieve sustainable development.  Inclusiveness is critical, she emphasized, pointing out that, too often, only executive officials are consulted whereas all segments of society — including civil society, women and young people — must be engaged in a significant way.  Stressing the need to include regional actors, she noted the cooperation involving Sahel countries, African Union and the European Union in the subregion, where Belgian military, police and other experts are working with such partners to assist security sector reform.  It is critical to include more regional and subregional organizations in a well-coordinated manner, she added.

Rein Tammsaar, Deputy Foreign Minister of Estonia, noting the growing emphasis on a holistic view of security sector reform throughout conflicts cycles, emphasized the importance of a whole-of-system and whole-of-society approach that takes into account local sensitivities and relevant actors on the ground.  He went on to cite progress in Somalia’s security reform process as an example in which both the United Nations and the African Union are involved in a joint programme aimed at increasing civilian oversight of security.  Importantly, that programme also supports the engagement of civil society, with a focus on women and youth‑based organizations, he noted, emphasizing the importance of more leadership by women, as well as a greater emphasis on human rights considerations in all such processes.

Mohamed Ali Nafti, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, noted that the world, particularly Africa and the Arab region, is experiencing tensions and conflicts that have caused severe humanitarian crises for millions of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Noting that security brings people peace of mind so they can focus on reconstruction and development, he emphasized that priority must be given to helping countries in post-conflict situations build capacity to protect civilians and address the causes of fragility.  For peace to be sustained, the process must promote reform of security sector governance and institutions to help countries exercise their law enforcement functions, he said, stressing that processes must be nationally owned, taking specific contexts into account.  The United Nations can help countries adopt security strategies that protect people from violence, he noted, adding that would guarantee the success of post-conflict recovery, especially by promoting the role of women and young people.

Keisal Melissa Peters, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said that the complex security challenges facing the world can only be resolved through strategies that address the causes of insecurity and bolster national ownership of political and peace processes.  Security sector reform has an important normative impact in conflict-affected countries, she noted, emphasizing that it is essential to base all security sector governance and reform on inclusive public consultations.  The latter, she added, must allow the engagement of all segments of society, including civil society organizations, women and youth advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, academia, the private sector, as well as regional and subregional organizations and other partners that help national reform agendas.  She went on to highlight the importance of the African Union Policy Framework on Security Sector Reform and the range of measures spearheaded by the bloc to enhance continental peace and security, including the Silencing the Guns initiative.  She also encouraged closer collaboration between the United Nations and the African Union in providing operational guidance to peace operations mandated to provide assistance in security sector reform to host countries in Africa.

Niels Annen, Minister of State in the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, said the Council must ensure that United Nations peace operations and special political missions are mandated to provide advice and support for national security forces.  Recalling that his country has been committed to helping national authorities combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and silencing the guns in Africa, he said such support is especially key in the context of handing over security tasks from United Nations missions to national authorities.  That is also true in a non-mission context, he said, noting that resident coordinators need expertise to support national security sector reform.  Germany stands ready to provide such expertise bilaterally, he added, declaring:  “A penny spent on prevention saves dollars spent on intervention.”  Underscoring the importance of national ownership and respect for human rights, he went on to state that the participation of women, youth and other marginalized groups is key to inclusive political process.  Successful security sector reform is central to stabilizing society, he said, stressing that the Council must continue to consider the cross-cutting issue.

Mahendra Siregar, Vice‑Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, noted that most United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions are now mandated to support security sector reform, and emphasized that they must be provided with adequate resources and capacities.  Indonesia supports strengthening the Peacebuilding Commission’s role as the main platform to harness comprehensive support for security sector reform, he said, adding that the synergy between the Security Council and the Commission must also be strengthened, particularly during transitions.  Indonesia has its own experience in successfully reforming its security sector, as part of broader political reform and democratization in the early 2000s, he recalled, noting that its peacekeepers are actively involved in implementing the mandate to support security sector reform in host countries.  Beyond peacekeeping, Indonesia has also supported building capacity in security and the rule of law through bilateral mechanisms and South-South and Triangular Cooperation, thus supporting training and capacity-building programmes for police in Palestine, Afghanistan and countries in the South Pacific, he added.

The Dominican Republic’s representative noted the persistence of major challenges in implementing resolution 2151 (2014), saying they should be met by integrating that text into all peacebuilding activities, including those of all United Nations bodies.  The engagement of national authorities and national ownership are also critical, he said, while emphasizing that States must guarantee that security reform is transparent and accessible to all.  Therefore, consultations must include all segments of society, including women and young people, with a significant gender perspective, he said, stressing the general need for a stronger focus on human security, alongside a holistic approach to addressing drivers of conflict.  Since security reform is a bridge between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, more information on the process is needed from peacekeeping units, he said, stressing that a long-term perspective of peacebuilding will allow a transformative commitment to sustainable security sector reform.

The Russian Federation’s representative said that security sector reform is critical to sustaining peace and restoring government authority, as well as to strengthening the rule of law at the national level.  If done correctly, it can also enhance people’s trust in government and foster national reconciliation.  While noting the importance of international assistance in security sector reform, he emphasized that it is crucial to respect principles such as assent of the Government and its ownership of the process, and to heed the host country’s expressed needs and its specificities of culture.  Attempts to provide universal approaches to the security sector are mistaken because reform cannot be seen as a peacebuilding panacea, he added.  Security sector reform, therefore, must be augmented by efforts to strengthen State institutions.  Peacekeeping missions play an important role in assisting security reform, and the Peacebuilding Commission is critical to ensure continued efforts.  Also important is cooperation between States in a region and the engagement of regional and subregional organizations, particularly the African Union.

The representative of France recalled that the Security Council has previously acknowledged the importance of helping States enhance their performance in security sector reform, noting that today’s resolution will allow for specific and tangible steps forward.  He welcomed the actions of entities providing support to peace operations, including the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance.  France advocates for security sector reform that bears in mind the specific needs of each country, relying on the political will of the host State and the coordination of international actors, he said.

The representative of Viet Nam pointed out that countries emerging from years of war and conflict are inevitably challenged by enormous issues in post‑conflict security environments, which may include challenges in the spheres of disarmament, reintegration of former combatants, reconciliation and justice.  Such challenges must be addressed effectively in order to build trust and peace within the country’s population, he emphasized.  Security sector reform can play a critical role in strengthening post-conflict peace, promoting national reconciliation and reconstruction and lowering the risks of relapse into conflict, he said.  Emphasizing Viet Nam’s support for nationally identified and led reforms that respond to the particular needs of a given situation, he said such reforms can have long-term, positive results and must be actively supported by the United Nations and the international community.

The representative of the United States stressed that successful security sector reform must encompass military and border control.  Highlighting the need for transparency and accountability, she warned that corruption and insufficient political will could undermine reform.  The United Nations can play an important role in supporting security sector reform, but national ownership and the participation of local organizations are key, she said, adding that, without national ownership, security sector reform will falter.  Effective reform also requires dedicated financial resources, she said, noting that her country contributed $4 billion over the past 20 years to help Liberia establish justice and accountability as the country recovers from 14 years of conflict.  Washington, D.C., will use its voice to push for strong and responsible security sector reform, she added.

The representative of Niger emphasized that security sector reform remains more important than ever, particularly in the Sahel.  Critical elements include the establishment of a national security policy, strengthened cooperation with neighbouring countries and integration of efforts to fight unemployment among young people, he said.  Niger has prioritized security sector reform to cover defence, police, justice, border management and customs in adapting to increased threats, particularly the expansion of terrorism in the Sahel, he added, citing training and modernizing equipment as large parts of the challenge.  He went to describe cooperation within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as central to Niger’s reform and governance policy.  All reform requires the involvement of independent monitoring stakeholders, such as civil society organizations, he said, emphasizing the need to ensure the engagement of women through an inclusive approach that takes into account new threats such as terrorism, climate change and pandemics.  International assistance is critical for success of the process, but so is national ownership, he stressed.

The United Kingdom’s representative noted his country’s extensive investment in security sector governance and reform, at home and overseas, integrated into both peacebuilding and sustainable development.  Describing United Nations efforts as critical, he cited the Global Focal Point arrangement in particular, saying it has enabled effective joint approaches between the Organization’s peace operations and country teams from Afghanistan to Libya to the Central African Republic.  He went on to commend the efforts of the Peacebuilding Fund — to which the United Kingdom remains a key donor — to approach security sector reform in a manner directly related to sustaining peace in countries affected by conflict.  The United Kingdom, he pledged, will remain a staunch advocate for security sector governance and reform, and to work with the United Nations and other partners to maximize its impact through collective support.

The representative of China noted that post-conflict countries face new risks and challenges such as those related to cybersecurity, adding that the security sectors of such countries should improve their counter-terrorism capabilities.  Emphasizing the importance of taking security sector reform into account as an aspect of post-conflict rebuilding, he said it is necessary to balance the rational use of resources for reconstruction.  Reform is a systematic project requiring the collaboration of various actors, including United Nations peace operations and country teams, all of which should play an active role in assisting the countries concerned, he added, urging the Organization to strengthen cooperation with regional and subregional entities.

Beatrice Wani-Noah, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan, said that creating a conducive environment in which citizens live in peace is a primary responsibility of Governments.  The Security Council resolution of 12 March designates protection of civilians as one of the pillars of UNMISS.  While the Organization has tried its best to deliver on its mandate, it has been found wanting in some areas, she said, while noting South Sudan’s efforts to deter and prevent intercommunal clashes and cattle raiding, as well as maintaining overall stability.  There is urgent need to tailor the mandates of United Nations agencies, and UNMISS in particular, so they can be more responsive.  On other matters, she said economic hardship due to the pandemic, flooding and other factors have contributed to food insecurity, with worrying effects.  Providing incentives for disarming and reintegrating individuals into society is a herculean task that South Sudan should not shoulder alone, she stressed, adding that the United Nations should help by coordinating relevant support in that regard.


* Security Council resolutions are currently adopted through a written procedure vote under temporary, extraordinary and provisional measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as set out in a letter (document S/2020/253) by its President for March (China).

For information media. Not an official record.