On 12 October 2011 the Security Council convened under the Presidency of Nigeria to discuss, with a particular focus on Africa, progress on and challenges associated with SSR. The open debate saw almost 30 speakers take the floor, including Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations and the Permanent Observer for the African Union, Téte António.
The Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement, which emphasized the critical importance of strong security structures to the achievement and maintenance of peace.
Furthermore, it stressed the need for a more systematic and integrated approach to SSR, one incorporating national, regional and international actors with a view to confronting the multifarious challenges and tasks presented by post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding.
With the focus on Africa a dominant theme of the debate was national ownership of Security Sector Reform in both the development and implementation stage. Outlining national ownership and local input as key to successful SSR implementation and hence realization of sustainable peace, Nigeria, stated that past neglect of local experiences had lead “lessons learned” on SSR to become “lessons lost” and called on the international community to work harder to ensure that “African voices” had a role in defining the SSR agenda.
Accordingly, much of the discussion centered on the importance of developing SSR strategies better able to reflect national requirements than donor priorities and following from this, how to ensure that UN and donor commitment to SSR would be integrated and long-term. Here a majority of speakers highlighted the need to better utilize the knowledge and experience of local police, civil society and non-profit organizations as a way of facilitating more holistic and sustainable strategies for SSR.
A consistent theme was gender and the key role that women play in ensuring sustainable peacebuilding policy and results. Specifically, many statements outlined integration of gender perspective into SSR strategy, implementation and development, as a priority moving forward. Particularly strong on this issue was the United States, who was critical of the current SSR agenda, deeming it too narrow to recognize the inextricable link between gender equality, and the “construction of a legitimate and credible security apparatus”. Also of note were statements made by South Africa, Lebanon and the United Kingdom, who characterized women as agents of change, called for gender sensitive reforms, and called for women and girls to be at the forefront of development strategies, respectively.
“security sector reform cannot succeed without taking into account the gender perspective"
With almost half of all statements referencing gender, the open debate provided a noteworthy discourse on women's participation in SSR. Emphasizing the key role women can and must play in developing and maintaining strong and relevant justice systems. A large majority of references were linked to calls for better incorporation of gender perspective into SSR initiatives, and further integration of women into local police and international peacekeeping forces.
Of significant concern was the development of SSR strategies and programs able to adapt to and serve the particular needs and vulnerabilities of women in countries. Here, Slovenia called for gender sensitive strategies fostered through collaboration with gender experts and Lebanon highlighted the importance of “supporting gender-sensitive police, army and justice reform and training”.
The engagement of women as both peacekeepers and peacebuilders was also a dominant focus of the debate. Many statements, notably the US, Gabon, Finland, Morocco and Slovenia, referenced the positive outcomes of such active and visible participation, both in terms of the establishment of secure and relevant security institutions, and the positive reinforcement achieved on women's ability to participate, as outlined below by Morocco.
“By deploying female military and police officials, peacekeeping missions can indirectly encourage host countries to include women in their security institutions. The deployment of female formed police units to peacekeeping missions in Africa has played an important role in guaranteeing women greater access to decision-making in security bodies”.
Regarding implementation, a number of countries noted particular strategies and tools being developed/ implemented to achieve gender mainstreaming and participation for women in SSR. Specifically, Finland recalled the action plan of the Secretary-General on women's participation in peacebuilding and encouraged “all actors” to take advantage of the “gender and security toolkit”, providing practical instruction.
Furthermore, South Africa commented on the SSR policy framework document being developed by the African Union, which foresees the prioritization of human over military security and issues surrounding gender-based violence. In addition, Gabon praised the efforts of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau on its work to integrate women into “local police and military institutions” and moreover for the human rights and gender-based training it provides to military staff.
Finally, several countries outlined the need to promote a collaborative approach to SSR, one ensuring greater involvement of local and in particular women's organizations, and in turn the realization of a more “inclusive”, “democratic” and effective implementation of SSR.