Strengthening Security Sector Reform

In countries moving out of conflict, (re-)creating effective and accountable security and justice institutions is essential to anchor peace and accelerate development but only if these institutions can serve their populations within a constitutional order based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. In such contexts, security sector reform (SSR) is the process of developing the capabilities, organizational cultures and institutional frameworks that govern the security and justice sector so that organizations with the power to coerce provide security – instead of insecurity – in a legitimate manner. The central insight of SSR is that security organizations must function as public service institutions in an accountable and efficient manner, if they are to support broader developmental progress. SSR contributes to this endeavour by gradually increasing the extent to which formal, hybrid and informal security forces act as professional providers of public services, based on international standards of human rights, gender equality and accountability. 

SSR is a critical area of support for United Nations peace operations. An important success factor in creating a conducive environment for sustained peace and the promise of development depends on whether United Nations peace operations are effective in fulfilling their Security Council mandate. In concrete terms, this entails supporting national authorities in making security institutions more people-centred, more effective and more accountable. 

From Policy to Practice - Key Findings



  • Creation of IASSRTF and SSRU to develop and support a United Nations-wide SSR agenda
  • Creation of SSR units within United Nations missions
  • Drafting and roll-out of Integrated Technical Guidance Notes on SSR
  • Inclusion of SSR in mission mandates and pushing towards more systematic reporting on SSR
  • Referencing of SSR in 6 of the 10 resolutions passed under the WPSA
  • Development of a partnership with the World Bank on financial aspects of SSR
  • Lingering lack of awareness around SSR issues by mission leadership
  • Lack of coordination on SSR issues between different mission units
  • An overly militarized focus on SSR, including an over-representation of uniformed staff among mission SSR personnel
  • Inadequate consideration of the financial resources required for SSR
  • Lack of political economy analysis of the national security sector and possibilities for reform
  • Weak lesson learning processes from past SSR engagements across missions

Strategic Recommendations to Enhance UN SSR Work

DCAF-ISSAT was part of the team, which independently reviewed UN support to SSR in peace operations (2014-2020). The report offers five strategic recommendations to improve United Nations field missions’ support to SSR processes. These are based on an extensive desk review of internal and publicly available documents describing United Nations’ support to SSR through UN Headquarters, as well as mission contexts. It is also based on 131 interviews with senior leadership and key stakeholders across most peace operations currently implementing an SSR mandate, several United Nations entities at UN Headquarter level, critical multilateral and bilateral partners, in addition to host country representatives.

1. Increase UN Security Council dialogue with host countries 

2. Support senior mission leaders on SSR 

3. Improve Strategic Oversight of SSR 

4. Produce Practical SSR guidance for UN Missions

5. Resource SSR work better