National SSR Process Guidance

General description

In the context of security and justice reform, vision and policy cascade down from the national level, to the national security system level, and to the national security institution level, and also could bubble up the other way. What is essential is that security and justice vision and strategy align with those above and below it. In this way the vision and strategy for the national security system will reinforce the overall development of the country, and the national security institutions will act together as a coherent whole to ensure maximum human security for the country's residents. 

The practice of formulating a national security vision, policy and strategy is still very much in its infancy, with few countries having reached this level of detail in their ability to look at state-level governance and structures. As a result, common definitions of the meaning, hierarchy and processes involved are still in flux.

National Security Strategy or National Security Reform Strategy?

A National Security Strategy or Policy (NSS or NSP) is a key framework for a country to meet the basic needs and security concerns of citizens, and to address external and internal threats to the country. In addition to focusing on the effectiveness of security providers, many of the more recent, forward-looking NSS or NSPs pay particular attention to the relevance of security services, public legitimacy, local ownership and sustainability, in addition to implementation measures and improving the efficiency of security services provision. More specifically, these issues include the below elements. To learn more about potential entry-points for including those in a National Security Strategies, visit ISSAT's Thematics in Practice page.

On the other hand, the objective of a National Security Reform Strategy is to define how the sector or organisation under reform will operate in the future. It assesses the relevance of the current situation to the future, identifies gaps, and plans for closing them. It tends to take a systemic approach, allowing areas such as information systems, organisational design, logistics, to be included in evaluating the opportunities within the sector. The typical five key elements a reform expert should look at whilst reforming institutional architecture are:

  • Core processes
  • Human resources
  • Equipment and facilities
  • Information systems and Technology
  • Culture


In this guidance, the term policy is used to describe the overarching goals, purposes and values related to national security. The term strategy is used to describe a document that aims to conciliate between aspirations and means. The term vision is used as part of a policy document. The term plan is used to reflect the specific changes needed to achieve the goals set in the national policy and/or strategy.

Each country will have its own preferences while selecting and adapting terminology to its needs. In reality, when building a security and justice vision and strategy, most countries would think about a security policy document and a security and justice reform plan. What is important is that each of these key documents is the product of a truly comprehensive and inclusive dialogue process resulting in a widely and genuinely shared view.