Security Sector Reform in the Pacific Island States

UN mandate in Fiji 02.01.2016. - 01.12.2016.

UNDP has embarked on a project to promote enhanced Security Sector Governance (SSG) in selected Pacific Island Countries (PICs), with the aim of ultimately improving human security in the region and providing a fundamental basis for economic, social and political development. This is carried out by raising awareness on improved security sector governance concepts though constructive engagement with Governments, Parliaments, civil society and the media as well as by providing financial and technical assistance and training to help countries achieve transformation of their security sector towards more effective, accountable and inclusive institutions able to provide security to all its peoples through professionalism with improved capacities. The political landscape in many of the PICs is changing, bringing new opportunities and increased enthusiasm to embrace more holistic and inclusive security policies and SSR, that are sector-wide in nature and founded on human rights principles. This is clearly evidenced in the Pacific leaders August 2014 approval of the Guiding Principles to Enhance Security Sector Governance.  The PSSG project has a strong emphasis on accountability, transparency and the inclusion in decision making for women, with gender equality being a significant objective, and youth as well as a focus on the most vulnerable in the region.


Within this PSSG, UNDP Pacific Office has been providing low-key assistance to the Fijian government in its development of its National Security Strategy (NSS).   Building on 2015 government broad based consultations on the Fiji National Security Strategy 2016 and Beyond (NSS 2016) that were undertaken by the government with civil society and communities (representing women, youth and excluded groups); the UNDP co-organized an expert consultation on the NSS 2016 with senior participation from the Ministry of Defence, National Security and Immigration and Fiji Police Force, other Fiji government departments (such as Fiji Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture), and the University of the South Pacific (USP). 

The consultation was undertaken in Suva with 32 participants (10 women and 22 men). UN experts from UNDP, UNHCR and UNODC joined the consultations based on the request for expertise on rule of law, access to justice, human rights, asylum, refugees and migration, transnational crime and climate change. USP added expertise on regional and local political context, migration and women and regional security; and civil society representation at the consultation provided inputs on gender issues.  These expert consultations highlighted:

  • critical issues for immigration policies based on international frameworks and positive contributions of migrants (Nansen Initiative);
  • the need to further enhance the provisions for the rule of law, separation of powers, freedom of expression, civil society input and oversight into the national security framework and its implementation;
  • issues of transnational crime impacting locally and the importance of rural-urban drift/internal migration (more research to be done);
  • the suggestion to consider the contribution the NSS 2016 can make to Fiji’s potential progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 16; and
  • to clarify the linkages and interaction of the NSS 2016 to other Fiji Government strategies and plans including issues related to gender.   

Following the workshop, the draft NSS 2016 was further reviewed and is now under further consideration by the Fiji Government. ISSAT has provided some distance support to the UNDP Pacific Office in this regard, with the development of a ‘food for thought’ paper on good practice elements and examples of NSS/NSPs that incorporate a more holistic understanding of security.

The UNDP office had also embarked on a process to support the development of a number of White Papers, which were put on hold once the NSS development process started in order to ensure that they were aligned with the higher-level policy. Given the recent changes in ministerial leadership, it is uncertain whether the NSS will be adopted without further change. The Ministry of National Security and Defence is therefore moving forward with its own corporate planning, and the police have relaunched their process to develop a Police White Paper. This comes at a time where the Police Act is expected to be reviewed in 2017.

In May 2016 UNDP, in partnership with PIFS, New Zealand Massey University and Australian National University held a regional workshop on the governance of private security companies across the Pacific.  The workshop involved 22 (6 women and 16 men) participants from Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand; and included the participation of project partner OHCHR and with technical inputs from the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces.  The workshop made a set of key recommendations which included:

  • the need to map the private security sector in the Pacific through the collection of data on critical issues, including revenue, labour demographics, regulation and legislative frameworks;
  • on the basis of evidence the need to identify and document common issues, challenges and themes within private security industries and the national/regional contexts in Forum Island Countries; and
  • the need for further regional activities to progress identified priority areas that include gender and the private security sector, regulatory governance of the private security sector, and the extractives industry and the private security sector. 

These recommendations were endorsed by the PIFS Forum Regional Security Committee on 8 June 2016 who also noted the growing need for capacity building for the development of legal and regulatory frameworks in the private security sector.  

ISSAT has been requested to extend its support to cover the following:

  1. Support to UNDP to facilitate a 2-day workshop for Government officials and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) staff working on SSG. The workshop will focus primarily on regional Private Security, including discussions on oversight/regulatory governance as well as gender implications, but will also include an assessment and analysis of the latest security trends and issues;
  2. Support to UNDP regarding their advice to the Ministry of Defence, National Security and Immigration, police and corrections officials working on the NSS and respective White Papers. Particular focus areas for ISSAT include public consultations for strategy development, the role of civil society in supporting implementation, good practice regarding taking a human-rights based approach, and promoting gender equality; a separate, albeit linked, focus area relates to Fiji's role as a significant UN Peacekeeping / Peace Operations troop and police contributing country;
  3. Capacity building support to UNDP to think through their future SSR / SSG support in the region.