African Perspectives on Security Sector Reform, High-level Forum Report, New York, 14 May 2010

On 14 May 2010, the Permanent Missions of Nigeria and South Africa to the United Nations, with facilitation support from the United Nations SSR Unit, Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, and with generous financial contribution from the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the United Nations, co-hosted the High-level Forum on African Perspectives on SSR. The event brought together approximately 80 high-level participants from 55 Permanent Missions and 11 United Nations entities.

The High-Level Forum highlighted emerging trends and developments in the field of SSR, including its place within broader institutional reform, the role of intra-African SSR support, outsourcing and the role of private commercial security actors in supporting SSR and the significance of the African Union’s SSR Policy as an integral part the African Peace and Security Framework (APSA). 

The co-chairs’ statement, which is included herein, underscored that these developments are “significant for the success and sustainability of such reform processes moving forward but which, so far, have not featured adequately in the SSR policy agenda”. 

The High-Level Forum and co-chairs statement were informed by findings from the Experts-level Seminar on African Perspectives on SSR, which was held the previous day on 13 May. This event brought together representatives from 15 African Permanent Missions, the African Union SSR advisor and high-ranking officials from the Burundian National Defense Forces and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Bujumbura. The discussions, focused on three main themes: 1) national ownership; 2) coordination of SSR assistance; and 3) the regional dimensions of SSR. The discussions highlighted the following issues: 

On national ownership of SSR:  

  • “National ownership” is a contested concept that requires careful unpacking.
  • It consists above all of the ability of national actors to exercise political leadership of the process, including through the commitment of national resources to the process.

 On coordination of SSR assistance:  

  • Coordination and national ownership are intimately linked. Coordination should be the primary responsibility of the national authorities and is in itself a manifestation of ownership.
  • National authorities and donors often have different priorities. This underscores the need for national authorities to commit their own resources in order to make decisions independently. 

On the regional dimensions of SSR: 

  • There is a need to use regional mechanisms to encourage and support countries to undertake sustainable SSR. The African Peer Review Mechanism may be useful in this regard because it is African-led and provides considerable scope through which to consider SSR.
  • It is critical to recognize the challenges and limitations to regional approaches given that many neighbouring countries are in conflict or have a history of conflict, which underscores the importance of engagement at the international level. To provide the required support, the United Nations needs to speak with a coherent voice.