Security sector reform

Security sector reform

Security Sector Reform (SSR) is a concept to reform or rebuild a state's security sector that emerged first in the 1990s in Eastern Europe. It starts where a dysfunctional security sector is unable to provide security to the state and its people effectively and under democratic principles. Even worse, the security sector can be a source of widespread insecurity by itself. In this respect, an unreformed or misconstructed security sector represents a decisive obstacle to the promotion of sustainable development, democracy and peace. SSR is an operational as well as a normative concept. SSR can be seen as a branch of an increasing international efforts to secure one's human security. []

Country Contexts

For a better understanding of the concept, it is important to distinguish between three very different reform environments. SSR is not limited to one specific political situation, but can occur in different country contexts: Post-conflict, in transitional and in developed countries. The most obvious though is SSR in post-conflict settings:

Post-Conflict Situations

Post-Conflict environments are characterized by mostly destroyed or dismissed political institutions and widespread insecurity. Security Sector Reform in such a situation can be understood as Security Sector Reconstruction, since the state's monopoly on the use of force and effective and efficient structures need to be rebuilt.

Transitional Countries

Transitional countries are at a borderline from one political system to another, but no violent longterm conflict has occurred yet. SSR in this environment has to improve the state's performance in the security sector, to rebuild or to reorganize security institutions and sometimes to dissolve non-statutory forces like paramilitary police units. The main aim of SSR in transitional countries is to introduce the principles of democratic governance to the security sector.

Developed Countries

In developed countries, SSR has mainly the objective of optimizing the security sector, mostly to make it more effective and efficient in the sense of its orientation towards the citizens.


SSR is essentially aimed at the efficient and effective provision of state and human security within a framework of democratic governance. In a narrow perspective, the security sector of a country can be seen as the state's security and justice apparatus and the relevant civilian bodies responsible for its management. The concept of SSR is holistic in its approach to the security sector. It states that all the relevant actors and instruments should be included into the process from a dysfunctional security sector to a reformed one. This includes not only the state's forces, but also non-state actors, armed groups as well as the civil society. In this respect, the different country contexts have different implications on the application of SSR. In post-conflict situations, SSR can merely be seen as Security Sector Reconstruction. In transitional and developed countries, the reform aspect is generally more important. SSR is not only integrating relevant security branches, but also linking measures aimed at increasing efficiency and effectiveness of security forces to overriding concerns of democratic governance. Efforts to modernize security forces, e.g. by buying new weapons or reorganize hierarchical structures, would not be considered SSR without ensuring the sector's democratic accountability. SSR-related activities must always be aimed at improving the governance of the security sector.


Basic instruments of SSR are:
*Defence reform
*Police reform
*Intelligence reform
*Judicial reform
*Prison reform
*Measures aimed at strengthening civilian management and democratic accountability of the security apparatus.

It is imperative to link each area of engagement because efforts will not succeed unless complementary work is carried out in other areas.

Post-Conflict SSR

In post-conflict peacebuilding, SSR is confronted with a unique set of challenges which are distinguished from the other contexts. Typical additional SSR instruments in post-conflict situations are:
*Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) of former combatants, including child and female soldiers
*Combating Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)
*Transitional Justice
*Strengthening the rule of law
*Fighting trafficking in human beings, weapons and drugs
*Good practices for the security sector

To apply this instruments in a stand-alone manner would not suit the requirements of SSR. Rather, they should be integrated into an overall security sector reform concept. For example, combating SALW is useless until the rule of law is not reestablished. Only by integrating all instruments and combine them with democratic oversight can SSR influence the security situation substantially and sustainably and prevent the region from a flare up of the armed conflict.


Although SSR is still an evolving and contested concept, and lessons learned from practical experience are still scarce, it has emerged as a key concept which is increasingly accepted. SSR is a precondition for good governance, security, human rights, and the achievement of long-lasting peace.


* [ Hänggi, H. and Bryden, A. (2005): Security Governance in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, ISBN 3-8258-9019-8]

See also

* Security
* International security
* National security
* Human security

Further reading


*Schnabel, A. and Ehrhardt, H. (2006): Security Sector Reform and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding. ISBN 92-808-1109-6
*Hänggi, H. and Bryden, A. (2004) [ Reform and Reconstruction of the Security Sector. ISBN 3-8258-7770-1]

Links to Articles

* [ A Beginner’s Guide to Security Sector Reform]
* [ A monthly newsletter on Security Sector Reform]
* [ Report on the Security Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean]
* [ Securing the Future: A Primer on Security Sector Reform in Conflict Countries]
* [ Understanding and supporting security sector reform (DFID)]
* [ Security-sector reform: development breakthrough or institutional engineering? by C Smith. "Conflict Security Development, vol. 1, issue 1, pp.5-19."]
* [ Africa and the Challenges of Security Sector Reform by Rocklyn Williams]
* [ Donor Perspective on Security Sector Reform as a Governance Issue by R Evans]

Links to Organisations

* [ Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform (GFN-SSR)]
* [,2340,en_2649_34567_33800289_1_1_1_1,00.html Security Sector Reform and Governance - DAC Guidelines, OECD (the only guidelines from an international organization available at this time)]
* [ Centre for Security Sector Management (CSSM)]
* [ SSR Working Group, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF)]
* [ Justice and Security Sector Reform (UNDP)]

Links to UN-Peacekeeping Missions Conducting SSR
* [ UNOMSIL United Nations Observer Mission to Sierra Leone]
* [ UNMIK United Nations Mission to Kosovo]
* [ MINUSTAH United Nations Stabilization Mission to Haiti]

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