This background paper outlines issues that emerged from research commissioned by the Australian Civil-Military Centre (ACMC) in early 2013 to map international perspectives and trends in security sector reform (SSR).
The concept of SSR has evolved over the last two decades to describe a range of efforts to improve the security of a state and its citizens through an effective, affordable, accountable and transparent security sector. In all cases, but particularly for conflict-affected states, SSR is about governance of the security sector. Many Australian government departments and agencies, civil society and other organisations have contributed to SSR throughout the post-Cold War period.
One trend observed in war-to-peace transitions after the Cold War is that the more expansive peace processes that follow complex civil wars still centre on first gaining agreement about future security arrangements. Some of the most common provisions in peace agreements include restructuring the security apparatus, demobilisation, and re-establishing civilian oversight over state security institutions. These ambitious goals mean timing, sequencing and political legitimacy are critical to achieve meaningful reform within and between those institutions. Transitional political arrangements after conflict—in place until the first post-conflict elections—were shorter (under two years) in many cases in the 1990s, and in recent coup cases. However, transitional arrangements have been in place much longer in several recent civil war cases (four to seven years). This has resulted in significant post-conflict strengthening and restructuring of armies and police forces before elected legitimate leaders and parliaments are in place, often embedding the composition of security institutions that were legacies of the conflict. Research points to a more sustainable peace if former enemies are incorporated into, and share power in, state security institutions.
SSR has emerged as one element of a broader set of priorities for countries navigating their return from violent conflict. The research mapped improvements to international responses before and since the landmark Brahimi Report in 2000.
This paper examines the articulation of the SSR concept in the development, peace and security communities. At the time of writing, there were five peacekeeping and five political missions with explicit SSR mandates from the UN Security Council, with the growth of political missions (Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burundi and Nepal) a recent phenomenon. The paper discusses what SSR has come to encompass, including principles that underpin international support. Sovereignty is a fundamental principle for national actors receiving support in this area, and evaluations stress the need to be adaptable and to tailor each program. The politics of funding SSR is also examined, and found to manifestly affect how international actors support SSR. The paper concludes with a summary of the SSR community and its civilian capacity.