What is Security Sector Reform?

Security Sector Reform (SSR) refers to the process of transforming the ‘security sector’ – those institutions that safeguard a country and its citizens from security threats – to ensure the provision of effective security to both the state and its people within a framework of accountability and democratic governance. A fairly recent concept, SSR emerged in the 1990s as the Cold War ended and security challenges become more complex.

The objective of SSR is to create a secure environment that facilitates development, poverty reduction, good governance and the consolidation of democracy based on the rule of law. Typically undertaken by a government with the support of international partners and civil society actors, SSR involves a systematic review of the policies, programmes and activities of a country’s security sector. It addresses both the core state providers of security (such as the military, police, intelligence community, border guard, judiciary and penal system) and non-state providers (like private security and military companies and non-state armed groups).

This holistic approach requires the participation of a broad spectrum of actors including the following:

1. Professional Security Providers: The Armed forces, police forces, paramilitary forces, national guards, presidential guards, intelligence services, coast and border guards, customs services, local security units (such as civil defence forces and vigilante groups).

2. Management and Oversight Bodies: The executive, national security advisory bodies, legislative and house select committees, ministries of defence, internal affairs and foreign affairs, financial management bodies (finance ministries, budget officers, financial audit and planning units), civil society organisations, and public complaints commissions involved in security-related matters.

3. Justice and Rule of Law Actors: The judiciary, justice ministries, prisons, criminal investigation and prosecution services, human rights commissions and ombudsmen, and customary and traditional justice systems.

4. Non-Statutory Security Forces: Liberation armies, guerrilla armies, private security companies, and political party militias.

All of the above actors are interlinked, and any SSR effort that attempts to address a single security area without involving the others is likely to have a limited if not negative impact.


Download Link: DCAF/ISSAT Basic Training Manual on Security Sector Reform (pdf)