“Our work is not done,” said Aleksander Zouev, Assistant-Secretary-General in the Department of Peace Operations told the UN Security Council.
Providing members with a progress report, he cited gains made on implementing the UN Secretary-General’s bold vision for security sector reform outlined in his inaugural report on the issue, published in 2022.
New plan and surge capacity
In line with Action for Peace Plus and Our Common Agenda, Mr. Zouev said successes include establishing the first system-wide action plan to implement the UN chief’s recommendations and further strengthening strategic partnerships.
The inter-agency Security Sector Reform Task Force also established a standing capacity operation in Brindisi, Italy, known by its acronym (SSuRGe).
“In a very short time, this nimble team has become indispensable for flexible, timely, high-quality support to peace operations, country teams, and national institutions, particularly in contexts of crisis and mission downsizing,” he said.
In DR Congo, for example, SSuRGe experts helped the UN mission (MONUSCO) to mobilize resources and capacities for the transition and facilitated consultations with the World Bank on the need for a public expenditure review of the security sector.
Achievements are certainly worth celebrating, he said, but challenges persist in implementing the Council’s far-reaching resolution 2553, which was adopted in 2021 and requests the Secretary-General to submit a security sector reform report once every decade.
Major obstacles include situations where inclusive national ownership and leadership of security sector reform is lacking.
“Without highest-level buy-in, the UN is lacking the very foundation for its support and for sustainable peace more broadly,” he said.
Women shut out
Other concerns include barriers to women’s participation, a reluctance to integrate reform efforts into early stages of mediation and peace processes, and financing such efforts.
“Too often, critical progress in reforms cannot be financially sustained after the drawdown of peace operations, risking conflict relapse,” he said.
“Addressing these challenges requires strong UN leadership and predictable mandates by the Security Council for our peace operations to assist security institutions in building democratically governed, accountable, inclusive, and people-centred services,” he said.
More strategic interventions needed
This will require, among other things, more strategic and impactful interventions and prioritizing reform provisions in peace processes.
The Security Council could more systematically integrate key tenets of resolution 2553 in its instructions: national ownership, the primacy of political solutions, and the need for governance-focused and gender-sensitive approaches at all stages of security sector reform, he said.
He also reiterated UN chief António Guterres’s suggestion to develop the first-ever global report on women in defence.
In addition, a fixed cycle of the Secretary-General’s thematic reports, for instance every five years, would strengthen the Council’s consideration of the topic and collective support to national efforts, he said.
“Each aspect of strengthening UN engagement on security sector reform will continue to rely on all of us working together,” he said.