Conclusions of the Africa Forum on SSR

The African Union (AU) hosted the Africa Forum on Security Sector Reform (SSR) last week (24 – 26 November) in Addis Ababa, the conclusions of which were (taken from the AU report):

  • National ownership cannot be imposed from outside. It must be home grown, taking into account broader needs of all stakeholders in a particular context, with a view to transforming rather than strengthening already broken security institutions. Participants took particular note of the role of informal/traditional/customary security and justice institutions and stressed the need to better integrate them into reform processes.
  • The importance of political leadership in SSR processes. The need for political leadership was highlighted in all SSR stages including in the conception, resource mobilization, implementation, and coordination of national SSR processes, taking into account the fact that SSR can have far reaching political implications.
  • Limited capacity was identified as a major challenge to building effective and accountable security and justice institutions in conflict and post-conflict contexts. Participants emphasized strengthening linkages between SSR and DDR efforts as well as effectively integrating them into broader development and good governance priorities for reconstruction. They also stressed the need for incorporating gender as part of the process and expected outcomes of reforms.
  • African Union capacities in SSR need to be reinforced to better support the growing requests from its Member States. Participants highlighted the potential for technical SSR support that could be delivered by the African Union in light of the growing number of requests currently being directed to the AU by Member States. This support to Member States can only be delivered if there is adequate SSR capacity at the African Union.
  • Coordination remains a key challenge to implement SSR effectively. While coordination of SSR is a national responsibility, in practice, countries emerging from conflict often lack the capacity to coordinate international assistance. Participants identified some good practices in coordination including joint situation and needs assessment by partners to support countries in formulating their own vision for reforming the security sector.
  • Implementation of SSR must place an equal emphasis on the effectiveness of core security providers as well as their oversight and proper management. SSR involves not only building effective security institutions in a coherent manner, but it also involves laying down the foundations of good governance upon which they must stand. The latter remains a gap area for international support. However, the AU should not lose sight of the need to develop capacity to stop the violence and the atrocities in conflict areas before any SSR plans are put in place.
  • Good security sector governance, oversight and management, including in the area of public financial management, should be key priority areas for international support. There is a need to rebalance processes and programmes from predominant focus on capacity building to equal prioritization of effective, efficient and accountable use of existing and planned resources invested in reform initiatives. Participants agreed that security sector reform could be a significant expenditure burden to countries, which if left unchecked may crowd out other development priorities. Participants noted that reforms should therefore, be supported by robust public financial management laws and policy frameworks in order for them to be accountable and sustainable. Participants also identified innovative approaches and tools for transparent human resource management and procurement.
  • SSR is an important peace-building tool. SSR can enhance security for both the state and its people, bring peace and foster development and economic prosperity for all. Participants further identified important ingredients for success including inclusive structures for piloting reforms with the participation of civil society organizations and women. They further agreed on the need to build on quick wins that could lock-in momentum for long-term reforms.
  • SSR is also a critical stabilization instrument. The ability of SSR to address underlying causes of conflict comes from its commitment to dialogue. Parties to conflict can find power sharing solutions on national security issues through inclusive dialogue that does not necessitate the continuation of violent conflict and tragic pursuit of purely military solutions. In this regard, SSR may be used as a political tool to address violent security challenges, in particular in stabilization contexts.
  • The crucial role of regional and sub-regional organisations in SSR. Participants highlighted the important role that regional and sub-regional organisations can play in SSR processes in view of the cross-border nature of many peace and security challenges. At the same time, they noted the central role of the United Nations in all global peace and security issues, and the responsibilities of AU Member States to provide security for their own states and citizens.
  • Focus on implementation of SSR activities on the ground. It was pointed out that the AU has developed numerous policy frameworks, but a number of these policies are not being effectively implemented. The call was made to focus on the implementation of the AU Policy Framework on SSR as the way forward. (see more at:

These conclusions correlate with previous posts on SSR on this SCID Blog as well as much literature on SSR and its principles (notably work by Sedra, Nathan, Donais etc as well as many policy papers e.g. by UN, OECD, DCAF). Particularly for those SCID students who have recently completed the SSR assignment on the divide between policy and practice, it would be interesting to hear ideas about how to put the principles and prerequisites of successful SSR –  local ownership, good governance, co-ordination, political and financial commitment, and leadership – into practice in novel ways or ways that might generate more success than has been seen to date. Is it time to consider prioritising principles or conceptually distinguishing between SSR endeavours and aims in different contexts? Does SSR endeavour to do too much (contribute to stabilisation, peacebuilding, development) or too little (continuing to focus on training and equipping), or ensure the buy-in of too many (posing co-ordination problems) or too few (engaging only those local actors who share the same ideas)? In the aftermath of conflict, in particular, will human security ever really dwarf concerns about territorial security? Is SSR a way of legitimising increased and expanded external intervention, rather than ostensible local engagement and ownership? Will steps forward be made by those external actors engaged in SSR, only by taking a step back (and genuinely promoting local ownership) or will other cherished principles suffer (what of gender equality, inclusion, affordability e.g.)?


2 thoughts on “Conclusions of the Africa Forum on SSR

  1. tjrobinson79

    This is a truly fascinating dilemma that reminds me of the chicken and the egg scenario in terms of which comes first. On one hand it is clearly essential that any security reform process is locally owned in order to develop trust, transparency, and accountability. However, it is often impossible for this to take place due to weakened or destroyed institutions in the aftermath of conflict. In Afghanistan the leading SSR role was carried out by the United States, this is nonsensical as the US had other interests that conflicted with the principles of SSR. In Kabul they worked towards the implementation of SSR while in the south they employed local warlords to help them fight the Taliban. The US empowered these southern warlords, the very people the Afghan government were trying to bring to heel. This in turn would only serve to undermine the legitimacy of the Afghan government which in turn undermines every principle of SSR. In my opinion it is therefore imperative that any external actor involved in the SSR process must be completely neutral historically, and have no other underlying interest in the country other than long lasting peace and justice for all.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. jfcurtis

    Very interesting post! Indeed SSR is so complex and diverse that it needs multiple but interdependent approaches. The AU did great by identifying those major issues as conclusions! I am glad to notice that my posts on SSR and stabilization emphasized many conclusions made here. Legitimacy is acceptance so I also agree with the neutrality prerequisite for a external actor! Good point!



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