Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Security Sector Reform

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
March 16, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. I also wish to thank Assistant-Secretary-General Zouev, Commissioner Bankole, and Ambassador Joyini for today’s presentations.

The United States government is deeply committed to security sector reform as a tool for promoting international peace and security. The Secretary-General’s report lays out several challenges and recommendations to improve SSR globally.

A few key themes emerged that I’d like to highlight and amplify: The first is the importance of inclusive national ownership to the long-term success and sustainability of security sector reform and good security sector governance.

The United States fully supports the Secretary-General’s focus on ensuring the meaningful participation and representation of local communities, women, youth, and civil society in the development of national security strategies and plans. We recognize that local security mechanisms and practices can provide viable entry points for building trust with local populations and encouraging cooperation with state security institutions.

Locally-driven civil-military consultative mechanisms such as those cited in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia after peacekeeping transitions can also play a critical role in sustaining and strengthening SSR efforts in transition contexts.

We endorse the need to place human rights and gender-responsive approaches at the center of SSR engagement. As the Secretary-General said, “Demonstrable human rights compliance is a key indicator of the professionalism of security forces and the exercise of responsible command. Without it, security sectors will not gain the trust of populations.”

The second key theme is the need to address the governance of the security sector and required SSR during early phases of UN engagement as well as the real risks that come with rushing, or deferring, long-term agreements on SSR and governance. As the Secretary-General’s report points out, leaving security-related disputes unresolved and putting in place temporary arrangements doomed to fail only undermines, and delays, long-term SSR efforts.

Similarly, deferring these tasks to newly established mechanisms or technical bodies also appears to reduce the timely development of durable security arrangements. Experience shows us these processes take longer, and are less successful, than processes that outline longer-term national security architecture arrangements up front.

The third key theme is the importance of developing strategic partnerships, integrated and joint planning processes, joint assessments, and more transparent cooperation and coordination amongst partners working in the SSR and governance space.

We support the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report for the UN to conduct SSR assessments in cooperation with national and international partners to inform planning, monitoring, and evaluation of SSR efforts. The examples of joint planning that are highlighted in the report provide useful examples of where such strategic partnerships have provided a solid foundation for long-term, sustainable SSR and governance efforts. We commend this collaboration and fully support the Secretary General’s recommendation to further strengthen it.

We also take note of the many opportunities for capacity-building highlighted throughout the report. It is clear that there is much work to be done to continue learning from our experiences in SSR and to strengthen the practice of SSR as a tool for international peace and security.

Thank you, Mr. President.