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Security Sector Reform Joint Seminar (2008)

The United Nations and Security Sector Reform:
A year on from the Security Council Open Debate

Palais des Nations (Room XII), Geneva
Tuesday, 4 March 2008

“One cannot overemphasize the crucial role of Security Sector Reform for stability and consolidation of peace” said Jan Kubiš, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, in a keynote speech delivered yesterday at a seminar entitled “The United Nations and Security Sector Reform: A year on from the Security Council Debate”. High-level representatives of Governments, the United Nations family, think tanks and academia participated in the event organized by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) to mark the first anniversary of the first ever open debate at the Security Council on the topic of security sector reform (SSR) on 20 February 2007.

Opening the event, the Director-General of UNOG, Mr. Sergei A. Ordzhonikidze, underscored that while the term SSR may still ring new, it was in fact, a heading for activities that the United Nations has been engaged in for decades, as part of its peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities. The Director-General also stressed the need to build on the momentum of the Security Council debate and reinforce SSR activities through greater clarity of concepts and coordination of operations.

Mr. Kubiš noted the importance of bringing the discussion on SSR to Geneva, where a range of actors had a “lot to offer and contribute” in the field. Stressing that SSR could bring concrete improvements in the everyday life of people and that the lack of SSR was one of the root causes of conflicts or their recurrence, the Minister stressed the need to define system-wide United Nations guidelines for SSR support. Most participants concurred that while assistance should always take into account the specific circumstances of each country, the United Nations needed to elaborate general principles and standards to guide its support for national actors in enhancing or re-establishing security. They also agreed that building relationships on the ground and changing mindsets in the aftermath of conflicts required a lasting commitment and adequate resources from the international community.

At the close of the discussion, Ambassador Sipho George Nene of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa concluded that SSR should be holistic, context-specific, nationally-owned and framed within a broader post-conflict development strategy. Following the issuance of the recent Secretary-General’s report on the role of the United Nations in supporting SSR (A/62/659-S/2008/39) and the emergence of a common vision for SSR, the next steps would require the United Nations to adopt a clear action plan to implement this vision.

Other speakers participating in the panel discussion included Ambassador Anton Pinter, Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva; United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Dmitry Titov, Miguel Bermeo-Estrella, Deputy Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery and Dr. Funmi Olonisakin of King’s College in London.

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