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UNOG-DCAF Sixth Seminar

Sixth joint UNOG-DCAF Seminar

Meeting the security challenges of today while upholding human rights standards
Wednesday 26 November 2008


The sixth in the series of joint events, the seminar follows on previous debates hosted by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) on different aspects of security sector governance. These meetings have served to raise awareness of the complexities and challenges before the international community in this area and have produced practical proposals to inform and guide future efforts. The event, part of the United Nations Office at Geneva’s ongoing efforts to establish partnerships in support of the work of the United Nations, brought together representatives of Governments, the United Nations family, think tanks and academia.

This year’s edition, entitled “Meeting the security challenges of today while upholding human rights standards” explored the relationship between Security Sector Reform and human rights protection, with a particular focus on the respect for human rights as a necessary condition for security; the duty of members of the security forces and justice providers to respect human rights; the human rights of members of the security forces and of justice providers and possible limitations to/ derogations from human rights in order to protect national security.

The theme for this year’s seminar was chosen to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Director-General said that the United Nations’ vision of security sector reform was one of effective, accountable and sustainable security institutions that operate under a framework of the rule of law and respect for human rights. He stressed that security cannot be maintained in isolation of the rights of communities and individuals and that a culture must be established which places human rights at the heart of security policies and mechanisms.

Keynote speakers Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Martin Uhomoibhi, President of the Human Rights Council, both highlighted the links between the maintenance of peace and security and the promotion and protection of human rights. Stressing the crucial role of the security sector reform for stability and the consolidation of peace in fragile societies, Ambassador Uhomoibhi noted that respect for human rights must form a core component of any effective security sector reform. “We should be aiming at a security sector that is a guarantor of security and freedom, and not a threat to the enjoyment of these values”, the Ambassador noted. Ms. Pillay concurred that the complexity of security sector reform issues does not exempt anyone from full adherence to pertinent human rights law and international humanitarian law. “We must ensure that when dealing with security threats, any gaps in enforcement are promptly filled in order to prevent impunity from serious crimes”, the High Commissioner added.

Panellists discussed, based on their specific experiences in the political, judicial, human rights and security fields, practical measures which can be adopted to ensure that fundamental human rights standards are applied in the design and strengthening of effective security sector institutions. Recognizing the responsibility of any state to ensure the safety of its citizens and its legitimate concerns for national security, the panellists cautioned that “at no point in time is the emergency so important that human rights can be ignored.”

Statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Statement by the President of the Human Rights Council


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