Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Debate on Security Sector Reform in Africa

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
October 12, 2011


Thank you, Mr. President. Let me start by thanking the Government of Nigeria for its leadership in bringing us together today to discuss security sector reform in Africa. And let me also thank you personally, Mr. Minister, for chairing our debate.

This Council discussion on security sector reform, or “SSR,” is long overdue. A state’s ability to police its territory, protect its citizens, and uphold its laws is central to its ability to exercise its sovereignty and promote regional peace and stability. But in all too many instances, local security forces lack the capacity to do so—or, worse, they threaten the very citizens they are meant to serve. All too often, we have had to rely on international peacekeepers to fill temporarily a gap that a nation’s people would have preferred to address permanently on their own. From Liberia to Haiti to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the drawdown of international peacekeepers is now linked to the build-up of indigenous security institutions.

At least 11 UN peacekeeping operations, peacebuilding offices, and special political missions are now mandated to conduct SSR activities, and 10 of them are in Africa. The UN and many other actors are making important contributions to SSR in these countries—very much including the United States. Over the last several years, for instance, my government has invested more than $300 million to support defense and police reform in South Sudan, more than $280 million on defense, police, and justice-sector reform in Liberia, and some $110 million on defense and police reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United States also funds SSR programs in several other African countries also emerging from conflict.

Today’s Security Council debate on SSR and the Presidential Statement we will adopt should spur action, we hope, on four fronts.

First, we should take a more long-term, comprehensive approach to SSR. As the Secretary-General pointed out in his 2008 report on the subject, the security sector is not only uniformed personnel; it involves the entire defense establishment, civilian law enforcement and corrections personnel, intelligence services, institutions dealing with border management, customs agencies, organizations that handle civil emergencies, and elements of the criminal justice sector. As the Secretary-General also pointed out, reform of the security sector is not just about providing basic training and equipment for a battalion or formed police unit. It is about establishing a legal and constitutional framework for the legitimate, accountable use of force by security personnel, in accordance with universally accepted human rights norms and standards. True security sector reform does not mean merely recruiting more security personnel. It means thinking through their overall numbers, determining what is fiscally sustainable, and creating mechanisms for their direction and oversight.

Second, Mr. President, our approach to SSR has been too narrow. We must broaden it to take into account what host populations time and again demand: the clear recognition that human rights, good governance, and gender equality are inextricably linked with Security Sector Reform. Integrating a gender perspective in the daily work of armed forces, defense ministries, and peacemakers makes these institutions more inclusive and democratic, and improves the overall effectiveness of security sector reform. A defense or law enforcement agency that shuns corruption, advances equality, and protects the rights of all—rather than trampling them—is far more likely to command the support and confidence of its citizens. The Secretary-General rightly highlighted these issues in his last report on SSR, and we hope that his next one will suggest concrete benchmarks for measuring progress.

Third, the United Nations needs to strengthen its expertise and enhance the coordination among all actors that play a role in SSR, especially human rights defenders, development agencies, international financial institutions such as the World Bank, and regional and sub-regional organizations. The United States appreciates the work now being undertaken by the DPKO’s Operations’ SSR Unit and the Inter-Agency SSR Task Force, as well as other UN entities such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. We look forward to having them do even more to spread lessons learned and best practices on SSR, inside the UN system and beyond.

Fourth, we must all do more to help build up expertise outside the UN system, particularly by regional and sub-regional organizations working to address the challenges around them. For example, ECOWAS has helped make important SSR gains throughout West Africa. Regional bodies are increasingly important players when it comes to SSR in Africa, and we support their efforts. We will also need to work at both the national and regional levels to address a range of 21st-century challenges on the waters off Africa, including piracy, armed robbery at sea, trafficking in persons, illegal or unregulated fishing, and environmental degradation. As such, maritime security sector reform will increasingly become critical to overall SSR.

Mr. President, the United States looks forward to working with our fellow Council members to sustain and increase our focus on SSR, within this chamber and beyond. Especially in Africa, and in other lands that have known too much suffering, we seek an international approach to SSR that heeds the voices of citizens calling out for a better future—and bolsters the capacities of host governments and regional organizations to help make those hopes real.

Thank you, Mr. President.


PRN: 2011/200