Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Rethinking Security Institutions in a Post-Conflict Phase

Security Sector Reform has been one of the most critical elements included in post-conflict reconstruction. The main goal of SSR is to make people feel safer, and this is essentially relevant in post-conflict contexts where the trust between the State and the citizens needs to be rebuilt. Furthermore, the objective is to support transition from war-torn societies to more peaceful environments to meet people´s needs. Security is one of the major concerns among population, especially in the aftermath of the conflict. After the signature of the peace agreements, it is important to reconfigure the institutions of security, defense and justice sectors, in order to improve and redefine the main roles for police and military forces as well as security and justice institutions in a post-conflict stage.

The United Nations defined SSR as a “process of assessment, review and implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation led by national authorities that has as its goal the enhancement of effective and accountable security for the State and its peoples without discrimination and with full respect for human rights and the rule of law” (United Nations, 2008). Following this concept, Ban Ki-moon has stated, “it is a core element of multidimensional peacekeeping and peacebuilding, essential for addressing the roots of conflict and building the foundations of long-term peace and development” (United Nations, 2008).

The key concept of SSR process is that allows the governments to redefine and adjust mission and capabilities of military forces, police forces and in general, security and justice institutions as justice system, defense, intelligence, prisons, customs, and border control, among others, to the new context of post-conflict societies. At the same time, it encourages the transparency and accountability to oversee these structures in a democratic governance, rule of law and human rights context. Moreover, Security Sector Reform seeks to strength the security and justice institutions so they can be more effective and efficient in the provision of services according to citizen´s needs.

Local ownership and commitment from institutions as well as community participation in these processes are required to achieve the goal. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to reach a consensus about the vision of the security sector within the forces and institutions. However, it is the first step to achieve a smooth transition to a long-lasting peace.

The success or failure of the peace processes is deeply related to the implementation of public policies such as DDR and SSR. These are core issues for the transition from protracted and rooted conflicts to more peaceful societies. In addition, these processes remain as important predictors to achieve a sustainable peace. The United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have been advocating for more coordinated strategies in order to achieve a better impact during the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreements. After the signature of a peace accord, there are usually high expectations not only from the parties in the conflict but also, from civil society, which is eager to enjoy the peace dividends. In fact, some researchers have shown that the first 18 months after the signature of the peace agreement are the most important and unstable, because, if the parties fail to meet their commitments, it is foreseeable that war and conflict will be back again.

There are many challenges in post-conflict reconstruction related to the coordination between SSR and DDR policies as well as the peace dividends perceived by local communities. At the end, it is fundamental to address the root causes of the conflict. Otherwise, the conflict will continue, the former combatants will join different illegal organizations and citizens will continue to experience crime and conflict in their communities.

Some international experiences have shown that when countries are dealing with drug trafficking, armed militias and other forms of insecurity and violence, these challenges cannot be overcome easily. It is important to have a political will and commitment at national and international levels to deal with these issues through innovative public policies, based on evidence and evaluated in rigorous basis.

As Herbolzheimer points out “a peace process is a journey with a clear goal but with an uncertain course. There are no roadmaps for the journey. The lessons learned and the international experiences are only benchmarks. Each new negotiation process must define its own path” (Herbolzheimer, 2012). This is a challenge for governments, practitioners and peace academics, to support peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes through design, implementation and evaluation of initiatives. There are many lessons learned and best practices that can be analyzed, adjusted and replicated in the current issues that post-conflict societies are experiencing.


Catalina Bello Montes – Colombia

Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 23


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