Security and development are deeply interlinked. Conflict-affected states require progress on both to achieve sustainable peace and broader human security. Over the past fifteen years, security sector reform (SSR) has received increasing prominence, as one element in building that peace and security, as well as democratic governance, in post-conflict transitions. SSR includes the reform of security forces (military, police, and intelligence), and civilian institutions to better uphold human rights and justice, and to ensure effective civilian oversight by parliaments and legislative bodies, and by communities themselves.
Security forces can be a source of protection for populations and a tool of stability for governments, or they can be a source of instability and abuse.
In many conflicts and crises, human rights offenders include members of the security forces, able to abuse civilians with impunity. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, soldiers committed 80 per cent of the abuses that civilians reported to Oxfam in a 2011 survey.
The lack of effective and accountable forces makes communities vulnerable, and undermines humanitarian aid, development and state-building. In South Sudan in 2010, there were over 300 incidents of harassment by the Sudan‟s Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) towards aid agencies, including looting, commandeering vehicles and preventing access to vulnerable communities. In counter-insurgency conflicts, such as Afghanistan and Somalia, some donors, such as the US, tend to emphasize forces’ combat training and equipment, over their accountability to civilian authority and respect for human rights. In turn, security forces, inadequately trained on human rights or gender relations, abuse and intimidate, creating new grievances, and eroding confidence in the state.
Oxfam’s work on SSR focuses on the accountability of national security forces, such as the police and army, to civilians. Download this new Oxfam Policy Compendium note for more information and recommendations: Oxfam’s position on the accountability of national security forces to civilians