Democratic Security Sector Governance

An international organization founded in 1945, the United Nations is currently made up of 193 Member States. The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.[1] The main organs of the UN are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat. The UN system, is made up of the UN itself and many affiliated programmes, funds, and specialized agencies, all with their own membership, leadership, and budget. The programmes and funds are financed through voluntary contributions. The specialized agencies are independent international organizations funded by both voluntary and assessed contributions.

The United Nations central mission is the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN does this by working to prevent conflict; helping parties in conflict make peace; peacekeeping; and creating the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish. The UN also promotes sustainable development, protects human rights, and works towards the development of, and respect for international law. Moreover, the Organization also coordinates humanitarian relief operations.

What does UN do for SSR?

As described in the study ‘International Organisations and their Role in Security Sector Reform’, the UN has, traditionally, been involved in activities in both the security and development fields, but it is only recently that an effort has been made to build effective links between them. On the development side, the key actor is the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which has SSR-related programmes in developing and transition countries in such areas as crisis prevention and recovery, democratic governance, and poverty reduction. On the security side, the key actor is the UN Department of Peacekeeping and Operations (UNDPKO), which has the lead role in peacekeeping and peace support operations. UNDPKO only becomes operational in a country when it finds itself in a conflict or post-conflict situation. UNDP, on the other hand, tends to have a long-term presence in a broad range of countries. Its programmes can be operational both prior to and after the conflict.

Within the UNDP, the Rule of Law, Justice and Security Unit located within the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery and the Access to Justice and Rule of Law Team in the Democratic Governance Group work together to ensure that there is a comprehensive “one UNDP” approach to SSR.[2]

UNDPKO defines its work in the security sector reform (SSR) as the task of ensuring the development of effective, efficient, affordable and accountable security institutions. The SSR Unit in DPKO serves as the focal point and technical resource capacity on SSR for the United Nations system and national and international partners. Specifically, the SSR Unit supports the rapidly expanding range of field missions involved in assisting national and regional SSR efforts, primarily at the sector-wide level of SSR.

The SSR Unit also provides the secretariat for the Inter-agency SSR Task Force, which is co-chaired by DPKO and UNDP. This system-wide Task Force seeks to facilitate a comprehensive and coherent approach to SSR, with the goal of enhancing the United Nations capacity to deliver more efficient and effective support to national SSR efforts.[3]

The Inter-Agency Security Sector Reform Task Force (IASSRTF) consisted of seven United Nations entities when it was first established in 2007: the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operationsthe Office of High Commissioner for Human Rightsthe Peacebuilding Support Office, the United Nations Development Programme, the Development Fund for Women (now part of UN Women) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Today, the membership of the IASSRTF has increased to 14, including seven new members: the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairsthe United Nations Office for Project Servicesthe Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the United Nations Children’s Fundthe United Nations Institute for Training and Research; and the United Nations Population Fund.[4]

UN’s SSR work revolves around supporting national authorities to:

  • facilitate national SSR dialogues
  • develop national security policies, strategies and plans
  • strengthen oversight, management and coordination capacities
  • articulate security sector legislation
  • mobilize resources for SSR-related projects
  • harmonize international support to SSR
  • education, training and institutional building
  • monitor and evaluate programmes and results
  • undertake defence sector reform

Key documents:

What does UN do for SSR in Ukraine?

According to a recent mapping study conducted by Folke Bernadotte Academy, UN is currently directly and indirectly involved in various SSR-related projects and programmes in Ukraine. Most of them are centred on Justice Reform, Democratic Governance and Human Rights.

For further information on UNDP’s current projects in Ukraine, visit UNDP in Ukraine.

For further information on United Nations Organisation and its work, please refer to the official UN portal here.

See also: United Nations SSR Website. and UNDPKO on SSR.


Måns Hanssen (Folke Bernadotte Academy 2016), International Support to Security Sector Reform in Ukraine. A mapping study of SSR projects.

United Nations


United Nations SSR Website


UNDP in Ukraine

UN (2012), The United Nations SSR Perspective.

[1] Source: United Nations

[2] UNDP and SSR.

[3] UN (2012), The United Nations SSR Perspective.

[4] Source: UN SSR Taskforce

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