Human Rights and Security Sector Reform

The very foundation of security sector reforms [SSR] must be guided by a clear understanding of people’s rights, with the state recognised as the providers of security as a service to the people.

Human rights and security have always, and will always, be closely linked. Often, human rights violations can be the cause of, or the result of, conflict. Violations can also be an early warning of upcoming conflict.

That’s why our obligations to human rights are paramount, and they’re an integral part of any security sector reform programme. At Rose Partners, we take pride in our role as guarantors of human rights of the people we serve but there is a growing awareness of human rights violations by security actors in some of the world’s most complex environments. These violations include discrimination, arbitrary arrest and, in the worse scenarios, extrajudicial killings.

Aside from the clear, immoral implications of these acts, they often serve as a recruitment tool for violent extremist groups. It’s therefore imperative the foundations from which security sector reform can be built must be based on human rights.

HOW ARE HUMAN RIGHTS RELEVANT TO SUCCESFUL SSR

As a state is responsible in ensuring the protection of human rights, it is essential that international human rights obligations are not only incorporated by SSR programmes but led by them.

It’s important a populace not only adopts potential reforms but become advocates of that programme. To achieve this, first SSR must put an individual’s rights at the forefront of any programme. We often talk of winning hearts and minds but this is no more apparent than when implementing SSR to reduce risks and threats to the people.

States have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil human rights but what does this mean?

RESPECT
An obligation to respect human rights means government bodies, including security actors, should not violate human rights standards. An example of this would be the need for police to allow peaceful assembly, such as demonstrations.

PROTECT
This obligation is one step further than respecting human rights and means the state, including the police, must protect an individual’s right to peaceful demonstration. This often means preventing harassment or violent interference.

FULFIL
This requires the state to be proactive in creating systems and enabling environments where people feel free to exercise their rights. In the example of peaceful assembly, this could include ensuring the procedures for obtaining permits for demonstrations are easily accessible and understandable.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND SSR

Respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights will increase the public’s confidence and trust in government institutions. This is clearly critical in peacebuilding and conflict prevention.

The concept of human rights helps security actors such as the police and the military understand their role in providing security as a public service. The people are the rights holders in this relationship and this can involve a difficult but necessary shift in understanding, particularly in situations where core security actors have previously considered their duties to be relevant to an

individual leader, regime or ethnic group.

In a democracy, the principles to the rule of law state that all people and institutions should be accountable to the same laws and that citizens should have equal access to justice and public institutions. This means everyone should have the opportunity to participate in decision-making and this is no more apparent than in SSR programmes.

SSR should provide a more effective and affordable security sector with increased accountability and transparency. These four objectives directly correlate with human rights:

EFFECTIVENESS
The security sector must be affective is making people safe and secure. This should be done by respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights as we have already defined. These rights include the right to life, right to liberty and security, the total prohibition of torture and a right to non-discrimination.

AFFORDABILITY
The cost of core security actors should be balanced with other government expenditure if people are to enjoy the full range of human rights. This includes economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to education and health. Essentially, government expenditure should meet the ultimate goal – making people safer.

ACCOUNTABILITY
This is a hugely important factor in peacebuilding and establishing trust among the populace in any SSR programme. When security actors are suspected or accused of breaching human rights, this act must be reported, investigated and lead to appropriate action. This requires functioning justice-system processes within security organisations to review disciplinary matters and establish codes of conduct have been upheld.

TRANSPARENCY
The right to access information must apply to the security sector and must be established for parliamentarians, civil society, media and others to assess whether security services are effective, affordable and accountable. Without transparency, there’s no scrutiny which can lead to improvements and amendments that are in the best interest of the people.

These objectives outline how SSR programmes must be inclusive of national ownership and how respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights should be developed and implemented through national processes. The actors leading the reforms should also be held to account by the local population.

Taking this all into account is why SSR cannot be achieved in a short turnaround and as a result often requires a long-term strategy, which itself needs consistent review and assessment. A dynamic approach is necessary in order to adapt and overcome any challenges that will arise as SSR is implemented.

Rose Partners prides itself on the approaches we take to SSR and the results we see in the immediate adoption of our policies and procedures to the long-term impact of those processes. If you would like to understand more about our SSR work, contact a member of the Rose Partners team today.

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