As outlined in the Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council "Elements for an EU-wide strategic framework to support security reform” (2016) insecurity and instability are frequently generated or exacerbated by a lack of effective and accountable security system. Helping partner countries to reform their security systems supports the EU's objectives of peace and stability, inclusive and sustainable development, state-building and democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principle of international law. Conflict and insecurity in partner countries, sometimes associated with violent extremism, also affect the EU's internal security, and that of EU citizens and EU trade and investment interests abroad.

Therefore, the EU steps up its support of partner countries' efforts to ensure security for individuals and the state and, to this end, the legitimacy, good governance, integrity and sustainability of the security sector of partner countries. It remains fully in line with the objectives of the Agenda 2030 (Transforming our word: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), and more specifically with its Goal 16 focusing on "promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels".

The overall objective (expected impact) is to ensure the security of individuals, as perceived and experienced by them. This involves upholding their fundamental freedoms and properly assessing, in a participatory way, the security needs of different groups, including the most vulnerable. The system should address the specific needs of women, minors, the elderly and minorities.

EU key principles on EU support to justice reforms and the rule of law

  • Effective democratic control and oversight: security actors should operate within a clear and unambiguous legal framework approved by the national legislator, including effective civilian control. Its budget should be an integral part of the national budget and be discussed and approved by the legislature, which must be able to exercise effective oversight. Consulting and involving civil society should be standard practice in the development and monitoring of security and justice policy and activities.
  • Transparency and openness: applying and putting in place legal guarantees to prevent arbitrary decision-making. Recruitment and promotion procedures and appointments to senior positions in the security structure should be based on clearly defined, publicly available criteria. Official chains of command must be respected. The classification and dissemination of, and access to, security sector documents (including procurement processes) should be subject to officially agreed and predictable procedures. Information should be public, so as to enhance transparency and understanding. Limitations to openness and transparency may be justified on grounds of clearly defined public policy (e.g. data protection), nut should always be kept to a minimum.
  • Participation of all stakeholders in the reform process: implying that national security policies and strategies are developed through inclusive consultation processes. In particular, women's participation should be ensured in line with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.
  • The security sector itself should be inclusive. Security forces should not exclude or discriminate against any particular group. To avoid generating tension, resource allocation should be public, justified and reflect legally defined roles/tasks. Women should have equal opportunities and be empowered within the security forces.
  • Effective internal accountability systems, such as internal inspection services and audits, as well as external financial and operational conduct control by the national court of auditors and other oversight or equivalent bodies. Mechanisms such as vetting, codes of conduct, independent complaints bodies and scrutiny by civil society also contribute to accountability. To avoid impunity, it is important to uphold the principle of equality before the law, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency when a security actor is brought to justice.

Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) refers to a set of interventions in a process of demilitarising official and unofficial armed groups by disarming and disbanding non-state groups or downsizing armed forces and reintegrating them into civilian life. DDR processes should respond to immediate security needs and help lay the foundations for longer-term stability in a country or region. They should therefore link in with an overall peace process and preferably with broader SSR. In conflict and post-conflict contexts, EU SSR and DDR support balances the need to restore basic security services as an urgent stabilisation measure with the need to avoid hindering longer-term stability by, for instance, legitimising non-inclusive security forces. Furthermore, the availability of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) is often a key factor in triggering and spreading insecurity. "Residual conflicts" sustained by the illicit spread of SALWs often blur the dividing line between armed conflicts and criminality. SALW control is intrinsically linked to SSR efforts, not least in limiting the perceived or actual need or propensity of individuals or communities to provide for their own defense.

In order to contribute to these objectives, the EU focuses its support on three keys areas of intervention (all expected outputs fall under these three categories):

  • Supporting the development of a clear and appropriate legal and strategic framework;
  • Strengthening the capacities of security sector institutions and civil society organisations working in this field;
  • Supporting stabilisation of fragile and post-conflict areas through other complementary means (e;g; SALW, DDR, etc.).

Policy and Strategic Documents


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