The terminology used in donor programming

There are many different terms used by donors to describe efforts to support the provision of safety, security and justice for citizens.Common terms include security sector reform and security system reform (SSR), which are used by a number of donors and international institutions, including the UN and the OECD-DAC.

For the UN, SSR entails ‘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’ (2009, p. 6).

For the OECD-DAC, SSR has the following overarching objectives:

  • Establishment of effective governance, oversight and accountability in the security system.
  • Improved delivery of security and justice services.
  • Development of local leadership and ownership of the reform process.
  • Sustainability of justice and security delivery (2007b, p. 21).

Other terms commonly used include security and justice sector reform/justice and security sector reform, and security and justice development/justice and security development (ISSAT, 2012). There exists a debate amongst practitioners and within the literature regarding the relative merits of each term. However, despite the terminology, and the debates that exist surround the relative merits of each (van Veen & Derks, 2012), their aims and objectives are arguably synonymous with those provided above.

Stabilisation is a concept related to SSR, but is not the same. In countries emerging from violent conflict, stabilisation aims to help establish and sustain legitimate government and often involves a degree of military coercion to reduce or prevent violence (SU, 2008). Stabilisation can help create the conditions necessary for the provision of safety, security and justice institutions where the rule of law is eroded, where armed groups, criminal networks proliferate, and where there are weak or absent governments and competing forms of authority. In these contexts, the urgent priorities are often establishing law and order, and performing security tasks to address internal security needs and the basic functioning of the criminal justice system (SU, 2009).

  • ISSAT. (2012). SSR in a Nutshell: Manual for Introductory Training on Security Sector Reform. Geneva: International Security Sector Advisory Team/DCAF.
    See document online
  • OECD-DAC. (2007b). Handbook on Security System Reform: Supporting Security and Justice. Paris: OECD.
    See document online
  • SU. (2008). The UK Approach to Stabilisation: Stabilisation Unit Guidance Notes. London: Stabilisation Unit.
    See document online
  • SU. (2009). Stabilisation Issues Note: Security Sector Reform and the Rule of Law. London: Stabilisation Unit.
    See more online
  • UN. (2009). DDR and Security Sector Reform. Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards. New York: United Nations.
    See document online
  • Van Veen, E. & Derks, M. (2012). The Deaf, the Blind and the Politician: The Troubles of Justice and Security Interventions in Fragile States. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, 4, 76-97.
    See document online
  • The OECD-DAC emphasise that the term ‘SSR’ refers to a broad range of security and justice institutions and should not be seen as implying that justice is subordinate to security.