Knut Ostby: Statement at the Regional Security Sector Governance in the Pacific Meeting

May 22, 2013

Madame Deputy Secretary General, Andie Fong Toy;
Senior Government Officials;
Civil society organisations representatives;
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am very pleased to welcome you to this meeting here in Suva. This meeting is part of the Regional Security Sector Governance (SSG) initiative, which is a joint undertaking of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the United Nations Development Programme.  As we meet today, we are happy to look back on the results of this initiative to date. We also highly appreciate the supportive partnership provided by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control for Armed Forces (DCAF), and the Australian Federal Police’s Pacific Police Development Programme Regional (PPDPR).

As senior officials responsible for national law enforcement and security policy development in the Pacific, and representatives from civil society organisations in the region, we trust that this meeting will provide you with a range of opportunities. We hope that it will refresh and deepen the understanding of security sector governance issues. We also hope it will give opportunity to learn from the experience of others how to progress work in your own countries.  Special attention will be given to exploring ways to develop a National Security Policy, and to ensure implementation after a policy is developed.

It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the presence of Papua New Guinea’s leading official on their National Security Policy (NSP). I am sure that his experience in developing this policy will bring discussions alive. Also I believe the lessons learned in PNG will find resonance in your own efforts to improve security sector governance at home.

Why do I see this meeting as critically important?

As you know, the Pacific region has been affected by many types of violent conflicts. For example, we can recall the times of conflict in Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville; social unrest and riots in Tonga and Vanuatu; and military and civilian coups in Fiji.  All of which have resulted in economic hardship for many and social instability.  In all instances, security institutions such as police and military and their existing oversight and accountability mechanisms were placed under significant strain.  It is also a fact that, in too many cases, security institutions have undertaken activities independent of political governance structures, resulting in the loss of State monopoly over the use of force.

Why is the United Nations involved?

As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan noted, we cannot enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights. Not only are development, security and human rights all imperative, they reinforce each other. While poverty and denial of human rights may not be said to directly “cause” civil war, terrorism or organized crime, they all greatly contribute to the risk of instability and violence.

For the United Nations the fundamental concern is to secure a sufficient degree of security to allow sustainable development, reduction in poverty, and respect for fundamental human rights standards and principles worldwide. While ensuring and consolidating peace and security remains a major challenge for many countries, it helps to note that many parts of society can contribute to this. Security sector reform goes well beyond traditional military elements and involves a much wider range of national actors and international institutions and their relationships with each other. I am pleased therefore to see that the diverse background of participants in this meeting reflects that understanding.

Security sector experts believe that only to focus on improving law and order is not enough and that more broad-based, fundamental reforms are required. Such reforms include structural changes in security policies, restructuring security sector organizations to improve their functioning, and ensuring that civilian structures have the capacity to manage and oversee security organizations. For reforms to be effective and sustainable, though, it is important to note they cannot unduly infringe on or limit fundamental rights such as liberty and security of the person, equality before the courts and tribunals, privacy and movement, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and assembly, and the principles of accountability, transparency and non-discrimination.  

Effective and accountable security institutions are essential for sustainable peace and development. This is at the heart of the United Nations’ approach to security. If security is threatened or undermined, this can result in individuals and societies being unwilling or unable to engage in normal political or economic activity. This would undermine the fundamental processes leading to national sustainable development.

There are five key principles which guide the UN's approach. They are:

  • We engage in security sector reform at the request of national Governments, or in response to Security Council mandates and General Assembly resolutions in line with the relevant international standards and principles;
  • Member States are the primary providers of security, and national ownership is the cornerstone of our approach. As the Security Council expressed several times, "it is the sovereign right and primary responsibility of the country concerned to determine the national approach and priorities of security sector reform";
  • We work in collaboration with key international partners to ensure provision of the best possible expertise and resources;
  • We are flexible and tailor the support to the individual country, region or environment. States and societies define and pursue security according to their particular context, history, culture and needs. There is no rigid one size-fits-all;
  • We are gender sensitive and follow international law, including human rights law, with particular attention to sexual and gender-based violence. We help ensure that the security sector assumes its responsibility in eradicating crimes involving violence against women.

My colleague Nicholas Hercules will speak more on our specific involvement in a moment. But for now, let me mention one example: Since 2007, a joint project between the Forum Secretariat and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been supporting Pacific Island Countries (PICs) strengthen legal systems against terrorism and related crimes. This has involved promoting the ratification of 35-plus conventions, drafting anti-terrorism legislation, assisting 12 countries in training of police, judges and prosecutors, as well as supporting enhanced co-ordination, for example, in national counter-terrorism strategies. This phase of the project is drawing to a close now, but discussions are underway with donors about a possible next phase.

Towards a New Definition of Security in the Pacific

Before I finish I would like to recognize that there has been a significant shift in the concept of security among Pacific Island countries; from a state-centred approach to a people-centred or human security approach.  This shift began in 2006 and culminated in the official welcoming by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in their 2012 Communiqué of the Pacific Human Security Framework, jointly developed by the Forum Secretariat and UNDP. The Framework provides a common foundation and strategic guidance for improving the understanding, planning and implementation of human security approaches in peace, security and development initiatives in the unique Pacific context. It also aims to strengthen cooperation on human security and is supportive of and complementary to the Pacific Plan.

We can see the process of transition to a human security approach being carried out in three stages.

In Stage 1, from 2006 to 2008, at the request of the Forum Regional Security Committee (FRSC), the Forum Secretariat and UNDP undertook consultations in partnership with civil society and academia. They carried out case studies in Kiribati, Micronesia, Samoa and Vanuatu, and conducted research to establish a theoretical foundation for the Framework including identifying human security threats, existing capacities to respond to those threats, and approaches to strengthen human security. In 2008, the Forum Regional Security Committee welcomed the theoretical work and requested that the Forum Secretariat and UNDP shift their focus from theory to practical application.

In Stage 2, from 2008 to 2012, the Forum Secretariat and UNDP implemented a wide range of projects based on the theoretical foundation including tackling sexual and gender-based violence, women’s involvement in peace and security, dialogues with civil society on security issues, capacity building of Forum Regional Security Committee officials in conflict prevention, youth involvement in crime and violence, security sector governance, and land management. The experiences and results of project implementation on these types of issues informed the development of the Framework.

In Stage 3, from 2012 to 2015, we will see the Framework being utilised as a guide for security and development interventions by Pacific Island countries and the Forum Secretariat. In 2015, the Forum Regional Security Committee will review the Framework. What is unmistakable throughout this process is that the focus of security in the region has definitively shifted from a state-centred approach to a human-centred approach. This will support better development outcomes for all.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to leave you with three messages for your consideration.

UNDP stands ready to support you develop your National Security Policies. With the political will of your governments, we can work together and assist you in expertise and funding.
I hope you will be able to use this week to network with your peers from neighbouring countries and other security organizations. Drawing upon contacts and friends will help when you draw up your own plan. These networks will, I am sure, become a source of strength and motivation to succeed.

And finally, let me suggest we all challenge ourselves to view security in the broadest of terms. From a human perspective. This is how states truly become stronger.

I wish you a fruitful meeting.

Vinaka Vakalevu.
Thank you very much.

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