There is no unique definition of an international organisation. A broader meaning usually includes international governmental organisations (IGOs) and international nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). The OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms defines International Organisations as “entities established by formal political agreements between their members that have the status of international treaties; their existence is recognised by law in their member countries; they are not treated as resident institutional units of the countries in which they are located”.

International Organisations play a major role in the Security Sector Governance (SSG), Reform (SSR) and therefore Building Integrity (BI). They provide expertise and advice; raise awareness on security topics; finance capacity development trainings, programmes and projects on a multitude of vital issues such as technical skills, security sector governance, oversight, and building integrity. IOs also play a central role in the process of norm and standard–setting, as well as for ensuring accountability and promoting the rule of law. Moreover, they establish a communication channel between governments and societies, as well as between different nations, and other international entities and actors involved in the field of SSG and SSR.

International organisations’ involvement in the security sector reform field started to grow in the 1990s when they realised that development efforts, especially in conflict and post-conflict scenarios, could not be successful in insecure environments. Security governance came to be seen as a vital component of institution building, governance development and reconstruction projects. Additionally, democratic oversight of the security sector assumed a central role in the conditionality for partnership and membership for institutions, such as EU, NATO, and the Council of Europe.

Since then, the involvement of international organisations in the SSR processes has grown into a flurry of overlapping activities and projects. This is especially true in conflict and post-conflict counties where different organisations compete for donors and space. A recent mapping study conducted by Folke Bernadotte Academy illustrates this dilemma in Ukraine.[1] Ukraine’s example leads us to an important conclusion that cooperation and coordination between international organisations and other actors working in the field of the security sector reform is absolutely vital for building integrity and establishing effective democratic governance of the security sector.



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.[2] 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?

The UN and its agencies have traditionally been involved in activities in both the security and development fields, but over the last decade a concerted effort has been made to build a unified approach on security governance issues. 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.[3]

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.[4]

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 Affairsthe 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.[5]

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:



According to its official web portal, the European Union (EU) is an economic and political partnership between 28 European countries.[6] Created after the Second World War, its goal is to encourage economic cooperation and, therefore, avoid conflict. The European Economic Community (EEC) was created in 1958. EEC initially included six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In 1993, to mark its evolution from a purely economic union to a political one, the EEC adopted its current denomination of European Union (EU). The EU is based on the rule of law. Furthermore, human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights are the fundamental values of the EU. The core founding document of the EU is the Lisbon Treaty of 2009.[7]

What does the EU do for Security Sector Reform?

The EU has been involved in a number of Security Sector Reform areas since its inception. This includes police and military operations, strengthening the rule of law, and reinforcing judicial and penitentiary systems. Initially, these activities were conducted without specific SSR policies. In 2003, the EU adopted its first European Security Strategy.[8] In 2005, the European Council adopted the Concept for European Security and Defence Policy support to SSR.[9] In 2006, the Commission adopted the Concept for European Community Support to SSR.[10] These documents mark the conceptual approach of the EU to SSR. In 2016, the European Commission published its Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council – Elements for an EU-wide strategic framework to support security sector reform.[11]

The European Union undertakes SSR activities on three interconnected levels: the community level, the member-state level, and in cooperation with international organisations. On the community level, activities are carried out, mainly, by the Council and the Commission. Those undertaken by the Commission are exclusively civilian, whereas the Council carries out civilian, military and mixed activities. On the member-state level, EU states both influence the EU agenda and policies on SSR and carry out activities of their own in third countries. The EU as an organisation is highly present in the SSR arena developed by International Organisations. Additionally, member-states participate through their membership and on their own initiative in numerous SSR initiatives carried out in collaboration with International Organisations. Consequently, there is a great array of overlapping SSR projects, activities and partnerships that include, are funded by, hosted and organised by the EU or involve EU member-states, etc.

The EU has played a significant role in the efforts made by OSCE, OECD, UN, NATO and the Council of Europe (CoE) to develop norms and best practices for democratic security sector governance. An important example of those efforts is the adoption of the OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Affairs of 1994.



Council of Europe (CoE) is an international organisation based in Strasbourg. CoE encompasses 47 European countries and was created in 1949 to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe.[12]

Originally, CoE’s work mainly focused on human rights, rule of law, governmental accountability and other governance issues. These topics have, gradually, moved in the direction of democratic security governance since they are all, inherently, related to security and accountability. Additionally, changes occurring in the international context of the 1990s have encouraged this thematic shift towards security sector issues.

What does CoE do for Security Sector Reform?

CoE’s work on security governance covers various matters such as capacity-building, investigation and judicial procedures, and advisory and training tasks. Through EU membership preparation programmes the CoE strengthens the capacity of aspiring states in terms of accountability, human rights and the rule of law. CoE carries out investigations of issues such as secret detentions. CoE also plays a policy advisory role and organises training activities for security sector personnel. An important area of CoE’s work involves setting the standards for the security sector. Additionally, CoE ensures the accountability of its member states in their security sector practices and plays an important judicial role when it comes to human rights abuses.

Key CoE documents on SSR:



The Council of Europe defines the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as an international court set up in 1959 which rules on individual, or state, applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.[13]

The European Convention on Human Rights is an international treaty under which the member States of the Council of Europe promise to secure fundamental civil and political rights, not only to their own citizens but also to everyone within their jurisdiction. The Convention, which was signed on 4 November 1950 in Rome, entered into force in 1953.[14]

According to the simplified version of the convention and its protocols prepared by the ECtHR the European Union Convention on Human Rights reinforces the following rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:[15]

Article 1 ‐ Obligation to respect human rights

Article 2 ‐ Right to life

Article 3 ‐Prohibition of torture

Article 4 ‐ Prohibition of slavery and forced labour

Article 5 ‐ Right to liberty and security

Article 6 ‐ Right to a fair trial

Article 7 ‐ No punishment without law

Article 8 ‐ Right to respect for private and family life

Article 9 ‐ Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Article 10 ‐ Freedom of expression

Article 11 ‐ Freedom of assembly and association

Article 12 ‐ Right to marry

Article 13 ‐ Right to an effective judicial remedy

Article 14 ‐ Prohibition of discrimination

Article 15 ‐ Derogation in time of emergency

Article 16 ‐ Restrictions on political activity of foreigners

Article 17 ‐ Prohibition of abuse of rights

Article 18 ‐ Limitation on use of restrictions of rights

Articles 19 to 51- explain how the European Court of Human Rights works.  

Article 34 ‐ If your rights contained in the Convention have been violated in one of the member states, you should first appeal to all competent national authorities. If that does not work, then you may appeal directly to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Article 52 ‐ If the Secretary General of the Council of Europe requests it, a government must explain how its national law protects the rights of this Convention.


Protocols to the Convention

Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 ‐ Protection of property

Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 ‐ Right to education

Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 ‐ Right to free elections

Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 ‐ Freedom of movement

Article 1 of Protocol No. 6 ‐ Abolition of the death penalty

Article 2 of Protocol No. 7 ‐ Right of appeal in criminal matters

Article 3 of Protocol No. 7 ‐ Compensation for wrongful conviction

Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 ‐ General prohibition of discrimination


What does ECtHR do for Security Sector Reform and Governance?

The European Court of Human Rights’ main security governance role is dispensing justice in cases of human rights abuses at the hands of security sector personnel where national courts have – or would – not become involved, or in instances where options for appealing their decisions were exhausted.[16]

In 2015, according to the court’s Facts and Figures publication, a fourth of the violations handled by the ECtHR concerned Article 6 (right to a fair hearing).[17] Almost 23% of them concerned the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3), and 15% concerned the right to liberty and security (Article 5). All in all, 30% of the violations constituted a serious breach of the Convention (concerning the right to life or the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment).

  • OECD

Following the formulation of the 2005 OECD DAC Guidelines, the OECD Handbook on Security System Reform: Supporting Security and Justice[18] closed the gap between policy and practice in donor’s approaches to security sector reform.

The Handbook largely follows the external assistance programme cycle and contains valuable tools to help encourage a dialogue on security and justice issues and to support a security system reform (SSR) process through the assessment, design and implementation phases. The Handbook also provides new guidance on monitoring, review and evaluation of SSR programmes, and highlights how to ensure greater coherence across the different actors and departments engaged in SSR.

  • OSCE

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is an intergovernmental organization comprised of 57 participating States.[19] According to the OSCE factsheet, it constitutes a forum for political dialogue on a wide range of security issues and a platform for joint action to improve the lives of individuals and communities.[20] The OSCE’s approach to security encompasses the politico-military, economic and environmental, and human dimensions. The OSCE helps bridge differences and build trust between states by co-operating on conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. OSCE addresses arms control, terrorism, good governance, energy security, human trafficking, democratization, media freedom and national minorities’ issues.

What does OSCE do for SSR?

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is currently engaged in activities addressing various aspects of security sector reform (SSR). The OSCE’s pioneering Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Relations set the agenda for the good governance of the security sector.[21] The growth of OSCE involvement and interest in SSR ultimately led to the OSCE publication of the Security Sector Governance and Reform Guidelines for OSCE staff. [22]

Adopted in 1994 as a politically-binding instrument, the ‘OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security’ remains the main OSCE statement on SSR. The code not only calls for the democratic control of the military but other security forces including paramilitary, police and intelligence services too. The democratic control of the security sector is thus considered to be an essential element for stability and security.


According to its official web portal, the World Bank is constituted by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA).[23] The latter are part of the World Bank Group, which overall includes five organizations:

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) lends to governments of middle-income and creditworthy low-income countries.

The International Development Association (IDA) provides interest-free loans and grants to governments of the poorest countries.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is a global development institution that focuses exclusively on the private sector.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) was created in 1988 to promote foreign direct investment in developing countries. MIGA offers political risk insurance (guarantees) to investors and lenders.

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) provides international facilities for conciliation and arbitration of investment disputes.

The World Bank group was created in 1944. The group holds an observer status at the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).[24] The aim of the World Bank group is to support development and reduce poverty. In this vein, the World Bank provides low-interest loans, zero to low-interest credits, and grants to developing countries. Some of their projects are co-financed with governments, multilateral institutions, commercial banks, export credit agencies, private sector investors, and trust fund partnerships with bilateral and multilateral donors. Moreover, the World Bank also provides policy advice, research, analysis, and technical assistance to developing countries, as well as capacity development, forums, and conferences on key development issues.

What does the World Bank do for Security Sector Governance and Reform?

Historically, the World Bank’s involvement in Security Sector Governance was limited. Same as other development agencies, its approach to reducing poverty and fostering development did not include security issues until the 1990s. Additionally, the World Bank’s mandate prevented it from engaging in security-related issues. Peace-building and reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected countries later demonstrated the importance of democratic security sector governance, as a precondition for development. Consequently, the World Bank has become progressively involved in supporting SSR in developing and conflict-affected countries. Currently, the World Bank group is mainly working on the following thematic areas related to Security Sector Governance and Reform:

  • Defence Spending and Procurement
  • Anti-Corruption
  • Justice Reform
  • Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR)
  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Oversight
  • Emergency Response Policy



Transparency International (TI), an independent international organisation, was created in 1993 with the aim of fighting corruption.[25] TI’s mission is to “stop corruption and promote transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society”. TI’s fundamental values are: “transparency, accountability, integrity, solidarity, courage, justice and democracy”. The organisation has more than 100 national divisions worldwide and an international secretariat based in Berlin who work with governments, businesses and civil society to tackle corruption.[26] In line with its fundamental principles and mission, TI’s resources, funding and spending are made public.[27]

Since 1993, TI’s main achievements are putting the fight against corruption on the global agenda and raising awareness on the importance of transparency, accountability, and integrity. Its work has given rise to a coalition of organisations and individuals engaged in the promotion of corruption-free governments and businesses. TI’s work also resulted in the creation of copious outstanding knowledge products and other prominent tools and resources that constitute an essential reference point for anyone.

Key Transparency International achievements and tools:

What does Transparency International do for Security Sector Governance (SSG) and Reform (SSR)?

TI is involved in SSG and SSR through research, trainings, policy advice and analysis, standard setting, as well as capacity-building activities. ‘Defence and Security’ is one of the 18 topics that organise TI’s work.[30] TI has developed the Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index which assesses and scores governments and defence companies in 82 countries on the codes and processes they have in place to prevent corruption in their establishments.

Since 2004, Transparency International’s Defence and Security Programme (TI-DSP) has supported defence and security reform in countries by working with governments to identify their corruption risks and develop mechanisms to prevent corruption from occurring. TI also helps to curb corruption by facilitating leadership workshops, roundtables, and “building integrity” courses for military and defence ministry personnel. TI also works with international organisations to influence policy, such as the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

TI works with defence companies to foster stronger global ethical standards for the industry. In October 2012, TI released Defence Companies Anti-Corruption Index (CI), a tool that examines corruption prevention policies of 129 of the biggest defence companies around the world. It also includes recommendations.[31]

According to TI, these are some of the crucial steps towards tackling corruption:

  • Raise awareness about the subject and include it in public discussions.
  • Tackling corruption risks, which starts and ends with people within an organisation changing their behaviour
  • Train agents for change both in the defence and security sector and civil society
  • Monitor and measure anti-corruption efforts

Key TI Tools and Resources:


  • NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a political and military alliance created in 1949 with the aim of safeguarding the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.[38] NATO promotes democratic values and encourages consultation and cooperation on defence and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.

Since 2001, DCAF has been actively engaged with NATO on a number of cooperative security governance programmes. Building on its broader activities in the areas of democratic governance, including defence/law enforcement/intelligence reform, human rights, rule of law and development programming, DCAF has sustained cooperation platforms with NATO in the areas of security sector reform, democratic governance and – most recently – gender aspects of security governance.

What does NATO do for SSR?

NATO’s role in SSR has been driven by the process of preparing countries for membership and, once they are members, integrating them into Alliance structures. NATO has made democratic governance of the security sector one of the main concerns of its approach to enlargement (see: NATO 2010, Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).[39] NATO has also developed a series of programmes designed to strengthen the effectiveness and accountability of institutions concerned with defence. Additionally programmes such as the Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building (PAP-DIB) and those for fighting terrorism have also addressed SSR issues. SSR issues are also included in NATOs work in peace support operations. Moreover, NATO has become increasingly involved in the reform of security forces in post conflict and conflict settings.[40]

Within the framework of its Building Integrity (BI) Programme, NATO promotes the principles of integrity, transparency and accountability in accordance with international norms and practices.[41]

According to NATO, The BI Programme provides Allies and partner countries with tailored support to reduce the risk of corruption in the defence and related security sector and to promote good governance principles and practices in their defence establishments. The programme operates through a NATO Trust Fund led by six nations – Belgium, Bulgaria, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The BI Programme supports the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and related Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security.[42]



Council of Europe

European Court of Human Rights

European Union (EU) official web portal

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


NATO Partnership for Peace Programme (PFP)

NATO Building Integrity

OSCE, Security Sector Governance and Reform Guidelines for OSCE Staff.

OECD (2008), OECD DAC Handbook on Security System Reform: Supporting Security and Justice

The World Bank

United Nations


United Nations SSR Website.


UN (2012), The United Nations SSR Perspective.


[1] Available at:

[2] Source: United Nations at

[3] UNDP and SSR.

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

[5] Source: UN SSR Taskforce

[6] See:

[7] Available at :

[8] See :

[9] Council of the European Union (2005), Concept for European Security and Defence Policy support to SSR. 

[10] Commission of the European Communities (2006), A Concept for European Community support for security sector reform. 

[11] Commission of the European Communities (2016), Elements for an EU-wide strategic framework to support security sector reform. 

[12] Source: Council of Europe. 

[13] Council of Europe

[14] ECtHR

[15] Simplified Convention available at: ; Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Available at:

[16] Source: The European Court of Human Rights

[17] Available at:

[18] OECD (2008), OECD DAC Handbook on Security System Reform: Supporting Security and Justice.

[19] Source: OSCE. 

[20] Available at:

[21] Available at:

[22] Available at:

[23] Source: World Bank, at:

[24] See:

[25] Source: Transparency International.

[26] TI’s Strategy for 2020 is available at:

TI’s Code of Conduct is available at:

[27] See at:

[28] Yearly Progress Report Available at:

[29] See Transparency International’s work on the UN Convention against Corruption, at:

[30] See:

[31] See TI’s work on Defence and Security, at:

[32] Available at:

[33] See:

[34] Available at:

[35] Available at:

[36] Available at :

[37] At :

[38] Source: NATO 

[39] Available at:

[40]David M. Law (ed.), Intergovernmental Organisations and Security Sector Reform. DCAF (2007)

[41] Source: NATO BI

[42] For more information on NATO BI Programme see: