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UNOG-DCAF Special discussion


The United Nations Office at Geneva and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) jointly host an annual seminar. This collaboration is an example of how UNOG forms partnerships with external academic and research experts to draw and build on the available expertise.

UNOG-DCAF Special Discussion

“Arab spring and Democratization: the Role of Security Sector Reform”
Wednesday, 21 November 2012

We need to nurture a culture of transparency and end impunity for violence committed against the citizenry by the security institutions in the Arab World if we are to achieve a lasting transition to democracy and prosperity in the region. This was one of the key messages of a high-level discussion on the role of security sector reform in the transitions in the Middle East.

Over 180 representatives of Governments, the United Nations family, think tanks, academia and civil society took part in the special discussion, convened on 21 November 2012 by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), to examine progress and options for security sector reform in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of UNOG, stressed that despite some setbacks, the Arab Spring had generated an irreversible historical process. The Director-General called for the establishment of a consensual institutional framework to follow the popular demands for democracy, dignity and sustainable economic prospects for the societies of the Middle East. Reiterated the need for the consolidation of democratic institutions and a human rights culture, he cautioned that unfilled expectations could fuel greater instability and crisis.

Dr. Theodor Winkler, Director of DCAF, underlined the importance of locally-driven security sector reform for countries undergoing democratic transition in North Africa. He also highlighted numerous bilateral and multilateral arrangements that DCAF has concluded with key countries in the region as well as the donor community. A particular mention was made of the recently established special DCAF Trust Fund for Security Sector Development Assistance in North Africa.

In his keynote address, H.E. Mr. Ali Laarayedh, Minister of the Interior of Tunisia, emphasized the importance of striking the right balance between post-revolutionary freedom on one hand, and combating violence, ensuring security of citizens and respect for human rights on the other. He underlined the pivotal importance of economic recovery, constitutional reform and effective international cooperation to ensure a democratic transition in Tunisia. He underscored the need to strengthen the culture of transparency and accountability at the political level and advance institutional dialogue with the citizenry as key challenges. As long as the police, military and security services were not properly resourced and trusted the transition to democracy will be incomplete, he said.

During the discussions, the continued impunity for perpetrators of violence against the population by the security institutions was identified as a key obstacle to eliminating insecurity and distrust. Sound transitional justice, accountability, vetting and reporting mechanisms had to be put into place to deter future acts of violence and restore trust. Participants noted that progress in other areas such as institutional capacity-building and access to technology had to be addressed concurrently. Panellists also underscored the importance of civil society, media, online social networks and a two-way dialogue to track progress. The allocation of adequate resources to the security sector was seen as a crucial determinant of success.


The Special Discussion was the tenth in the series of joint annual events hosted by the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) on different aspects of security sector governance.

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