The concept of security sector reform (SSR) was first formulated by UK development actors. Since 2008, France has officially adopted an SSR strategy and promoted the concept at the European level during the country’s 2008 EU Presidency. However, what appears on paper to resemble full support from French institutions is in fact more complex. If the anglophone roots of the policy initiative do not seemingly explain its lack of institutionalization in the French context, it would appear that the difficulty faced by the French administration in finding a whole-of-government agreement on what the content of SSR should be, does.
This article uses security sector reform as a prism for exploring the dilemmas that confront multidimensional United Nations peace operations as they seek to build peace by building states. It claims that the United Nations finds itself severely restricted when trying to translate ideas of human security into practice in the form of a people-centered approach to postconflict security assistance.