Civil Society Actors in Defence and Security Affairs
While donors and the academic community are paying increased attention to civil society, few studies examine security sector reform (SSR) and governance from a civil society perspective. This paper by Marina Caparini and Philipp Fluri is the first chapter of a book that explores the nexus between civil society and the security sector. Using conceptual perspectives and studies of central and east european countries (CEE), the book provides a detailed analysis of civil society actors in CEE and its current relationship with the security sector.
Civil society refers to voluntary associations in a society and the public expression of the interests, priorities, grievances and values around which these associations are based. A vibrant civil society includes universities and research institutes, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), social movements, political parties and a pluralistic media.
The security sector comprises state institutions and structures whose primary function is to protect society. These include military forces, police, paramilitary forces, border guards, the judicial system and related government ministries and departments.
The emergence of SSR underscores the need for civil society actors to promote democratic governance of the security sector by:
- raising public awareness about security issues;
- articulating public expression of needs, grievances, interests and values as they relate to security issues;
- providing specialised information and expertise to policy makers; and
- playing a watchdog or monitoring role vis-à-vis the state.
The book explores the following conceptual dimensions of civil society’s relationship to the security sector:
- The link between poverty and lack of security indicates the need for effective and accountable security institutions and the oversight function that civil society could provide.
- Civil society is dependent on the constitutional and legal preconditions of the state to facilitate its evolution to an effective public sector institution.
- The international donor shift towards SSR from traditional civil-military security concerns is promising, but to date donors have not promoted civil society in ways that could contribute to improved scrutiny of the security sector.
- In the present “war on terrorism” environment, government-media relations in both developed and under-developed countries are under strain. Government secrecy on security issues is prevalent; media are engaging in self-censorship. Investigative journalism is the exception, not the rule.
Country studies included in the book examine the relationship between civil society and defence/security issues in the following countries:
- In central Europe: Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine; and
- In southeast Europe: Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.
The following observations summarise the findings of the country studies:
- Civil society in CEE countries is generally weak; it often does not play a significant role in public oversight of security institutions.
- Civil society actors often lack domestic funding and institutional cooperation with government agencies that would enable them to undertake independent studies and serve as a source of independent public scrutiny of defence and security affairs.
- Defence and foreign policymaking remain a preserve of the political and administrative elite. While the idea of broader inclusion of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the monitoring and control of security institutions is now being slowly accepted, existing government-CSO partnerships tend to favour organisations that support state policy.
- Informed and critical security journalism is generally lacking. Curbs on media freedom to report on security issues remain formidable in many states.
Author: Marina Caparini | Philipp Fluri
Source: Caparini,M. & Fluri,P., 2006, 'Civil Society Actors in Defence and Security Affairs', in Civil Society and the Security Sector: Concepts and Practices in New Democracies, eds. Caparini,M., Fluri,P. & Molnar,F., DCAF, Geneva, Ch.1.