Civil Society, Good Governance and the Security Sector
It is essential that governments include civil society as a full partner in the democratisation of security sector governance. This paper, authored by Nicole Ball, discusses the roles civil society can play in the democratisation of security. Despite the improved capacity of civil society to influence governments in general, there are significant challenges to the development of an integrated, effective civil-military relationship.
A safe and secure environment for people, communities and states is an essential co-condition for sustainable economic, political and social development and conflict mitigation. Without democratic checks and balances, security forces charged with the mission to protect citizens and the state can be badly managed, ineffective and used for partisan political purposes. Inadequate security sector governance can lead to weakening of the states' monopoly over legitimate use of force.
Countries engaged in strengthening democratic security sector governance should develop:
- a legal framework consistent with international law and good democratic practices;
- effective civil management and oversight mechanisms;
- viable security bodies capable of providing security for individuals, communities and the state; and
- an institutional culture of security forces that is supportive of laws, good democratic practices and the supremacy of civil management and oversight agencies.
To address these issues, countries should prioritise the following tasks:
- Strengthen the professionalism of security forces. Professionalism can be both technical and normative, including respect for the rule of law and accountability to civil authorities.
- Develop capable and responsible civil authorities, which includes creating an environment that allows civil society to carry out various functions vis-à-vis the security sector.
- Foster a capable and responsible civil society that monitors security sector policies and activities, and acts as a resource for the security community.
- Accord a high priority to the rule of law, including human rights protection.
- Develop regional approaches to security problems.
There are four ways that civil society can influence accountability and policy formulation in the security sector:
- act as a watchdog;
- foster change;
- help develop norms of democratic behaviour; and
- provide technical input to policymaking and implementation.
Civil society around the world has made important gains in its capacity to influence governments in general. However, there are significant challenges facing the integration of civil society into security sector governance processes:
- Personal security of security sector governance practitioners cannot always be guaranteed, particularly in countries lacking effective protection systems.
- Governments commonly obstruct efforts of civil society by limiting access to information and prevent civil society participation in security policy development and implementation.
- There is a lack of expertise in security matters in the civil society sector.
- There is a history of mutual suspicion between governments/security services and civil society, leading to an unwillingness of civil society to engage in dialogue with the security community.
- Donor-driven security sector reform agendas have focused on improving the technical capacity of security services. Neither states nor donors have given adequate attention to the need to strengthen democratic governance of the security sector.
Unless and until the security sector is governed according to democratic principles, it will not be possible to develop legitimate, transparent and trusted states that are accountable to their citizens and respect the rule of law. To that end, full participation of civil society in the democratisation of security governance is essential.
Author: Nicole Ball
Source: Ball, N., 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.4.