Enabling Civil Society in Security Sector Reconstruction
Civil society is a primary source of local ownership, legitimacy and sustainability of post-conflict reconstruction. This paper, authored by Marina Caparini, examines the role of civil society in security sector reconstruction and uses a case study of post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina to analyse donor impact on civil society in post-conflict states. Donors need to address not only their short-term needs for civil society partnerships, but the recipient country’s long-term need for a strong civil society that is responsive and accountable to citizens.
Civil society is defined as the intermediate, voluntary associational realm between the state and basic social units of individuals and families. It may include advocacy and interest groups, professional, academic and religious associations, and women’s, youth and sports groups. Civil society can play a positive or negative role vis-à-vis peace building, depending on the actors, agendas and interests of the civil society organisations (CSOs) and how they relate to the local political, economic and social context.
CSOs have potentially important roles to play in good governance of the security sector:
- they remind government of the diversity of views and interests to be taken into account in national policy making;
- they represent citizens’ views and can monitor the activities of state security institutions; and
- they can be sources of specialised expertise to analyse security legislation and policies.
However, a number of challenges exist for the post-conflict civil society sector:
- A society emerging from armed conflict is not likely to have many functioning CSOs.
- Facing deficits of capacity and legitimacy, post-conflict governments tend to perceive autonomous CSOs as challenges to their authority.
- Post-conflict CSOs often become dependent on external donor funding, reflect donor agendas and priorities, and are not accountable to the social groups they purport to represent.
The case of post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia or BiH) highlights the following problems in international approaches to supporting civil society in SSR:
- International non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and foreign aid agencies that arrived in BiH after the war sought cheap programme service delivery by local NGOs without concern for long-term sustainability of the civil society sector.
- Local NGOs responded opportunistically to the initially abundant supply of donor funding to provide security and employment.
- BiH NGOs focused on providing services to satisfy the donor rather than facilitating wider political participation.
- The Bosnian general public did not see CSOs as serving their interests.
Policy recommendations for the inclusion of civil society in security sector reconstruction include:
- CSOs that substitute for the weakened states to provide essential services may be one of the most feasible roles for civil society to take in immediate post-conflict environments.
- It is essential that local CSOs understand the need to represent the interests of their constituencies.
- CSOs that adopt a donor agenda without adapting it to local conditions and needs risk failing to connect with society and the state.
- Local contextual knowledge is essential: Local experts and representatives of civil society must be brought into the peace building process at the policy level.
- Donors need to differentiate between CSOs that speak the donor’s language but are divorced from local communities, and CSOs that are connected to local constituencies but who may not necessarily be knowledgeable about donor methodology and framing of projects.
Author: Marina Caparini
Source: Caparini, M. 2005, 'Enabling Civil Society in Security Sector Reconstruction', in A. Bryden and H. HÃ¤nggi, eds, Security Governance in Post Conflict Peace Building, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Geneva, Switzerland.