Public Oversight of the Security Sector

TitlePublic Oversight of the Security Sector
Publication TypeBook
Subtitle / Series TitleA Handbook for Civil Society Organizations
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsCole, E, Eppert, K, Kinzelbach, K
Number of Pages355 pp.
PublisherUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF)
ISBN Number978-92-95042-93-3
Accession Number1244

About this Handbook
This Handbook provides structured guidance for civil society organizations (CSOs) on the role they can play in democratic security sector oversight: principally, how they can plan, structure and implement their activities in an informed and efficient manner.
Given that public confidence in the security sector is vital for the creation and maintenance of strong and independent democratic institutions, the engagement of credible civil society organizations (CSOs) in the security policy domain strongly contributes to accountability and good governance. Advocacy by civil society groups representing local communities and interest groups helps to give voice to sometimes marginalized actors, as well as opening up the policy-making process to a wider set of perspectives. CSOs have a vital role to play not only in established democracies but also in post-conflict, post-authoritarian and undemocratic states, where the activities of CSOs can still affect the decision-making of elites that monopolize the political process.
Whilst many CSOs have facilitated security sector reform processes in transition and post-conflict states, much of their potential remains untapped. Similarly, the longer term role CSOs play in maintaining a democratically-managed security sector through active engagement on oversight issues is sometimes de-emphasized in the developed and developing worlds. This handbook seeks to encourage societal endorsement and understanding of security as a public good and to render security policy and security sector reform processes more accessible to civil society organizations. It is also intended that CSOs already addressing security issues, many of whom often operate in challenging circumstances, can benefit from the Handbook\'s collection of best practices, oversight tools and engagement strategies. However, fully-fledged civilian oversight and civil participation in relevant processes are often met with institutional and political resistance by members of the security sector. In recent years, under the pretext of benefiting public security, traditions of secrecy have been strengthened in many countries as a consequence of international terrorism and conflicts. Civil rights have consequently been curbed and public oversight of the security sector has been considerably restricted, or not even been established in the first place.
To counter this tendency and ensure accountability and transparency, civil society actors need to be further capacitated to focus on different aspects of oversight issues that may initially not appear to be accessible for civil society oversight such as monitoring, budget analysis, legal assistance and support to legal reform, but also working as civil society representatives with the media, international actors and other stakeholders to improve and increase information available to the public on oversight needs, challenges and opportunities.
This handbook is the third product of the UNDP-DCAF 'Democratising Security' series and is designed primarily for civil society and non-governmental organizations. However, with its overview of conceptual and practical considerations on oversight aspects that lend themselves for civil society involvement it is also relevant to democratic institutions and representatives, policymakers, practitioners, researchers, security sector institutions, the media, as well as regional and international organizations partnering with CSOs on public oversight of the security sector.

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