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Jul 28, 2010 | Publications

Written by Ian Davis, Chapter 21 of DCAF and NATO’s Building Integrity and Reducing Corruption in Defence:  A Compendium of Best Practices, explores the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) and the media in the implementation of SSR initiatives.

Davis argues that parliamentarians are insufficient to “guarantee effective oversight and hold the government accountable for all activities and policies within the security sector since they do not have the time, resources or expertise to do so.”  Accordingly, CSOs and the media are needed “to strengthen good governance in defence establishments as well as address corruption risks.”

In particular, CSOs can oversee defence and SSR through:

  • Public education and awareness raising – e.g. convincing the public that SSR is relevant to them;
  • Acting as catalysts and intermediaries – e.g. functioning as a go-between for governments and their armed forces in certain cases;
  • Providing expertise and knowledge – e.g. giving advice at legislative hearings;
  • Conducting primary research and developing policy – e.g. “exposing flaws or contradictions in decision making on the use of military force”;  and
  • Monitoring implementation and ongoing practices (265-266)

According to the article, while the media can “function as an instrument of good governance by presenting accurate, balanced and timely information on issues of interest to society,” its main role in supporting SSR is to be a watchdog.  Moreover, while few CSOs in advanced democracies participate in SSR, the unstable and dangerous environment in fragile states limits participation even further.

However, theory and reality are different – many CSOs play only consultative roles and there has been a general decline in “serious public affairs journalism.”  Davis’ solution is for NGOs and the media to develop more expertise on “government security policy, defence budgets, procurement and resource options” (266-267; 270-271).  As well, SSR engagement must be expanded to include more civil society actors and CSOs must be “more proactive in communicating their experience and wisdom more widely to policymakers and the public.”

Davis concludes by suggesting that both NATO and NGOs must set the right example for SSR and build integrity by becoming more transparent.

Although this chapter highlights the way in which CSOs and the media can be involved in SSR, two issues deserving further analysis are:

  • What mechanisms are needed to encourage CSOs and the media to become more active in SSR issues?
  • What protections can be provided to those CSOs and media that operate in fragile states?  Who can provide these protections?