Democratic Security Sector Governance

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Independent oversight agencies with specialised monitoring mandates perform a vital role in the governance of the security sector. Such agencies include:

  • national human rights institutions,
  • human rights ombudsperson institutions,
  • public defenders,
  • national ethics committees,
  • anti-corruption agencies,
  • auditor generals,
  • independent complaint mechanisms, and other specialised expert oversight bodies (e.g. for intelligence oversight)

The roles of independent agencies can include monitoring security policy and practice, independently undertaking investigations, issuing binding and/or non-binding recommendations on accountability issues, policies and practices, aggregating data on complaints and malpractices, and publicly reporting on oversight and compliance issues. Such independent monitoring is essential to ensure accountability, strengthen stakeholder confidence, and provide a substantive basis for dialogue and cooperation between democratic institutions, the security sector, and civil society on security governance issues. Structured and systematic reports and other documentation about the behaviour of the security institutions can provide an empirical basis for reforms to policy and practice at national and local levels.

Similarly, independent oversight institutions are well placed, depending on their precise terms of reference, to issue recommendations on improving security provision and human rights observance by security sector agencies.


Eden Cole and Katrin Kinzelbach (eds.), Monitoring and Investigating the Security Sector, (Bratislava: Renesans for UNDP, 2007)

Hans Born and Ian Leigh, Handbook on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Armed Forces Personnel, (ODIHR & DCAF, 2008)

Benjamin Buckland and William McDermott, Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces: A Handbook, (DCAF 2012)


UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre, Guide for Ombudsman Institutions: How to Conduct Investigations, 2006.

OSCE ODIHR, Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, (Warsaw: 2014)

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