Democratic Security Sector Governance


  • Society: all citizens, individuals, people
  • Civil Society Organisation: citizens organised around a common goal
  • Civil Society: all civil society organisations, including media and individual active citizens

Civil society plays a crucial role in democratic Security Sector Governance (SSG). This includes all civil society organisations (CSOs), including the media and individual active citizens. Civil society contributes to communication, information, education, and representation. Civil society also provides expertise, human resources, and carries out oversight.

Why is an active civil society important?

Civil society is at the heart of the democratic security sector governance.

  • As a channel for Civil society translates society’s security needs into security demands and communicates them to the Government and the Security Sector. Civil society also translates and communicates, back to the authorities, society’s feedback on the performance of the security sector.
  • CSOs and the Media provide information to the public and raise-awareness about the importance of security sector governance issues.
  • In doing so, they also educate the public, other civil society organisations, and security sector personnel.
  • Civil society should be representative of the society. CSOs have a unique access to local groups and minorities. Therefore, they play a valuable role in communicating the needs and interests of these groups to their governments.
  • CSOs are a source of expertise and They can provide technical input to policy-making and implementation, and analyse the potential effects of a given policy.
  • Civil society and the media play an important oversight They evaluate and monitor the security sector’s policies and performance.
  • Civil society also provides a source of skilled professionals that governments can use.


How can civil society contribute to good security sector governance?

  • CSOs can carry out policy-relevant research. However, they must do so professionally, competently, and independently.
  • Advocacy serves as a means to exercise influence and is closely related to awareness-raising and lobbying. Advocacy requires establishing a dialogue and engaging on an ongoing basis with members of parliament and government officials. Advocacy may include activities, such as public education, research, networking, public mobilisation, agenda setting, policy design, implementation, and monitoring. Through awareness-raising, CSOs can encourage public debate and focus public attention on issues that would otherwise be ignored.
  • Awareness-raising and Advocacy are key tools for educating citizens about their rights vis-à-vis the security sector and how it should work. Another fundamental skill that CSOs must have is the ability to train their staff, peers, citizens, security sector personnel, and the staff of democratic institutions.
  • One of the most important tasks Civil Society must carry out is oversee and monitor the performance of the security sector. CSOs should evaluate the quality and effects of security policies, as well as the level of respect for human rights and the rule of law in and by the security sector. Monitoring contributes to greater accountability of the security sector and, therefore, to good governance.
  • Civil society provides a valuable pool of knowledge, advice, and experience for governments, particularly when it comes to legal assistance and budget analysis.
  • In order to have a real impact on SSG and fulfil its role successfully, civil society needs to acquire tools and build capacity. Therefore, CSOs should focus on strengthening their skills, knowledge, and practices not only for policy analysis, advocacy, and monitoring, but for internal management, fund-raising, and outreach, as well. Capacity-building should be a top priority for civil society.
  • Another crucial component of the equation is By acquiring capacity, creating networks and ensuring one’s own integrity, transparency, and accountability, CSOs can gain credibility and expand their area of influence.
  • To that effect, it is important to reach out to other CSOs and international organisations in order to establish partnerships and networks of cooperation, as well as coordinate efforts in a strategic manner.

civil society and media 1


Key Partnerships

To be effective, civil society needs to establish partnerships.

  • The key partnership is between the state and civil society, a relationship which must be built on trust and dialogue. The success of Security Sector Reform depends on this partnership. This partnership should be developed though an inclusive and participatory approach bringing citizens and CSOs into the decision-making process.
  • A partnership between civil society, the parliament, its committees and the ombudsman is absolutely crucial to good security sector governance. Specialised CSOs are well-placed to provide legislative assistance to parliamentarians.
  • CSOs should establish partnerships with other CSOs, especially international and regional organisations who have more power on the international scale. International alliances provide a crucial platform for bringing international attention to important issues. They also contribute to improving organisational credibility. The ability to construct effective alliances with the international community, in terms of funding, training, information, human resources, and solidary networks, is a core skill for any CSO to develop. Moreover, CSOs working on the same issue, or in the same region, must coordinate their efforts.
  • Media and CSOs should support each other in their efforts of informing the public about the security sector. CSOs need information provided by journalists in order to carry out research, address issues, raise awareness, and suggest recommendations. CSOs also need media to advertise their publications and findings. Media, on the other hand, need for SCOs to provide support and protection for journalists addressing sensitive and difficult issues. Media also need CSOs to provide them with knowledge and expertise. It is a mutually beneficial alliance.


Key Qualities

Not only do civil society organisations need tools and partnerships to operate, but they also need certain key qualities in order to be effective and efficient:

  • They should think and act strategically in order to maximise the impact and sustainability of their activities.
  • They should develop skills to monitor and evaluate their own work; which is a precondition for determining the effectiveness and efficiency of their work. Positive results should be shared as best practices and monitoring ensures a continuous effort of performance improvement. Monitoring and evaluation contribute to the group’s transparency and promote accountability and integrity.
  • CSOs should strive to be
  • They must actively seek to acquire expertise and engage, effectively, with relevant actors in order to build capacity.
  • They must develop networks of cooperation with other actors involved in their field of work.
  • They should strive to achieve organisational credibility, which will enable them to enhance their capacities.

Civil Society and Building Integrity

Building Integrity and anti-corruption initiatives are a vital part of democratic security sector governance and security sector reform.

In order to contribute to BI efforts, civil society and the media must raise awareness about the importance of these topics. They should expose wrongdoing; oversee and monitor policy-making, budgeting and implementation processes; provide expertise and promote best practices. CSOs need to be proactive and work in cooperation with the Parliament, its committees and the ombuds institutions.

Providing BI trainings to security sector personnel is one of the most important contributions of civil society to good SSG. These trainings should also be open for peers and the wider public.

CSO should, of course, abide by the values they promote and stand for. They must be transparent and accountable in their own financial affairs and operations.


Issues and Challenges

One of the many challenges civil society faces is the lack of effective implementation of Good Governance legislation. The other, is lack of tools and infrastructure to participate in the security sector governance processes.

Another obstacle is media concentration. The emergence of new media outlets has led to a greater variety of public information sources. However, the continuing domination of mainstream media means that most of the public remains unaware of alternative options.

Security Sector Governance issues are, usually, complex and technical. Additionally, security sector personnel and experts tend to use a complicated language. This makes it difficult for the average citizen to grasp the importance of these matters.

The most controversial challenge is, definitely, the secrecy culture surrounding the security sector. A special focus on enhancing transparency is needed as it lies at the very foundation of democratic security sector governance. Transparency is vital for fighting corruption and building integrity. Enabling channels and space for whistle blowing, as well as whistle-blower protection, is also a major component of democratic security sector governance.

Another important challenge is the lack of coordination between different CSOs, which leads to the duplication of tasks and, therefore, poor results.



Legal and constitutional provisions, such as group autonomy, freedom of the press and protest, freedom of speech, and freedom of information, are essential to CSOs’ work and good governance. These rights must be improved, implemented, and exercised. Whistle-blower and journalistic sources protection is also an essential part of this equation.

When it comes to media, it is important that there are a variety of independent news outlets, and free and fair competition.

Coordination among all the actors involved in SSG is vital.

Donors should encourage the development of independent media and SCOs; invest in building their capacity, and make strategic decisions in view of a broader impact of their activities within SSR.

It is more important than ever to develop media literacy of citizens; communicating in a clear and understandable manner is part of that process. Media have an important role to play when it comes to attracting public interest to SSG issues by acting as an interpreter. A healthy democracy requires informed citizens who have access to timely, accurate and reliable information on issues that affect them and matter to them; and are, therefore, equipped to participate constructively in public debate. Additionally, CSOs should push for the institutionalisation of government consultation with civil society.

There should be more inclusiveness, in general. A participatory approach is needed to build a sense of local ownership in SSR and increase the legitimacy of the process. Civil society and the media must increase their efforts in raising awareness on the importance of anti-corruption and building integrity measures.

Monitoring and oversight should be encouraged on all fronts. Part of the effort should be aimed at educating and preparing the next generation of civil society actors to exercise effective oversight of the security sector.

Civil society must focus on sharing their expertise through trainings for security sector personnel, parliamentarians, civil society organisations and the wider public.



Civil society plays a crucial role in SSG.  Civil Society contributes to making the Security Sector and the Government transparent, accountable, representative, effective, efficient, legitimate, and, therefore, democratic. Civil Society Organisations provide ways for individuals to participate in public life beyond the periodic opportunity to vote. In order to fulfil its role successfully, civil society needs space, tools, partnerships, capacity, credibility, and strategic vision.



DCAF- UNDP 2008, Public Oversight of the Security Sector. A Handbook for Civil Society Organisations.

DCAF (2008), Gender SSR Toolkit, Practical Note 9

Duncan Hiscock, “The Role of Civil Society in Security Sector Governance in the South Caucasus”. Working Paper. Austrian National Defence Academy.

Marina Camparini, “Civil Society and Democratic Oversight of the Security Sector: A Preliminary Investigation” Working Paper No 132. DCAF 2004.

Marina Camparini, Philipp Fluri, Ferenc Molnar (Eds.), Civil Society and the Security Sector. Concepts and Practices in New Democracies. DCAF 2006.

Marina Caparini, News Media and Security Sector Reform. Reporters on Telling the Story. DCAF 2010.

TI (2015) Open Governance in Ukraine: How is it Done in Practice? Anastasia Krasnosilska, Ukrainian Independent Center for Political Research (UCIPR)

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