Democratic Security Sector Governance

In any country, elected officials perform a variety of political and managerial roles throughout the executive and government institutions, all of which are collectively vital to ensure the transparency and accountability of security policy and practice. In this section, the role of each institution is briefly outlined.

In terms of the external governance of security sector agencies, all government institutions have a crucial role to perform and carry the responsibility for establishing and maintaining macro- and micro- oversight tasks on a regular basis. In order for the democratic governance of the security sector to be effective, it is crucial to ensure that the management and internal governance mechanisms of all security sector agencies:

  • are consistent with the values and laws of the society which they serve by providing public security
  • uphold international human rights principles and standards
  • are sufficient to guarantee the delivery of public security
  • are staffed by civilian professionals

Similarly, the government holds responsibility for ensuring the effective internal governance of security sector institutions involving the use of complementary horizontal and vertical governance structures. The level of transparency of such internal management arrangements will also affect the legitimacy of security institutions.

The Executive sets the strategic direction for the management of the security sector and establishment of a broader governance and oversight framework by a democratically-elected government. The executive is able to initiate and lead significant changes in the delivery of effective and responsive security by setting the policy direction for the security sector as a whole. The executive also plays a role in managing security institutions and in performing cross-ministry management and oversight functions. Ultimately, the executive is legally and politically responsible for the performance of security sector agencies.

The Executive’s role also comprises financial oversight through setting budgets and monitoring expenditures (including security sector components); ensuring a transparent framework for financial management; direct oversight of security forces’ policies and practices (including the need to ensure internal oversight components by line ministries); and promoting efforts to engage overlooked or marginalised societal groups by setting, for example, priorities to address the rights of women and children and ethnic minorities, or identifying the need to address specific insecurity issues in specific urban or rural areas. Such procedures should be transparent, as well as promote citizens’ participation in security governance.

The Executive must provide clear leadership and strategic direction to the management of security institutions, and guidance, which emphasizes the clearly segmented responsibilities of each security provider. The provision of public security must be a clear goal and the overarching objectives for each security institution to achieve that end must be outlined. The management of each security sector institution and associated ministries must reflect these objectives in their policies and long-term planning.


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