Democratic Security Sector Governance

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a political and military alliance created in 1949 with the aim of safeguarding the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. NATO promotes democratic values and encourages consultation and cooperation on defence and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.

Since 2001, DCAF has been actively engaged with NATO on a number of cooperative security governance programmes. Building on its broader activities in the areas of democratic governance, including defence/law enforcement/intelligence reform, human rights, rule of law and development programming, DCAF has sustained cooperation platforms with NATO in the areas of defence reform, democratic governance and – most recently – gender aspects of security governance.


What does NATO do for SSR?

NATO’s role in SSR has been driven by the process of preparing countries for membership and, once they are members, integrating them into Alliance structures. NATO has made democratic governance of the security sector one of the main concerns of its approach to enlargement (see: NATO 2010, Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). It has also developed a series of programmes designed to strengthen the effectiveness and accountability of institutions concerned with defence. Additionally programmes such as the Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building (PAP-DIB) and those for fighting terrorism have also addressed SSR issues. SSR issues are also included in NATOs work in peace support operations. Moreover, NATO has become increasingly involved in the reform of security forces in countries like Ukraine. All these efforts are promising. However, some argue that NATO needs a more robust and comprehensive approach to SSR in post conflict and conflict settings if it is to be successful in its stabilisation role and if reconstruction is to proceed.[1]


What does NATO do for SSR in Ukraine?

According to NATO, its cooperation with Ukraine in the areas of defence and security sector reform is more extensive than with any other partner country. The NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform (JWGDR) is the primary focus for NATO-Ukraine cooperation in defence and security sector reform. Established in 1998 under the auspices of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, the JWGDR pursues initiatives in the areas of:

  • civil-military relations
  • democratic oversight and civilian management of the armed forces and other security sector agencies
  • defence planning
  • development of policy strategy and national security concepts.

The JWGDR allows Ukraine to draw on Allied countries’ experience and expertise, and serves as a tool through which the Allies can channel assistance. It also provides the institutional basis for NATO’s cooperation with ministries and agencies engaged in implementing defence and security sector reform in Ukraine. These include the National Security and Defence Council, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, the National Guard, Border Guard Service, Security Service of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) and others.

There are several programmes and initiatives supporting Ukraine’s reforms in the defence and security sector, which are implemented under the auspices of the JWGDR, such as the Professional Development Programme for Civilian Personnel of Security and Defence Sector Institutions, and Partnership Network for Civil Society Expertise Development.

Moreover, NATO has provided trainings to the Ukrainian armed forces through its Partnership for Peace Programme. It has also supported Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts via the NATO Building Integrity Programme since 2007. According to a recent mapping study carried out by Folke Bernadotte Academy, NATO’s current support to Ukraine mainly revolves around capacity development and is structured around five trust funds:

  • Command, control, communications, computers
  • Cyber Defence
  • Logistics and standardisation
  • Medical rehabilitation
  • Military Career Management




NATO Partnership for Peace Programme (PFP)

NATO Building Integrity

[1]David M. Law (ed.), Intergovernmental Organisations and Security Sector Reform. DCAF (2007)

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