Democratic Security Sector Governance


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Defence forces are often the most well-known security sector component. As with other security providers, the aim of defence forces is to supply security as a public good. Defence is provided by the armed forces and military personnel to the people. In open conflicts, the defence sector responds to an external aggression, or other coercive threats against a nation or its territory. In the current international setting, defence plays more of a deterrence role. The word “defence” can also be used to describe armed forces and military personnel as a section of the broader security sector. The word may, similarly, refer simply to defence policy in general.

Armed forces are institutions established by the state for the primary purpose of national defence against external threats and internal conflicts. They may be professional, conscription-based, or include a combination of professional uniformed staff, professional civilian staff, and/or uniformed non-professional conscripts. In some instances, other professional security forces may be called upon to assist the regular military forces. The specific composition of the armed forces depends on their legal definition in each country. The armed forces must be under democratic civilian control and the rule of law. They must protect and respect human rights.[1]

Defence policy is a formal description of how defence and security ought to be provided. A defence policy is usually based on a country’s constitution and other legislative tools and is country-specific. Defence policy typically covers the main guiding principles of defence and security provision; national values; national interests; strategic goals; strategic environment; as well as threats, risks, and challenges for national security.[2]

Some countries do not have one national security policy document but a series of national security policy documents, such as White Papers on Defence, speeches of the authorities, and other related papers. National security policy should incorporate, or give place to, the development of national security and defence strategies. The latter identify the formal methods that will be used to attain security and defence objectives described by national security policy.[3]


DCAF (2015), The Armed Forces. SSR Backgrounder.

UN SSR Task Force (2012), Security Sector Reform.  Integrated Technical Guidance Notes

DCAF (2008), National Security Policy Backgrounder.


[1] DCAF (2015), The Armed Forces. SSR Backgrounder.

[2] UN SSR Task Force (2012), Security Sector Reform.  Integrated Technical Guidance Notes; DCAF (2008), National Security Policy Backgrounder.

[3] United Nations SSR task force, Security Sector Reform.  Integrated Technical Guidance Notes. 2012. p 122-125.

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