Democratic Security Sector Governance

man-talking-by-speaker FREEPIKCivil society can participate effectively in public oversight of the security sector governance on national, regional and international levels via research, advocacy, awareness-raising, training, monitoring, legal assistance, and budget analysis. Media can also perform many of the same tasks and bring them to a broader audience in a first instance. Moreover, the media constitutes a primary tool of communication with the public, the government, and the security sector.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) that conduct policy-relevant research and analysis can contribute to security sector oversight by making their findings and reports publicly available and by providing suggestions and recommendations. CSOs should establish a dialogue and engage on an ongoing basis with members of parliament and the government in order to influence policy-making and implementation. They can also draw international attention to national issues via international forums and regional organisations as well as the media in order to exercise a greater impact on national policy-making processes. Civil society organisations are also well placed to reflect the interests and needs of minorities and other groups of society who tend to be marginalised.

Awareness-raising is one of the most important roles that civil society and the media can perform. Awareness-raising is crucial in order to educate the public about their rights vis-à-vis the security sector and about how effective and responsible security sector providers should behave in a democratic governance setting. Awareness-raising is also vital to promote public interest in complex security issues that may otherwise go undiscussed due to vested political, economic or criminal interest groups. Moreover, civil society organisations have a vital task of educating the media about security sector issues in order to enable them to communicate those issues to the public in a coherent manner.

When it comes to raising-awareness, civil society and the media complement each other. On the one hand, civil society organisations provide expertise and education. On the other, the media convey information to the public about issues that interest and affect them, as well as raise awareness about the importance of democratic security sector governance and oversight. Both have the responsibility to provide truthful information and serve the interest of the public. Their mutual support of each other is indispensable, particularly in terms of investigations.

Media have the power to exercise pressure on public authorities and therefore the ability to put relevant issues on a government’s agenda. Together, civil society and the media have the necessary tools to make security sector governance issues visible, understandable and important to the public and the state. They also have the right and the responsibility to oversee the security sector and hold it accountable for its mischiefs and shortcomings.

Another vital task of civil society organisations is to provide training to their peers, citizens, security sector personnel, and the staff of democratic institutions on security sector oversight.

Civil society and the media can contribute to democratic security sector governance and accountability by monitoring and overseeing the following areas:

  • Security sector’s compliance with laws and regulations
  • Respect for Constitutional and Human Rights
  • Respect of commitments made via International, or bilateral, treaty obligations and policy statements
  • Public-spending
  • Corruption
  • Policy processes
  • Effectiveness of policies and actions


Key source:

DCAF, UNDP (2008), Public Oversight of the Security Sector. A handbook for Civil Society Organisations.


Born Hans, Wills Aidan, DCAF-Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (2012), Overseeing Intelligence Services: a Toolkit.

Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector: Guides to Good Governance

Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector (2015) Criteria for good governance in the defence sector. International standards and principles (2015)

DCAF (2015) International Standards of Financial Oversight in the Security Sector. 7.2 Toolkit- Legislating for the Security Sector.

DCAF (2009), Security Sector Governance and Reform Backgrounder. New edition available here.

DCAF (2009), Security Sector Reform and Intergovernmental Organisations. Backgrounder. New edition available here.

NATO-DCAF, (2010). Building Integrity and Reducing Corruption in Defence. A Compendium of Best Practices.

Nicolas Masson, Lena Andersson, Mohammed Salah Aldin, DCAF (2013) Strengthening Financial Oversight in the Security Sector.

Transparency International (2013) Watchdogs? The quality of Legislative Oversight of Defence in 82 Countries. Government Defence and-corruption index.

Transparency International. International Defence and Security Programme.

Transparency International (2012). Building Integrity and Countering Corruption In Defence and Security. 20 Practical Reforms.

United Nations SSR Task Force, Security Sector Reform Integrated Technical Guidance Notes. 2012.

 © Icon Credit: Designed by Freepik from

Supporting Ukraine’s Security Sector Reform: Mapping Security Sector Assistance Programmes

This Mapping Study seeks to support international engagement on security sector reform in Ukraine by identifying the extent and scope of current rule of law, security sector governance (SSG) and democratic oversight programming. By covering internation … read more

Conference 8: Human Rights and Security Sector Governance: Ukraine’s Reform Challenges

  In the framework of the ‘Ukraine – Security Governance Best Practice and Monitoring Platforms’ project, the eighth conference will take place in Kiev between 21 and 22 June. This conference will address Ukraine’s reform challenges related to Hum … read more

Conference 4: The Role of Media

Monitoring Ukraine’s Security Sector Governance (SSG) Challenges: SSG – The Role of Media Between 5th-6th October the fourth multi-stakeholder conference addressing Ukraine’s security governance challenges took place in Kyiv and examined the role of me … read more

Conference 4 on Monitoring Ukraine’s Security Sector Governance (SSG) Challenges: SSG – The Role of Media

Between 5th-6th October the fourth multi-stakeholder conference addressing Ukraine’s security governance challenges will take place in Kyiv and examine the role of media in security sector governance. The objective of this conference is to outline the … read more

International Support to Security Sector Reform in Ukraine. A mapping study of SSR projects.

In 2015, the Swedish National Contact Group for Security Sector Reform (NCSSR) conducted an SSR assessment of Ukraine on behalf of the Swedish government. Building on this experience, and on the report submitted to the Swedish government, the FBA has c … read more

Photo credit: Ivan Bandura (Flickr)

© Copyright 2023, All Rights Reserved

Web Development by Activate Media