The Role of Civil Society and the Media

This chapter looks at the indispensable role of civil society and the media in building integrity and reducing corruption in the defence and security sector. It considers the issue of “building integrity” mainly through the lens of security sector reform (SSR), a concept that emerged in the 1990s in response to the recognition that development and security are two sides of the same coin and that efforts to improve security should be carried out within a framework of strengthening democratic or good governance. In its core, “good” governance is people-centred, equitable, accountable, and transparent. It engenders participation and consultation in planning and decision-making, effective and efficient public sector management, and actively seeks and facilitates the involvement of civil society. In other words, good governance is legitimised by participatory processes, anti-corruption efforts, and bureaucratic accountability. It emphasises efficient and effective use of resources and promotes the active involvement of the private sector and the civil society to counteract vested interests.

In 2004, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) produced, and the membership endorsed, a policy paper that urged stakeholders to “redefine security and move the debate from the realist version to a more comprehensive and co-operative approach.” The OECD DAC describes SSR as the “transformation of the ‘security system’—which includes all the actors, their roles, responsibilities and actions—working together to manage and operate the system in a manner that is more consistent with democratic norms and sound principles of good governance, and thus contributes to a well-functioning security framework.” In seeking to build an “institutional culture of integrity” (Chapter 24) there would seem to be no need to reinvent the conceptual wheel: the objectives and standards set out in the DAC SSR framework already largely fit the bill. What is mainly lacking is effective implementation of existing standards by many governments, especially in relation to transparency and accountability, and in fully embracing the potential contribution of key stakeholders, especially civil society.

As the SSR agenda has evolved in recent years, civil society has played an important role in building the integrity of this approach and there is growing acknowledgement among many states and within the United Nations that non-government actors, the media and parliamentarians can perform crucial civilian oversight and monitoring functions. Parliamentarians alone cannot guarantee effective oversight and hold the government accountable for all activities and policies within the security sector since they do not have the time, resources or expertise to do so. As the DAC describes, “the involvement of civil society in SSR programs is a precondition for wider and more inclusive local ownership and, ultimately, sustainability.” As a number of earlier chapters have indicated, independent oversight by civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media is a necessary element of building integrity and is crucial to effective implementation of SSR initiatives to strengthen good governance in defence establishments as well as address corruption risks.

Overall, however, the practical role of CSOs and the media in SSR and integrity capacity building has been rather limited, not only in fragile or transition states (often due to the nature of authoritarian regimes and the weakness of civil society) but also in more advanced democratic societies and especially within the NATO alliance (where entry points for independent civil society engagement remain restricted, as discussed further below). This chapter aims to stimulate discussion about why this has been the case and what needs to be done to strengthen civil society and the media’s role in monitoring and reforming defence establishments.

It begins by separately reviewing the roles of civil society and the media and then looks at the difficulties of applying these roles within three particular scenarios: fragile states, transition countries and the NATO Alliance. The chapter concludes by proposing some options and recommendations for protecting and enhancing the ability of civil society and the media to build integrity and reduce the corruption potential in defence establishments.

... For the full text of this chapter see the accompanying file below.


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