National security architectures

National management and decision-making structures

National security architectures include management, decision-making and oversight structures and institutions, as well as national policies, strategies and plans. Many institutions and agencies contribute to national security management, so co-ordination of decision-making is important (Bearne et al., 2005). Overarching decision-making structures, such as National Security Councils, can cover policy, legislative, structural and oversight issues, and might co-ordinate or implement policy, or assess and advise (Bearne et al., 2005).

National security policy and strategies

Processes of developing national security policies and strategies provide opportunities for a country to instigate long-term institutional and systemic change. For example, such processes can encourage non-discriminatory and accountable law enforcement, the prioritisation of citizens’ needs, and definitions of security actors’ long-term roles. They offer valuable entry points for security and justice assistance because they articulate national security priorities and the capacities required to meet them (UN, 2012, p. 118).

Constitutional and legal provisions

The laws in many fragile and conflict-affected contexts often discriminate against the poor and marginalised and violate international human rights standards. They may also be outdated, and thus lack certain provisions that are key to protecting people’s safety and security  ‒ witness protection provisions, for example, or definitions of organised crime or trafficking. Laws need to be reformed, particularly where a new constitution has introduced provisions on human rights and the reorganisation of the justice system.

The importance of oversight

According to Born et al. (2003), parliamentary involvement in security decision-making is essential for ensuring public support and legitimacy. For example, parliaments can review draft laws, providing consent or suggesting changes, and influence budgets.

Civil society bodies, including NGOs, women’s organisations and research institutes, can also contribute to oversight. They can give feedback on policy development and implementation and promote public awareness and debate of security issues (Born et al., 2003).

Security decision-making in fragile and conflict-affected contexts

Comparative research in Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Uganda identifies characteristics of security architectures and decision-making in fragile and conflict-affected states (CSDG, 2008; Hendrickson, 2008):

  • Security decision-making processes are inherently political: Control of the national security decision-making process is often elitist, personalised, male-dominated and secretive. Nepotism, patronage and corruption tend to exclude segments of the population (CSDG, 2008, p. 16).
  • Citizens have little influence: Recurrent crises hinder thechannels and organised interest groups through which citizens might influence policy processes. Citizens’ security demands are based on narrow, often communal, interests, which may increase state autonomy in security decision-making (Hendrickson, 2008).
  • Multiple sources of authority are involved: Given the multi-layered reality of security and justice provision, there are likely to be multiple sources of security and justice authority, and demands for provision are likely to be locally orientated (Hendrickson, 2008).
  • Limited capabilities: Deficits in regulative, technical and administrative capacities undermine governmental decision-making (Hendrickson, 2008).

The practical realities of limited political will and capacity

Secretive cultures of security decision-making hinder inclusive consultations and strategic processes (UN, 2012). In addition, decision-making is often reactive, focusing on near-term security, rather than anticipating political problems and human vulnerabilities that give rise to insecurity. Consequently, coordinating structures may be weak or marginalised (Bearne et al, 2005; CSDG, 2008).

National security architecture in Sierra Leone

The following personal accounts highlight some of Sierra Leone’s successes and challenges in preparing for and responding to the 2007 parliamentary and presidential elections, and in ensuring the inclusion ofcitizens’ perspectives in decision-making.

The role of security cooperation in the 2007 elections

Sierra Leone’s National Security Council (NSC) is the country’s highest national security forum. It is chaired by the president and its membership includes key departmental ministers and heads of the primary security institutions, including the Office of National Security (ONS), the police, and the armed forces.

The ONS coordinates security activities. It translates NSC policy into missions and tasks, chairs the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and the NSC Coordinating Group (NSCCG), and conducts security assessments based on intelligence reports.

Whilst the establishment of these coordination mechanisms in a post-conflict context is considered a major achievement, securing political buy-in for the ONS has proved difficult. However, the peaceful conclusion of the 2007 parliamentary and presidential elections has been seen as a success for ONS’ coordinating role. In the build-up to elections, the ONS identified potential threats. The NSCCG identified and recommended specific actions to the NSC, and these were continually updated as the election approached.

Source: Conteh (2010)

Civil society input in national security decision-making

Sierra Leone’s 2005 security sector review explicitly recognised the value of civil society involvement. Provincial and district security committees (PROSECs and DISECs) enable civil society involvement in Sierra Leone’s security decision-making processes. PROSECs provide the government with early warning of security threats. The committees at both levels include ONS representatives, civil servants, civil society representatives, and traditional authorities.

Sierra Leone’s citizens, distrustful of state security institutions, have tended to view PROSECs and DISECs as secretive. Security personnel have been reluctant to engage with civil society, and the selection of the committees’ civil society members has often been based on existing personal relationships. However, the sharing of information has benefitted both citizens and security institutions, which both groups have come to recognise.

Source: Hanson-Alp (2010)

  • Bearne, S., Oliker, O., O’Brien, K. A., & Rathmell, A. (2005). National Decision-Making Structures and Security Sector Reform. Cambridge: RAND Corporation.
    See document online
  • Born, H., Fluri, P., & Johnsson, A. B. (2003). Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector: Principles, Mechanisms and Practices. Geneva: DCAF.
    See document online
  • Conteh, K.H. (2010). Security Sector Reform in Sierra Leone and the Role of the Office of National Security. In P. Jackson & P. Albrecht (Eds.), Security Sector Reform on Sierra Leone 1997-2007: Views from the Front Line. Geneva: DCAF.
    See document online
  • CSDG. (2008). State Responsiveness to Public Security Needs: The Politics of Security Decision-Making: A Comparative Study of Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Uganda. CSDG Papers No. 11. London: Conflict, Security and Development Group, King’s College London.
    See document online
  • Hanson-Alp, R. (2010). Civil Society’s Role in Sierra Leone’s Security Sector Reform Process: Experiences from Conciliation Resources West Africa Programme. In P. Jackson & P. Albrecht (Eds.), Security Sector Reform in Sierra Leone 1997-2007: Views from the Front Line. Geneva: DCAF.
    See document online
  • Hendrickson, D. (2008). State Responsiveness to Public Security Needs: The Politics of Security Decision-Making: Synthesis of Findings and Implications for UK SSR Policy. CSDG Papers No. 12. London: Conflict, Security and Development Group, King’s College London.
    See document online
  • UN. (2012). Security Sector Reform: Integrated Technical Guidance Notes. New York: United Nations SSR Task Force.
    See document online
  • These include the executive; national security advisory bodies; legislative/parliamentary committees; ministries of defence, internal affairs, and foreignaffairs; customary and traditional authorities; financial management bodies (finance ministries, budget officers, financial audit and planning units); and civil society organisations (civilian review boards and public complaints commissions) (OECD-DAC, 2007b).