Research

Building the capacity of civil society to oversee the security sector in Ukraine

/ English version /

Joint project of the "Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies" (CACDS) with the Center for European Security Studies (Netherlands). With the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

Building civil society oversight capacity of the security sector in Ukraine.

Jos Boonstra, Senior Fellow at CESS, The Netherlands

The role of civil society in Ukraine’s security sector deserves extra attention, particularly as the country remains entangled in a lowintensity but deadly war over part of its territory. Ukrainian civil society plays an active role in defence policy oversight, but less so in other security sectors, such as intelligence. Civil society’s capacity to oversee – and sometimes help steer – policy depends, in large part, on the government’s level of transparency and accountability and its willingness to cooperate with civil society partners – the more democratic a government is, the stronger the position of civil society. However, civil society itself could also improve its capacity to impact Ukraine’s policy by becoming more knowledgeable in performing oversight; experienced in working with parliament and other oversight institutions; and increasingly able through the development of new oversight tools and mechanisms.

Key points:

• While civil society worldwide has been increasingly challenged, Ukraine’s civil society has been flourishing. Ukraine’s civil society plays a role in security and defence policy oversight, but it has become more settled and less active, while government reforms have slowed down in recent years.

Civil society can improve its capacity to impact Ukraine’s security and defence policy by becoming more knowledgeable in performing oversight; experienced in working with parliament and other oversight institutions; and increasingly able through the development of new oversight tools and mechanisms.

• Ukraine’s rebooting of leadership with the coming to power of a new president, government and parliament will hopefully also reboot democratic reform and boost civil society’s participatory and oversight functions.