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The future of the security and defence sector in Ukraine

Ukraine is continuing the process of establishing democratic civilian control over the security and defence sector.

January 7, 2019 - Yuriy Husyev - Analysis

The list of existing achievements is notable: the creation of state and public institutions that perform the functions of control, ensuring regulatory and legal regulation of this sphere; implementation of the principle of de-politicisation of power structures; the division of powers between the ministry of defence and the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine; increasing the openness of the armed forces to society, mass media and so on.

In particular, it is necessary to timely, fully and accurately inform the public and the authorities about the activities of the armed forces via reports of the minister of defence to the president, the Verkhovna Rada, the cabinet of ministers, regular meetings of the defence leadership and the general staff as well as to representatives of mass media, military personnel and members of their families.

Citizens of Ukraine take part in exercising public control over the armed forces through public organisations, via deputies of representative bodies of power and by personally addressing the commissioner for human rights of the Verkhovna Rada and his representative about matters related to the protection of servicemen’s rights; similarly, citizens can also bring up such issues to other appropriate state bodies in the manner prescribed by the constitution and other legal means.

Public organisations registered in accordance with the established procedure are guaranteed, as outlined in the constitution, the following statutory provisions:

  • The ability to request and receive information (so long as it does not contain state secrets) about the activities of the armed forces, other military formations and law-enforcement activities in accordance with the established procedure from the state bodies of military management;
  • The ability to conduct scientific research on the issues of military construction and defence, ensuring national security of the country, to publicly discuss their results, to create public funds, centres and teams of experts for this purpose;
  • The ability to conduct a public examination of draft normative documents, submit its conclusions and proposals to the relevant state bodies for further consideration in the course of reforming the security and defence sector;
  • The opportunity to take part in public discussions and parliamentary hearings on the issues of the general functioning and reforming of the armed forces of Ukraine, other units of the security and defence sector of the state, etc.;
  • The ability to come forward with legislative initiatives in the field of military construction.

The media play a role by providing coverage of national security and defence issues and help fight crime based on objective information about the service and lives of military personnel and processes taking place in the military environment. The media contribute to the formation of public opinion and can play a role in enhancing the prestige of military service and strengthening public trust in the armed forces. 

As with any communication, there are always problems that arise in the process of systematically informing the public about the activities of the security and defence sector. The media alone cannot effectively transmit so much to the entire public. This is why the relevant bodies of state power and military management also participate in the process of communication with the public. From time to time, the appropriate bodies do their part by holding press conferences, posting the latest public information to their websites, and updating already existing web content and online document versions.

Taking into account the pan-European principles for the establishment of the system of democratic civilian control over the security sector, as defined in the relevant recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I propose my own vision of the future and the following ways of building and improving the effectiveness of such a system in Ukraine:

1. Further improvement of legislation on national security, primarily through:

  • The regulation of legislation on national security and defence in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine, on the real state of the security environment in and around Ukraine, and on its harmonisation with the relevant legislation of the EU and NATO;
  • Periodic review and legislative clarification of the tasks and functions of the entities providing national security, particularly in view of current Russian aggression and other situations that threaten the national security of Ukraine;
  • Further development of the legal framework for national security management through the development of appropriate laws, concepts, doctrines, strategies and programs, with special priority for anti-corruption legislation, counter-terrorism and extremism, development of the security sector and state defence, development of the national innovation system, formation of an information society, etc.;
  • Development and adoption of new editions of legislative acts, namely the Law of Ukraine “On the Security Service of Ukraine” and, if necessary, the expansion of similar provisions to other security and defence sectors;
  • Elimination of existing contradictions, inconsistencies and gaps in existing laws and other normative legal acts on national security and defence issues;
  • Improvement of legislation on social security for servicemen, law enforcement, intelligence agencies and members of their families in order to increase the level of social protection of these categories of citizens;
  • Determining the limits of responsibility and control of state authorities and coordinating them with the functions of the controlling bodies;
  • Delineation of spheres of interaction between public administration, control bodies and non-governmental organisations and institutions;
  • Clear regulation of the procedures (rules) for the implementation of administrative, parliamentary and public control over the activities of the security and defence sector entities;
  • Improving the mechanisms for involving civil society institutions in the processes of managing and controlling the national security system.

2. Increased effectiveness of planning, coordination and control over the activities of those officials and bodies responsible for ensuring national security by:

  • Clarifying and clearly delineating the tasks and areas of responsibility of the entities providing national security;
  • Developing and implementing a nationwide system for the identification and monitoring of the threshold values ​​of indicators that characterize the level of protection of national interests in various spheres of life and the emergence of real threats to national security;
  • Periodically reviewing the security sector and other relevant areas (defence, cyber defence, etc.);
  • Intensifying the mechanisms for coordinating and monitoring the activities of executive authorities as they work to reform the Armed Forces and other military groups provided for by the relevant laws of Ukraine.

3. Improvement of the efficiency of the activities of subjects of democratic civilian control, in particular completing the formation of the structure of the state management system of the security and defence sector, providing for:

  • The coordination of functions, powers, responsibilities and control of its units;
  • The establishment of feedback with independent (unbiased) management of the control parameters;

• The strengthening of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine’s coordination capacities and ensuring that the systematic and comprehensive management decisions developed by it are implemented in the security and defence sector.

4. Ensuring the efficiency of the work of the state authorities in reforming the Armed Forces, other military formations and the defence industry with the primary definition of the conceptual foundations of political control of the security and defence sector, functions and tasks of all relevant structures of the sector.

5. Legislative consolidation of the basic parameters of the security sector entities in accordance with the functions and tasks assigned to them.

6. Comprehensive scientific substantiation and support of institutional transformations and relevant management decisions on security and defence policy.

7. Development and introduction into practice of democratic civil control of scientifically substantiated criteria and methods for assessing the results of the operation of all structures of the security and defence sector.

8. Increased effectiveness of the parliamentary component of democratic civilian control by:

  • Including issues of consideration in the practice of the Verkhovna Rada, as well as the advice and opinions of state programs when it comes to reforming and developing the entities of the security and defence sector, which envisages the Rada as an entity that accepts partial responsibility for the effectiveness of their implementation;
  • Strengthening the control of both the defence budget in general and its most important components with the degree of detail at the level of similar procedures in the parliaments of leading western countries;
  • Raising the professional level of people’s deputies (especially through course training developed with input from the Ivan Cherniakhovsky National University of Defence and other higher educational institutions), as well as of their information and analytical support systems;
  • Deepening of the public dialogue on strategic issues related to defence policy in conjunction with feedback from civil society structures, from the expert environment and from the subsequent implementation of the proposals (recommendations) prepared jointly by the practical activities.

9. Legislative consolidation of the order of periodic open reporting and personal responsibility of senior state officials for the quality and implementation of the adopted decisions in the field of security and defence.

10. Ensuring transparency of processes for the adoption of conceptual decisions in the defence and security sectors, in particular on defence budget, personnel policy and social protection, which will create conditions for independent expertise, citizens’ awareness and public opinion.

11. Development and implementation of modern mechanisms of involvement in the formation of the state defence policy and the system of democratic civil control of civil society structures, independent think tanks, experts and media.

Yuriy Husyev was a deputy minister of defence of Ukraine in 2015-2016. He is a co-founder of the International Centre for Security and Defence Strategies.

This article is part of Ukraine: The European frontier – a blog curated by Valerii Pekar.    

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