National Security Strategies

A National Security Strategy or Policy (NSS or NSP) is a key framework for a country to meet the basic needs and security concerns of citizens, and address external and internal threats to the country. In addition to focusing on the effectiveness of security providers, many of the more recent, forward-looking NSS/NSPs incorporate a number of key issues as a way of ensuring their relevance, public legitimacy, ownership, and sustainability, as well as facilitating their implementation and improving the efficiency of how security is provided. These are:

These eight areas are introduced briefly below with a few options for enhancing their inclusion in NSS/NSPs, and illustrated by a number of relevant examples from NSS/NSPs.

1. Human Security


Human security involves basing the understanding of security on the needs of citizens, not just those of the government/State. Options to enhance human security include: 1) building consensus around the country’s conceptualisation of security; 2) incorporating views gathered through wide public consultations and submissions from groups that are representative of different sectors of society; 3) including specific reference in the NSS/NSP to the central importance of the security of the people; and 4) considering the root causes of citizen’s insecurity as part of the strategies to achieve the NSS/NSP goals.

Examples:

  • The 2011-2016 Philippines NSP emphasised that “the welfare and well being of the people are of primordial consideration” (pg. 31, paragraph 4). The 2017-2022 Philippines NSP reiterates the concept, affirming that "the general public must be secured  and protected from any harm that could endanger their lives, properties, and ways of life" (pr. 19, paragraph 3). 
  • The 2013 Papua New Guinea NSP emphasises “people-centred security”, as well as including references to security concerns brought about by state-centric regimes;
  • The first strategic objective of the 2013 Peru NSS centres on a national strategy for citizen security (pg. 73);
  • The 2008 Liberia NSS calls for the new security architecture to “be constructed on the basis of promoting state, human and societal security” (pg. 15, section 9).

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2. Oversight and accountability

Democratic oversight of the security sector is widely recognised as an international norm (emphasised in documents from the UN amongst others). It involves establishing robust checks and balances and upholding the principles of accountability and transparency, as well as ensuring security providers are operating effectively and adequately, and in accordance with the legal and policy framework. A strong focus on oversight and accountability contributes strongly to the legitimacy and ownership of an NSS/NSP, encourages a more efficient use of resources, and strengthens the integrity of institutions. Options to enhance oversight and accountability include: 1) promoting a commitment to accountability and oversight as a means of achieving the strategic goals; 2) outlining specific roles for civil society and mechanisms to allow them to contribute effectively; and 3) incorporating and emphasising the roles of Parliament and independent state oversight institutions.

Examples:

  • Goal 1 of the 2011-2016 Philippines included creating the space and mechanisms for civilians in Government and civil society organisations to oversee the security sector (pg. 24). This goal is also expressed in the 2017-2022 Philippines NSP as a strategic objective to "strengthen the integrity of national institutions by promoting transparent, participatory and accountable governance" (pg. 20, paragraph 2);  
  • Goal 6 of the 2009 Belize NSS focuses on strengthening the institutions of democratic governance (pg. 32). This includes a Freedom of Information Act, public senate hearings on public official corruption cases, and constructive input from civil society and private sector;
  • The 2015 United Kingdom NSS commits to “consolidate the investigatory powers that the public authorities require, with robust oversight, transparency and safeguards” (pg. 38, section 4.90);
  • Goal 6 of the 2013 Papua New Guinea NSP requires the establishment of a parliamentary oversight committee on national security (pg. 50);
  • The 2015 United States NSS includes empowering civil society as one of its specific values (pg. 21).

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3. Human Rights

Human rights are central to safety and security at a national, community and individual level. A strong human rights approach also provides a framework to build partnerships with communities and develop their resilience to help address security issues. Options to enhance the focus on human rights include: 1) explicit references in NSS/NSPs in order to reinforce the commitment to human rights seen in overarching documents, such as the Constitution, and maintain a human rights focus throughout implementation; 2) commitments to the elimination human rights violations within security sector institutions or in the provision of security and justice services; and 3) highlighting national mechanisms that will uphold civil rights and international human rights norms.

Examples:

  • The 2009 Belize NSS recognises that upholding human rights is a specific political national interest, and Goal 2 underlines the need for the police department to respect the human rights of all citizens as they seek to reduce violent crime and dismantle criminal networks (pg. 15);
  • The 2015 Chile NSS recalls the UN definition of security, which states that security is the protection of fundamental rights (pg. 7, paragraph 3);
  • The 2011 Ecuador NSS makes reference to the need for an integral/holistic approach to ensure the protection and promotion of HR;
  • Respect for human rights forms part of the vision of the 2013 Jamaica NSP, and the NSP action points include reference to human rights training for police officers.

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4. Justice

The justice system is a critical link in the criminal justice chain, and therefore directly contributes to strengthening public order and safety. However, its contribution goes beyond this. The justice system contributes to maintaining a peaceful internal environment through its role as a mechanism for diffusing and managing conflict. Options to enhance the focus on justice include: 1) explicitly recognising the relevance of justice to national security; 2) highlighting the relevance of state and non-state dispute resolution mechanisms, access to justice, and a focus on judicial procedures as well as legislation in order to provide consistency in how justice is provided to citizens; linking, if relevant, to national justice strategies; and including justice institutions within the coordination mechanisms.

Examples:

  • The 2013 Colombia NSS underlines that security depends on access to justice to protect and promote people’s rights;
  • Priority 3 in the 2015 Chile NSS focuses entirely on community justice (pg. 52);
  • Goal 2 of the 20112016 Philippines NSP includes contributing to strengthening the rule of law throughout the country, ensuring the pillars of criminal justice system function effectively, and that citizens have a functioning and reliable justice system (pg. 26);
  • The 2009 Belize NSS commits to “strengthening its judiciary, ensuring continued independence and professionalism, providing necessary resources to investigate and prosecute all types of criminal activity, and the consistent application of the law” (pg. 9).

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5. Gender

Making sure that a specific focus on gender is practiced ensures that the needs of all groups of the population are taken into account (both implicitly and explicitly). Specific reference to gender also helps to meet the requirements for UN Security Council Resolution 1325, namely the equal participation and full involvement of women in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Options to enhance the focus on gender include: 1) recognising the different security needs of men, women, girls and boys; 2) emphasising the equal right of women and men to participate in security sector institutions; and 3) recognition of gender based violence as an internal threat to security.

Examples:

  • South Africa’s Defence Review Process and Defence White Paper (1996-1998) were gender-responsive and highlighted the role of women as consumers and providers of security;
  • The 2015 United States NSS commits to preventing and responding to gender-based violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons (pg. 20);
  • The 2008 Liberia NSS calls for the need to ensure “gender mainstreaming at every level of security policy making and practices” (pg. 14, bullet point 5). 

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6. Monitoring

Setting a robust monitoring system for the NSS/NSP is a crucial step in successful implementation, as well as ensuring that the strategy and its implementation plan remain relevant to evolving circumstances. Options to enhance the focus on monitoring include: 1) underlying the need for monitoring within the NSS/NSP as well as providing an overview of the mechanisms or combination of actors who will contribute to this (however, in depth monitoring plans are often captured in subordinate documents); 2) highlight the requirement for periodic reviews of the NSS/NSP; 3) emphasise the role of parliament, in particular with regard to budgetary issues; and 4) establish a formal monitoring role for civil society.

Examples:

  • The 2013 Papua New Guinea NSP (pg. 53) and the 2013 Jamaica NSP (pg. 90) devote whole chapters to monitoring and evaluation;
  • The 2013 Jamaica NSP recommends creating local councils (including representatives from the community) with an “advisory, monitoring and evaluating role” on security and safety matters (pg. 93);
  • The Ecuador Ministry of Coordination for Security brought in women’s groups from civil society into the process to evaluate the annual accountability reports in relation to their 2011 National Plan on Integral Security;
  • The 2013 Spain NSS recognises that “the dynamism of the environment and the national situation will require the National Security Strategy to be constantly updated and periodically revised” (pg. 4);
  • The 2004 Canada NSS established an advisory Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security, composed of members of Canada's ethno-cultural and religious communities, in order to discuss the impact of NSS issues on the different sectors of Canadian society.

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7. Coordination

Safety and security are achieved as a result of many different agencies, institutions and actors working together. Poor coordination, or a failure to consider all elements contributing to national security (especially those lying outside of the traditional security providers), can lead to ineffectiveness, inefficiency, as well as increasing insecurity. Options to enhance the focus on coordination include: 1) detailing specific national security coordination mechanisms, including lead agencies for different elements of the strategy; 2) highlighting the need for all agencies (especially those not traditionally associated with security) to incorporate implementation of the NSS/NSP into their sectoral plans; and 3) making reference to coordinated budgeting.

Examples:

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8. Communications

Developing NSS/NSPs can be an intense process, particularly if adhering to the good practice of including a wide range of public and state institution consultations. Taking such an approach helps ensure that the resulting document is responsive to the various needs and concerns. However, it may also raise expectations for rapid change and engender disappointment when no immediate results are seen. Communications will provide feedback to those consulted on how their views were taken into account, as well as clarifying the timelines and procedures for the next steps. Communications will also maintain the momentum achieved by the development process in order to build the sense that everyone involved in its formulation is also a part of its implementation. Options to enhance the focus on communications include: 1) committing to developing a specific communications strategy without discrimination to accompany the NSS/NSP; 2) emphasising the role of civil society and the media in raising awareness of the State’s various commitments to security, and helping to communicate to citizens the accountability mechanisms contained in the NSS/NSP; and 3) stressing the importance of internal communication within the security providers to ensure they understand their new respective roles and the changes needed to meet them.

Examples:

  • The 2013 Jamaica NSP includes a Strategic Communications Programme to support its implementation. Part of this includes developing partnerships and establishing local bodies/councils where “citizens can voice their concerns, question the police and other agencies, and give feedback on the performance of the police and other protective agencies” (pg. 93).

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