The Open Society Foundations works to build vibrant and inclusive democracies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. They are active in more than 120 countries, making them the world's largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights.
The Latin America Program addresses rights and governance issues in Latin America primarily through grant making, network-building, and the development of specific initiatives. The focus is on supporting Latin American efforts to reform democratic institutions in ways that are more open and responsive to citizens, realizing human rights, and reducing homicides in a region with extremely high levels of violence. The Latin America Program seeks to provide added value through sharing its understanding of political context, facilitating contacts, brokering relationships, and identifying strategic opportunities in the region.
For more information about the vacancy as Program Officer, Citizen Security and Justice please follow the link.
The Women’s Rights Program (WRP) supports efforts to: (a) strengthen women’s rights organizations and movements; (b) advance sexual and reproductive rights and justice, specifically by linking attacks on these rights to broader challenges of closing civic space; and (c) promote economic justice, with a focus on mobilizing the political power of women in the informal sector. Through an intersectional approach, using grant-making, advocacy, capacity and coalition building, and organizing meetings and exchanges the WRP works to improve the lives of women globally by advancing equality and participation in decision making.
WRP’s director leads a team of professionals based in New York. The current strategic plan includes three portfolios of work in varying degrees of development in the areas of economic justice, sexual and reproductive rights, and strengthening women’s organizations and movements. The director will be expected to guide and grow these areas of work or engage in new ones as the needs in the field develop. The ability to clearly articulate the program’s vision and role within the OSF network is critical, as is playing a leadership role across the organization’s substantial body of work on issues relevant to women’s rights.
For full access to Director, Women's Rights Program, please follow the link.
Policy and Research Papers
The Strategic Costs of Civilian Harm: Applying Lessons from Afghanistan to Current and Future Conflicts
During the early years of the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan, the U.S. military was killing too many civilians and depriving too many others of basic rights and liberties. By 2008, nearly 40 percent of civilian deaths in Afghanistan resulted from U.S. military operations.
The level of “civilian harm”—the military’s term for killing innocent civilians and causing major political, social, and economic disruption—was adversely impacting the United States’ efforts to defeat the Taliban and weakening the legitimacy of the U.S. and Afghan governments.
The report by the Open Society Foundations, The Strategic Costs of Civilian Harm: Applying Lessons from Afghanistan to Current and Future Conflicts , examines how the U.S. military learned from its early mistakes in Afghanistan and applied lessons to mitigate civilian harm. In fact, starting in 2009, the U.S. military recognized its mistakes and started to understand the high strategic cost of civilian harm. The military’s changes led to a significant reduction in civilian deaths during the next few years.
The report argues that the United States should develop a Uniform Policy on Civilian Protection. The new standards would apply to all U.S. military operations in current and future conflicts and, hopefully, better protect civilians caught in conflict.
For full access to the report on The Strategic Costs of Civilian Harm: Applying Lessons from Afghanistan to Current and Future Conflicts, kindly follow the link.
The United States transformed its approach to national security after the attacks on September 11, 2001. As terrorist organizations spread across the globe, so too did the U.S security presence. Now, after more than a decade and a half of costly war, the United States has turned to foreign militaries and police to fight threats before they reach America’s borders.
For full access to the report Untangling the Web: A Blueprint for Reforming American Security Sector Assistance, kindly follow the link.
This short article introduces the utility of the Open Society Foundation's new report "Options for Justice: A Handbook for Designing Accountability Mechanisms for Grave Crimes".
To read How International Justice Can Go Local in full, please kindly follow the link.
The African Security Sector Network (ASSN) and the Geneva Democratic Centre for the Control on Armed Forces (DCAF) with funding support from the Open Society Foundation (OSF) organised a workshop in Dakar (Sénégal) from 26 – 27 April 2016. The workshop was themed “Improving Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa : a Learning Lab.”
…If it (SSR) is treated as a technical process abstracted from national political, security, socio-economic and cultural realities, it will not succeed."
Despite multiple reasons why SSR in Africa is difficult examples of reform examples of reform also show that significant opportunities to move towards more democratic security governance do exist. The ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ drew on the experience of academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners in this field in order to explore these challenges and identify ways to move forward in spite of them. To support these reflections, the Background Paper, Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa provides a baseline understanding of SSG/R concepts, policies and practice. It then considers key challenges for SSR in Africa before assessing programming gaps and potential entry points for engagement. The Background Paper is complemented by six Think Pieces, which are intended to help shape discussion during the different sessions of the Learning Lab.
The Learning Lab was a two-day workshop-event drawing together predominantly African experts (researchers, academics, policy makers and practitioners) with practical experience of the security sector, Security Sector Reform (SSR), and Security Sector Governance (SSG) in Africa. The Lab began with an introductory session which was graced by the presence of His Excellency Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).
The bulk of the Lab took the form of six moderated sessions, underpinned by the six following Think Pieces:
- Accountable and legitimate security through civilian democratic oversight and control;
- The essential role of civil society and media in good security sector governance;
- Protecting a democratic public space: Maturing civil-military relations;
- Commercial security providers and the privatisation of security;
- Regional expertise in good security governance: from civil society networks to ECOWAS and the African Union;
- Security and safety from the bottom up: hybrid security governance.
experience has shown that important progress can be made when internal and external support for reform align at opportune moments for change."
In light of the opportunities and challenges to SSR processes identified, a concluding session summarised options and recommendations for potential entry points for African and international engagement in promoting an African governance-driven SSR approach based on accountability, rule of law and human rights.
As well as the six Think Pieces, this blog highlights practical implications for identifying the challenges of SSR processes: Moving from concept to practice: SSR in West Africa.
The resources are also available in français.
This Think Piece prepared by Niagalé Bagayoko for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa addresses the implications of hybrid security for Security Sector Reform (SSR). After presenting the challenges institutions operating alongside or within nominally formal political institutions bring to SSR, the author calls for better identifying the interactions and interpenetrations of formal and informal networks that constitute as a whole “hybrid security orders”.
In order to build a better understanding of all the actors, particularly informal actors, who have an influence on the security sector at large and can thus affect SSR processes, the author proposes some entry points: to map out the informal actors and the informal norms, solidarities, and networks in the security sector; to build capacity to orient their activities towards supporting SSR; to help develop empirically grounded programmes and policies; and to help in the design of oversight as well as monitoring and evaluation processes.
This think piece, prepared by Boubacar N’Diaye and Eboe Hutchful (ASSN) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa, looks at the challenges and implications to improve ‘civil-military relations’ (CMR) for a better protection of a democratic public space. The document explains how, since the end of the Cold war, the academic field of CMR has gone into decline whilst SSR has been ascending. If CMR focused insufficiently on the micro-politics of security institutions, it is argued that SSR has not necessarily resulted in integrated approaches. SSR is thus particularly challenged in this sector, with weak budgetary and expenditure controls and corruption in the security sector. There is also a potential for reversals in current CMR, as has been demonstrated recently in Uganda and Congo-Brazzaville, where police, military and paramilitary forces were used to violently suppress protests. To engage in efforts to improve CMR in Africa, it is argued that it is important to identify states where efforts already started, under the leadership of a new generation of military leaders who are willing to embrace new roles and responsibilities for civilian institutions.
The changing face of security provision: commercial security providers and the privatisation of security
This Think Piece prepared by Alan Bryden for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa explores the issue of private security. The paper highlights a lack of knowledge or understanding on the scale, activities, and implications of the private security industry in Africa. Private security provision, and the lack of knowledge on the topic, can affect Security Sector Reform (SSR) in a variety of ways: the state has an incomplete view of the actors providing security on the national territory, there is a blurring of roles and responsibilities between public and private security, private security can result in greater security for some while leaving insecurity to others, and security privatisation remains somewhat neglected in programmatic responses.
The author proposes some entry points to engage with private security and better understand the related issues. Fostering African research capabilities can further the development of an evidence base to increase the visibility of the issue, while developing the legal and policy frameworks on oversight and accountability is a step to control the growth and evolution of the private security sector. Furthermore, the author argues for supporting capacity building of security sector management and oversight bodies, for empowering civil society, and leveraging international initiatives to create momentum for change.
Outdated legal frameworks, under-capacitated parliaments, and submissive judicial authorities fail to provide the oversight, transparency or accountability that is required to protect human rights and uphold the rule of law."
What is difficult about SSR in Africa? On one level, the framing conditions are undoubtedly challenging. Change of the kind that SSR aims for is measured in decades – even generations – rather than the months or years that measure national political cycles or donor programmes. Moreover, in most contexts the resources to support transformational change have also been scarce, whether human, material, technical or financial. On a more fundamental level, SSR is highly political and context-specific. If it is treated as a technical process abstracted from national political, security, socio-economic and cultural realities, it will not succeed.
There are also undoubted weaknesses and gaps in current SSR approaches. Different understandings of what SSR involves and who it concerns have led to flawed interventions that bred mistrust and suspicion, including between national and international understandings of reform.
The fact remains that freer and fairer democratic societies require more accountable and more effective security provision. In spite of the factors that limit progress in SSR, experience has shown that important progress can be made when internal and external support for reform align at opportune moments for change. New legal architecture for state security provision, fairer and more inclusive security recruitment, broader-based access to justice, more efficient management and oversight, and increased public scrutiny of security affairs are examples of reform that mark valuable progress in security governance. Moreover, progress can materialise in unexpected and intangible forms; thus, some of the most catalytic changes in people’s experiences of security have flowed from apparently subjective shifts in attitudes towards things like more inclusive security policy-making, greater sensitivity to human rights in security provision, or a strengthened resolve among overseers to make the most of their legal authority.
The ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ drew on the experience of academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners in this field in order to explore these challenges and identify ways to move forward in spite of them. To support these reflections, this Background Paper provides a baseline understanding of SSG/R concepts, policies and practice. It then considers key challenges for SSR in Africa before assessing programming gaps and potential entry points for engagement. This Background Paper is complemented by six Think Pieces, which intended to help shape discussion during the different sessions of the Learning Lab.
Access all material related to the ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ to find out more.
Towards a regional agenda for security sector governance and reform: Opportunities and challenges for the African Union and ECOWAS
This think piece, prepared by Ornella Moderan (DCAF) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa, looks at the opportunities and challenges for the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the development of a regional agenda for security sector governance and reform. If major steps have already been made with the African Union Policy Framework on Security Reform (2013) as well as with the work of ECOWAS to develop a common normative framework, the transposition of theoretical standards into practice remains a challenge. Providing member states with multidimensional support also poses a number of questions in terms of their own mandates and capacities. The implications for SSR are outlined in the paper and these vary from contextualising international discourse on SSR to national ownership and regional support. Omella Moderan outlines various entry points for engagement, from fostering regional capacities for policy implementation to reinforcing AU-ECOWAS coordination.
This think piece prepared by Sandy Africa (ASSN) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa explains that civilian democratic oversight and control is a necessary, though not exclusive, precondition for accountable and legitimate security. By civilian democratic oversight is meant the exercise of the mandatory authority of one body to hold another to account. The author argues that in countries experiencing armed conflict, the civilian democratic oversight of the security sector is weak or non-existent. There is a window of opportunity to engage in civilian democratic oversight when there is a cessation of hostilities but even then, the immediate challenges are peacekeeping and peace enforcement. A more realistic prospect happens when there is a conducive and decisive shift in the political conditions.
This think piece prepared by Fairlie Chappuis (DCAF) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa aims at encouraging open debate on the essential role of civil society and media in good security governance as well as the challenges they face. Civil society, by which is meant all groups that engage in voluntary collective actions in the public interest, has an essential role to play in order to ensure that the security sector is accountable, transparent and responsive to the public. The paper outlines common factors in a variety of African contexts which make society activism and media engagement challenging. It then gives a list of entry points for engagement and how these can help to align civil society and media values with the principles of democratic security governance, human rights and rule of law.