Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2009

Oversight or Overlooked? Civil Society's Role in Monitoring and Reforming Security Systems and the Practice of Counterterrorism

Alistair Millar

March 2009

Fourth Freedom Forum


This report considers civil society’s role in monitoring Security System Reform (SSR) and counterterrorism both in policy and in practice. The report argues that civil society engagement, particularly with local actors, is central to ensuring proper civilian oversight and the overall effectiveness of both SSR and counterterrorism efforts and examines how efforts to engage civil society may be improved. The report begins by looking at how the concepts of both SSR and counterterrorism have evolved in recent years, tracing that evolution within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the United Nations. It highlights the linkages between SSR and UN mandated counterterrorism measures (CTMs) and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. It notes that a conceptual shift has occurred at the international level within the OECD DAC and at the United Nations, which emphasizes the need for more holistic and inclusive approaches to implementation of both SSR and CTMs and a broader and more active role for civil society.