How to Institutionalize Democratic Civil-Military Relations?

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The Sixth Assembly
Making Democracy Work

How to Institutionalize Democratic Civil-Military Relations?

Organizers:
 
Moderator:
Ertugrul Cenk Gurcan – Human Rights Research Association (Turkey)
 
Rapporteur:
Claudia Pineda – Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy (Nicaragua)
 
Presenters:
Birame Diop – Partners for Democratic Change (Senegal)
Rocío San Miguel – Citizen Watch for Security, Defense and National Armed Forces (Venezuela)
Mufti Makaarim – IDSPS (Indonesia)

The presenters and participants in this workshop agreed that civil-military relations in the context of defense and security policies depend on the democratic conditions of each country. In fact, this was reflected in the variety of countries represented by the presenters. There can be no democratic relations in non-democratic states.
 
Militarized nations often consider civilian populations as human resources for military purposes, but in democratic nations military forces are professional and there are legal and institutional frameworks that define the relationships between governments and the armed forces of the countries and between the civilian population and the armed forces.
 
It is necessary to talk about a "security" sector, rather than a "defense" or "military" sector because the concept of security is more comprehensive, although it carries the risk of being overly broad. Still, it is important to relate this concept to national defense matters, including the need for international collaboration on new transnational threats, such as trafficking in arms, people, and narcotics; pandemics; and addressing environmental challenges in which military forces have been involved.
 
Democratic civil-military relations can be defined as control over the armed forces, but this definition should convey certain qualities:
 
  • that they are voluntarily accepted by the parties based on consensus;
  • that they are not based on abuse or fear;
  • that the structure of those relations is ownership by the parties;
  • that they are governed by constitutional requirements; and
  • that they can be revised whenever necessary.
Observations
 
  • Democratic control of the security sector: Given the participation of civil society in defining national defense strategies, military expenditures must be under the control of parliaments. Parliaments obviously play a major role in defining a set of rules governing the relationship between civilian authorities and the military, and balancing the financial needs of defense and security with the needs of other sectors. Civilian control of the military should also be regulated, however, because civilian authorities also tend to want civilians to control the military for their own political purposes. In addition, the application of military justice should be limited to military offenses.
  • Tension between the principle of free access to information and the confidentiality and secrecy of the military: The necessary discretion associated with military and intelligence issues has often been exercised with no accountability. Depending on the situation, military secrecy should thus be regulated by the government and should be subject to citizen demands for information. The exception should be cases that are identified as secret, but even then the government must regulate declassification.
  • Gender: A democratic society should discuss the issue of integration of women into the armed forces and preventing discrimination.
  • The function of the military in development work and internal security: War is unpredictable, but in the meantime, the armed forces are often compelled to participate in non-military tasks related to national development, poverty reduction, environmental protection, and the development of political processes and elections. However, these tasks must be regulated, especially those related to internal security and when the military share roles with the national police, to avoid remilitarizing national development.
Recommendations
 
  • Military forces must be professionalized and civilian control must be made supreme.
  • Build inclusive relationships among the parties.
  • There must be respect for human rights as well as a set of mechanisms to guarantee transparency and accountability.
  • There must be a two-way respectful relationship, formalized in a legal and operational framework, to ensure civilian oversight of the military.
  • Create a framework for collaboration and cooperation between the civilian government and the military.
  • There must be a global vision to confront transnational security threats.
  • There must be a multidimensional vision to define the civilian-military agenda against new threats.
  • There must be a strong commitment to respect the constitution, ensure the rule of law, protect human rights, and institute good governance.
  • There should be comprehensive discussion of the military function of the general population as part of the civil society agenda.
  • There must be accountability regarding non-military activities of the armed forces, especially its business affairs.