Linking National and Human Security: Germany Finds Its Voice in SSR

10 June 2021   ·   Viola Csordas

Following its growing engagement in reforming security sectors in partner countries, Germany is increasingly shaping international dialogue on SSR. Sharing its own experiences on civil protection and security sector administration with national partners can be a way for Germany to pursue its stabilization interests while promoting a value-based human security approach to SSR.

Defining Germany’s role in international security policy is more pertinent than ever in a changing geopolitical landscape and towards the end of Chancellor Merkel’s tenure. Interest among society to think about and engage in foreign policy is growing, especially amongst the younger generations. German foreign policy is historically torn between value-based foreign policy and pursuing national interest. Security sector reform (SSR) could be the policy domain to recouple these competing rationales if Germany manages to leverage its engagement and simultaneously build capacity and accountability.

Germany Increasingly Shapes the International Dialogue on SSR

Indeed, Germany has significantly increased its engagement in SSR in recent years, investing in the institutional and the policy architecture. Since the launch of its SSR strategy in 2019, Germany has created several new structures to operationally support its amplified engagement and committed to an integrated approach. For example, the Federal Foreign Office (FFO) and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH) created an SSR Hub to strengthen the assessment and conceptual capacities for making programming more strategic. The FFO and GIZ jointly launched a Stabilisation Platform, providing necessary project management capacities for the increasing number of engagements. And finally, in March 2021, the first interministerial SSR course as one of the cornerstones of operationalizing the integrated approach brought together participants from policy and practice. Designed and organized by several ministries, the course brought together participants from policy and practice across the spectrum of ministries and implementing institutions involved in SSR, with the aim to discuss SSR holistically and to create a forum for joint learning and sharing experiences.

Proactively, Germany has found its voice in shaping international dialogue on SSR to reflect particularities of its approach to and understanding of SSR. Moreover, Germany has expanded its engagement with multilateral fora such as the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) – emphasizing a prevention and governance-driven approach to SSR.

A Parallel Focus On Human Security and Effectiveness 

One concrete example for the German perspective on SSR is the strong embedment of the civil protection sector. Following its ambition to prioritize civilian crisis management instruments and human security, Germany is using a joint funding stream of the FFO and the Ministry of Defense (E2I) to build and equip civil protection structures. The civil protection domain holds great potential for creating service delivery oriented security sectors, e.g., through linkages with areas such as Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Moreover, bringing together civil society organizations and state agencies, e.g., through training civil defense volunteers, can create opportunities for strengthening social resilience. This can ultimately support preparing societies and communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation and health crises. These mechanisms help keeping human security at the center of SSR. 

A second pillar of the German SSR definition is strengthening the effectiveness of their partner countries’ security sectors. In this regard, the implementation report for the Guidelines notes the variety of instruments used in an integrated, interministerial manner. These instruments range from military and police equipment aid programs, to the joint FFO-MoD E2I funding stream with its advising, capacity building, and assistance pillars. In addition to progress in coordinating instruments and tools at the HQ level between ministries, Germany has also become more proactive in leading coordination initiatives on the ground between German-funded implementing partners and other international donors.

Scaling up Governance Driven Solutions

With both slow and sudden onset disasters on the rise, Germany could iteratively build on its successful civil protection cooperation and expand its disaster risk capacity building activities beyond the civil protection sector. In a large number of partner countries, security sectors support civilian disaster and crisis management agencies. Germany could seek opportunities to build the required capacities, coordination and oversight structures enabling military and police agencies to fully and accountably deliver on these roles. 

Secondly, with regards to effectiveness and stabilization, Germany could give more room in its programming to the financial and management aspects of SSR. Increased focus on effective, efficient and accountable management of financial and human resources (HR) would be a timely endeavor in light of COVID-19-related shrinking fiscal space both at donor and partner level. By providing scalable solutions for a national architecture to absorb reforms into national budgetary and personnel realities, Germany can further improve the sustainability of SSR support interventions.

Transparent and Rule of Law-based mechanisms for good governance and public administration have long been one of Germany’s governance pillars. The Bundeswehr’s robust military administration and planning, as well as structures and processes in German ministries including procurement and HR regulations could be good entry points for knowledge transfer and sharing of experiences with partner countries’ security sector administrations. 

To give a practical example: when providing a stipend or salary supplementation scheme for soldiers in partner countries, donor countries such as Germany could embed such schemes within broader discussions around the public financial management (PFM) and HR management aspects of the security sector. This would allow for discussions between ministries on national planning and allocation of resources across sectors as well as on what is affordable in the long term. Such a resource management lens enables better performance management at the institutional and individual level and increases transparency. For example, verifying that payments match with actual personnel is a first step towards preventing the frequently observed issue of commanders pocketing the salaries of “ghost soldiers”.

Responding to a German initiative, DCAF’s International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT) convened an expert exchange on linking PFM and HR management for sustainable SSR. Germany is well-suited to engage in this area and provide its partners with the right tools to make the most out of the training and equipment it delivers to them – in a way that promotes accountability and transparency.

Germany as an Advocate for More Transparency in SSR Funding?

The COVID-19 crisis has renewed interest in donor coordination and harmonization as part of the aid effectiveness discourse. Yet, especially in the politically sensitive area of security sector reform, aid flows often remain secretive. The reasons for this vary: for example, there is no generally accepted definition of what types of activities would fall under security sector reform; moreover, SSR is being supported through both Official development assistance (ODA) and non-ODA, delivered by a multitude of bilateral and multilateral donors using a multitude of different instruments, frequently happening off-budget. As Germany is one of the largest donors to international organizations, it could leverage this position to support initiatives towards more transparent reporting on funding and spending of SSR budgets. It should increase collaboration with financial partners such as the OECD and international financial institutions, as well as SSR experts such as the UN and DCAF.

In summary, Germany should build on its recent institutional and policy advances around SSR to further shape its own engagement as well as the international debate. German SSR programming can add most value when linking its human-centric vision with its focus on effectiveness of security service provision, thus operationalizing the peace-stabilization nexus. Investing in but also sharing its own experiences on civil protection and financial and HR management aspects of SSR are two concrete areas where Germany could recouple its stabilization interests with promoting a value-driven human security approach to SSR. 

Security Sector Reform Cooperation Germany

Viola Csordas

Viola Csordas is a Security Sector Reform Officer at the Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance (DCAF). @ViolaCsordas