Civil-democratic control of Ukraine’s Armed Forces: Key perspectives

Author : Olesia Favorska

Source : 112 Ukraine

Civil-democratic control means strengthening of parliamentary control over the Armed Forces, implementation of the defense target program and purchases in the field of security and defense
11:16, 11 January 2018

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Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

Ukraine has undertaken international obligations to establish democratic control over the security forces, in particular, in such documents as "Partnership for Peace: A Framework Document", "Charter on a Particular Partnership between Ukraine and NATO", as well as the "Code of Military political aspects of security", approved at the 1994 Budapest Summit of the OSCE.

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"Democratic civilian control is an integral part of broader civil-military relations that regulate interaction between citizens, the state and the military; therefore, individual citizens are its participants by definition. In short, in the classical sense, civil democratic control means turning the Armed Forces into an open institution, understandable to society, which operates within the framework of the legislation. The armed forces submit to democratically elected authorities and are subject to supervision from the point of view of access to information from the media and public organizations. Therefore, monitoring should be "democratic".

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The principle of "civil" is ensured by the supremacy of civilian executive, legislative and judicial systems. Parliament, as a rule, takes key decisions on the proclamation of war and peace. It legally provides, and therefore controls defense policy, and also exercises actual control over defense spending within the budgetary process.

The role of civil society, or "public" control, is also part of this complex. It is not control, but rather a supervision. In the conditions of a mature civil society, it is provided, as a rule, primarily by the mass media, and then by non-governmental organizations, independent think tanks with civilian academic expertise and strategic analytics. Thus, the public, not being systematically within decision-making on the use of the Armed Forces, influences them.

And a separate component of democratic civil control is control over ensuring the rights of servicemen, human rights and citizens in the conditions of military service. I am not a specialist in this field, but studying international experience, I can say that this is most often realized through a separate institution of the Commissioner for the Rights of Military Personnel (Ombudsman) and the Independent Service of the General Inspectorate of the Armed Forces."

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Therefore, the structure looks like this: democracy is ensured through representative democracy and elective power, which controls the Ukraine’s Armed Forces, the civilian component is ensured trough this civil power (in particular, the civil defense minister and his deputies should be civil), the public plays the role of the press and public organizations, and the Ombudsman or the General Inspectorate, who are responsible for the observance of the rights of military personnel. Ukraine had all these things before, you will say, and you are right. The question is whether it was provided effectively.

International experts from the democratic control of the security and defense sector define and recognize as a unique experience the role of Ukrainian civil society, namely, volunteers. From the point of view of consolidated democracy, this is of the highest value. This should be preserved and strengthened further.

On the other hand, the fact that in 2014-2015 volunteers took part in providing uniforms, flak jackets, sleeping bags, medicines, cars and spare parts, night vision devices is a sign and a direct consequence of the previous systemic crisis, deliberate destruction of the Armed Forces and ineffective management, in the absence of the civil and democratic control and supervision, proper attention to this issue by civil society.

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A unique example of attracting volunteers is the development of their own unmanned aerial potentials of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which takes place on a platform and with the direct participation of a unified volunteer experience. It is also worth mentioning the legal assistance to the mobilized and demobilized, contractors and veterans, which for three years is provided by "Legal Hundred" NGO, the activities of the Volunteer Council and, most importantly, the activities of local public and volunteer organizations in Kharkiv, Dnipro, Odesa, Mariupol and other cities, which have long grown from the role of "rapid response" to providing the necessary requirements of military units, hospitals and the affected population to the role of powerful and effective civil relations, effective communication between the organizers of the military units, local authorities, businesses and concerned citizens.

The Public Council, the Office of Reforms, and the Council of Volunteers are all elements of democratic control. In theory, if the Public Council were properly organized, it would keep the principles of transparency, accountability, (what the Public Council of the Ministry of Health is trying to do now), it would be a cool platform for implementing public control by society.

This is a legalized civil society organization, legally and formally recognized, both by the government and the Ministry of Defense itself as an informational, analytical, consultative, mediation body created to facilitate public participation in the formation and implementation of defense policy.

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To restore the authority, trust and respect of the Public Council of the Ministry of Defense, we proposed to introduce an open rating internet poll on the website of the Defense Ministry. This can be done with confirmed competition procedures, which have proved their effectiveness in the formation of public councils in the Ministry of Health and the National Academy of Science, including presentation by contestants and publication of reports on activities of public organizations for the previous year, autobiographies and, importantly, motivation letters of candidates.

There are different models of appointing the civilian minister. There are some countries where the appointed minister is absolutely civilian figure and has nothing to do with defense departments. And he or she can be an effective manager. There are countries where his "citizenship" is provided with a certain period after dismissal from service, in order provide a certain loss of ties, determined by professional military activity and the principle of "one-man management". As far as this is possible and is purely a formal requirement - a debatable question. But if we take, for example, the United States, then the appointment of the Secretary of Defense is the prerogative of the president with the approval of the Senate. Sometimes his previous military experience, like that of the current US secretary Mattis, is valued, sometimes this is purely political appointment, as in the case of Rumsfeld.

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It is very important for the effectiveness of democratic control makes servicemen and civil allies, not the opponents. Harmonious "integrated" management in this case is possible provided that decisions on defense policy and planning, at least at the strategic level, are taken either by civilian leadership, provided that the proper role of the military opinion of the military is ensured, or making decisions jointly, depending on the specific sphere of responsibility. And this provides that civil and military knowledge is equally valued, as diverse, but equivalent.

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In any case, this means the formation of a professional civil capacity of the cadre and the professionalism of civilian specialists in making decisions on defense policy. And this can happen only under the condition of high competence of state civil servants. It is obvious that democratic control cannot take place without civilian experts who, being experts in their professions, also deeply understand the military sphere.

The reform office, being a consultative and advisory body created by the order of the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, which consists of civil experts, is an element of democratic civil control in the form of introducing civil expertise in the implementation of reform in the Armed Forces and the introduction of better management methods, in particular project management.

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In addition, we are part of the reform committee, which coordinates, monitors, and assesses military reform. And it is within the framework of the operational objective 1.1. "Democratic civilian control over the defense forces, carried out by increasing the effectiveness of the activities of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and strengthening ties with the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and civil society" we are implementing a joint project with strengthening democratic civil control over the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

This is one of the priority projects and in 2017 our task was to prepare effective mechanisms for democratic control, and this year the focus was on drafting the concept and discussing it with all participants: military, experts and civil society at six round tables in various cities of Ukraine: Kharkiv, Dnipro, Odesa, Lviv, Mariupol, and Kyiv. In our work, we focused on civil administration with the strengthening of the role of the Secretary of State, the openness of the Ministry to the dialogue between the Armed Forces and society and the protection of the rights of the servicemen.

We have an ombudsman institution at the parliament level. For example, if the military is discriminated, and he believes that his human rights are limited during the service, what options does he have for solving this problem? First he should write a report to his commander. But if it is his commander who restricts him, he should call the hotline. Well, hotline belongs to the Ministry of Defense. A decision begins within the department, and it passes along the same line.

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The status of the ombudsman is important, because he must have certain procedural powers. In Ukraine, the representative of the Ombudsman for the protection of the rights of servicemen is in charge of this institution. It operates in two directions: monitoring visits to military units and consideration of complaints, applications for violation of the rights of citizens, placed in the media. According to the annual report for 2016, in the office of the representative on the protection of the rights of servicemen there were, in my opinion, slightly more than 700 appeals, and only about 10% of them were from active military personnel. This results in 2 appeals per day. This does not say about the lack of problems, but rather this is evidence of lack of awareness and trust.

Therefore, the institution of the Ombudsman as an instrument for ensuring the rights of servicemen needs to be developed. We examined several models. As a transit, transitional model, we looked at the Canadian experience; they have an ombudsman for the rights of servicemen in the structure of the Ministry of Defense. He is independent, he reports directly to the Minister. In Ukraine, if you create a separate parliamentary ombudsman for the rights of military personnel - it will take more than a year. This change is not only a matter of legislation, but also of the Constitution, so for us this is not the best option. But how effective is the introduction of an independent institution of the ombudsman and trust in him, if he is in the structure of the Ministry of Defense? This is still a question. We discussed this idea with the military ombudsman at the ministry level with international experts. In principle, it is supported as a transitional model.

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The idea of the project arose after a meeting between the representative of the Ministry of Defense of Great Britain and the Minister of Defense of Ukraine in the summer of 2016. The idea is to create a center that will train top management with the necessary administrative knowledge, which, as a rule, was not in the armed forces of especially post-Soviet countries. This is the knowledge that you get, for example, in business schools: strategic analysis, risk management, change management, planning, programming and project management, strategic communications. As well as broadening the understanding of the leadership and management of the security and defense sector in a broad strategic context. The Ukrainian military were not taught to do it, as well as the civil servants. At that time, there was an integration of civil and military education everywhere. Well, how to make a reform, if you do not understand the mechanism of the changes? And there are a lot of concepts that we never had. There must be some kind of platform that creates this.

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I hope that from the next academic year, it will be possible to launch the first stage. If we do everything on time, it would start from September. Civil-democratic control is not a report to public organizations or a person's right to come to the defense department just right from the street. Civil-democratic control is the strengthening of parliamentary control over the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the implementation of the defense target program, and purchases in the field of security and defense. Civil-democratic control is the transformation of the Ministry of Defense to a civilian agency, where professional military personnel is involved in the planning and management of the armed forces, and the competent civilian experts think about the security awareness, collaboration with partners and other bureaucratic or diplomatic matters.

Olesia Favorska, coordinator of professionalization and military reserve direction of the Ministry of Defense's Reforms Office.

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