Switzerland brings to North Africa its internationally recognised expertise in security sector reform

Project completed

The uprisings in North Africa at the beginning of 2011 were directed to a considerable extent against the security forces on which the dictatorial regimes of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have relied for decades. There is an urgent need for reorientation of the armed forces of the state – army, police and security services – to ensure a successful democratic transition. Thanks to the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF) Switzerland is able to offer internationally recognised expertise in this area. Partner countries receive on request rapid, tailor-made support in carrying out security sector reform. Despite a number of similarities the challenges in Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Egypt are quite different.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Conflict & fragility
Employment & economic development
Conflict prevention and transformation
Security system management and reform
Financial policy
Legal and judicial development
01.11.2011 - 31.12.2016
CHF  3’307’792

Security sector reform is crucial for restoring public trust in the state
The rebellions of 2011 in a number of Arab nations were an expression of public discontent with the authorities and corrupt regimes. The people want comprehensive political reform. Reorienting and bringing the security forces under control through a new state policy is crucial to this reform process. Security forces must be law-abiding, respectful of human rights, professional and apolitical. When lapses occur they must be held to account by the civilian authorities – the government, parliament and the courts.

Security sector reform including of the military, police and intelligence services as well as the bodies responsible for overseeing and controlling them, is crucial for restoring public trust in the state.

Basic differences in the countries of North Africa
Reorientation of the security forces is a major issue in all of the countries of North Africa, involving a reform process that will take a number of years. The conditions in each country are quite different however. Discussion of security sector reform is not permitted in Egypt at present. There is great interest in the subject in Tunisia, focusing on the need to bring the forces responsible for internal security under parliamentary control. In Morocco the challenge is implementation of the recommendations for greater protection of human rights made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2006. And in Libya state structures for the security of the population need to be created afresh.

Swiss services in demand
Switzerland, through DCAF, is supporting the civilian authorities, parliaments and civil societies in Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Egypt in the following ways:

  • Development of security and reform strategies taking into account the people’s requirements;
  • Drafting laws governing the tasks of the security services and giving civilian oversight and control authorities the necessary powers;
  • Instituting civilian oversight and control bodies, such as parliamentary commissions.

Long-term reform: first results
Security sector reform is a long-term process. Even in the short term however the efforts undertaken in North Africa have produced tangible results:

In Tunisia

  • DCAF is helping the Ministry of the Interior to improve relations with the public. In October 2011, the Minister in office at the time announced at a public conference consultation on a report prepared by DCAF concerning confidence building measures. This was the very first time the Ministry had sought the views of the public on security sector reform. The Ministry is currently working with DCAF on the implementation of this strategy.
  • DCAF identified all legislative texts relevant to the security sector, numbering some 1700, logged them in a computer database and made them accessible to the public. This DCAF tool is proving very useful to the Constituent Assembly as well as to the various ministries involved in security sector reform.
  • DCAF helped to organise conferences for the launch of a public debate on the role of the intelligence services and their (lack of ) regulation. In November 2011 the Ministry of the Interior announced plans for the creation of a domestic intelligence service which would have a new legal basis and be subject to parliamentary oversight.

In Morocco

  • DCAF in cooperation with local partner organisations launched a discussion on the principle of transparency in the security sector.
  • Together with Moroccan partner institutions DCAF is preparing on-the-job training with regard to the function of oversight in the security sector for members of parliament and ministry civil servants.

Pioneering role for Switzerland
Thanks to the rapid and professional support it offers, Switzerland with DCAF has positioned itself in North Africa as a key partner without a hidden agenda in the area of security sector reform. A DCAF trust fund is to be created in 2012 to enable other interested donors to support the programme for the reorientation of the security forces in North Africa, thus ensuring greater consistency and coordination. Switzerland will have a seat on the Trust Fund steering committee and will continue its support.

Switzerland’s efforts in the area of security sector reform are financed by the SDC. The steering committee also includes representatives of the Directorate of Political Affairs.