Training Course: Democratic Governance in the Security Sector - Law Enforcement (Astana)

Where and when

3-5 November 2008, Radisson SAS Hotel, Astana


In November 2008 we travelled to Kazakhstan to conduct a training course dealing with accountable and transparent policy-making in law enforcement. Like the governments in most other former Soviet republics, the rulers of Kazakhstan strictly control their law enforcement bodies (police, border troops, tax police, etc.), but do not necessarily consider themselves accountable for the actions of their civil servants. Oversight bodies did not oversee the executive branch, but provided its actions with a stamp of approval, and the business of government was not transparent, but extremely murky. So accountability and transparency did not follow from strict state control. In a dictatorship, this makes perfect sense, but in a country on the road to democracy, it is a legacy that needs to be overcome. In a democracy, the government may not withhold information just because it believes disclosure is unnecessary. In principle, the people have a right to know everything their government is doing. Besides, in a democracy there is no public power without public accountability. Politicians must account for all their actions and the actions of the people working under their responsibility. In David Greenwood’s phrase, they must reveal, explain and justify. These democratic principles are fundamental and unambiguous, but not always seriously applied. Sometimes they are used as window-dressing, to lend a democratic appearance to undemocratic practices. In the security sector, this is always hazardous and undesirable, but in law enforcement it can be an immediate threat to people’s lives. Unlike the military, the police and other law enforcers are in constant touch with the population. Interacting with the public is part of their daily work. If the police do not enjoy the trust of the population, they will be unable to fight crime and provide an adequate level of security. Indeed, they may themselves be a threat to human security. The population will fear and mistrust them. So effectiveness and good community relations go hand in hand. Both are indispensable to successful policing. CESS strongly believes that democratic governance of the security sector provides the best possible basis for both. This was the essence of our law enforcement training course in Kazakhstan. After Bauke Snoep introduced the above-mentioned principles of democratic governance, Starlink instructor Peter Hobbing emphasised the need for an effective system of border security. This could help prevent smuggling and support the fight against terrorism and organised crime. It will not only provide for security and stability in Central Asia, but also have direct positive effects on the wider region and the EU. To stress this point, Hobbing went deeper into the workings of the EU Border Mission BOMCA. The next speaker was Peter Heepen, another seasoned Starlink instructor. Heepen’s theme was police, state and community, so he dealt with the philosophy outlined above. Besides, he compared Soviet policing with community-based policing. Mark Galeotti of New York University dealt with the issue of organised crime. He said, you need to understand what organised crime is and does before you can fight it. An important reminder was that organised crime will fill the vacuum when democratic governance fails. As Galeotti put it, the weaker democratic governance is, the more organised crime will flourish, and the other way around. The role-play of the law enforcement course deals with an incident in the fictitious country Croania, where a few immigrants were shot by the police after they robbed a store. Parliament conducts an investigation about supposed police brutality. Was the shooting racially motivated? Why did this robbery climax into a dramatic shooting? Should the political leadership of Croania take responsibility for the drama? And what does this mean? Questions like these were raised during the role-play. Erik Sportel moderated the game in Astana, and Merijn Hartog performed this task in Almaty. In Astana committee proceedings were not conducted in an orderly fashion, every committee member followed his or her own agenda. We also saw a serious breach of the separation of state powers: The parliamentary committee started interfering actively in the criminal trial of the police officers involved in the incident. The trainees highly appreciated the role-play and most of them were eager to learn from what had gone wrong in the game.


Starlink Kazakhstan: Building Capacity for Democratic Governance in the Security Sector


If you have any questions regarding this event please contact CESS.