In 2021, Niger experienced its first-ever peaceful and democratic transfer of power since independence. Despite the challenges, the country has become a model of political stability in Sub-Saharan Africa, although the security context has progressively deteriorated since 2015 due to frequent attacks by non-state armed groups.
The intensification of outside security pressure has forced the government to increase its defense budget to fight against threats and insecurities.
Members of Parliament have a responsibility to provide effective external oversight of defense budgets. They hold a key position in civilian governance and face challenges specific to this sector, including a necessity for secrecy in some instances. Political transitions often result in a loss of experience and knowledge among lawmakers that can seriously hamper this oversight role.
Therefore, how to ensure that parliamentarians in Niger can continue to play an effective security oversight role, even when elections bring in new governments?
"Newly elected officials often face challenges due to insufficient technical expertise. To mitigate these limitations and avoid the loss of institutional knowledge after elections, it is therefore critical that they receive capacity-building support.”
Keryan Wurlod, DCAF Project Officer for Niger and Burkina Faso
Keryan Wurlod, DCAF Project Officer for Niger and Burkina Faso explains in a short video the role of the parliament in monitoring the defense and security sectors, and why new parliamentarians need support to build their capacity in security governance.
TRANSFERRING KNOWLEDGE TO ACHIEVE SUSTAINABILITY
Transferring knowledge between the outgoing and incoming parliamentarians of the Defense and Security Commission (DSC) is a keystone to ensuring continuity in oversight and more effective accountability over time. It helps parliamentarians to understand the key challenges and issues of the security sector governance in Niger, and their role in the process.
Since 2017, DCAF, along with international partners, has been engaged with parliamentarians in Niger to enhance democratic oversight. With our support, the DSC developed a kit of tools and documentation to help new parliamentarians to start their mandate, and evaluated the former legislative period to identify ongoing priorities and areas requiring action.
As a result, the Commission works hand-in-hand with former and newly appointed parliamentarians to share experience and knowledge, and pass on competencies.
To learn more about the role of the Defense and Security Commission in the governance of the sector, download our policy paper “Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector and Political Transition: Lessons from Niger” (English and French)
A FIVE-YEAR ACTION PLAN
When tackling the challenge of ensuring effective oversight, the Commission identified two main issues.
First, there was a need to strengthen relations between parliamentarians, citizens, and civil society to ensure parliamentarians’ respond to, and represent, the needs of the population.
Second, there was the desire to exercise better control, particularly in budget matters, and improve their legislative capacities and knowledge of the security sector.
As a result, the Commission implemented a five-year action plan.
“[The five-year action plan] includes several priorities which also include the conduct of on-site monitoring missions during which parliamentarians will meet members of the defense and security forces (FDS), local authorities and populations, to discuss the security situation and challenges in their region.”
Jolie-Ruth Morand, DCAF Principal Programme Manager
The action plan also clarified the increasing role played by the Commission in monitoring the implementation of laws, particularly by following up on the publication of regulatory texts.
In this short video, Jolie-Ruth Morand, a Principal Programme Manager at DCAF, summarizes what has been achieved so far, and what are the main challenges ahead for Niger’s new legislature.
PUTTING NEW KNOWLEDGE TO WORK FOR THE PEOPLE
"We felt like at first we really struggled to understand some of the issues, but through this technical training we were able to really understand most of the issues that we as parliamentarians need to know to put them to work for the people."
Hama Assah, former President of the Defense and Security Commission (DSC), Niger
The Defense and Security Commission has benefited from the support of DCAF and international partners to further develop its capacities. In this video, Nigerian parliamentarians talk about the transfer of skills between the two legislatures and the technical expertise provided by DCAF.
Read more about DCAF’s work in Niger
Photo credits: Impact Com.Media