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Tool 5: Parliamentary oversight of the security sector

22 May, 2023



Parliaments must be able to influence the development of security policies to ensure that they meet the security needs and concerns of all citizens, with full respect for human rights. They must ensure that public funds are used wisely and hold security sector institutions (SSI) accountable for their actions while guaranteeing the effectiveness of their services.

This publication provides practical guidance to parliamentarians to facilitate their active involvement in security sector oversight. Although it is primarily intended for West African parliaments, this publication may also be used as a guide by other state and non-state actors working towards SSR/SSG in West Africa and by international partners who support the efforts of ECOWAS.

Effective parliamentary oversight of the security sector enables parliamentarians to pass laws consistent with international standards, to vote on budgets in which security sector budgetary allocations are clearly identified and to scrutinize the government’s action in this crucial area of sovereignty.

About the toolkit

At the request of the ECOWAS commission, DCAF has developed several publications collectively entitled “The Toolkit for Security Sector Reform and Governance in West Africa". The main objective is to support the implementation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional regulatory framework for SSR/SSG through practical advice and guidance tailored to the West African context and based on regional experiences. It specifically aims to facilitate policy development, implementation, and management of SSR processes at the national level.

This framework has been translated into practical guidance that takes into account the national contexts of West Africa and elucidates, for instance, the issues of parliamentary oversight, good financial governance of institutions, as well as the consideration of gender dimensions in SSR/SSG. One of the main challenges has been to develop tools that can be understood and used by the various stakeholders, including the Executive, the Parliament, the Judiciary, civil security sector oversight institutions, and civil society. This should contribute to the development and strengthening of a West African security strategy to support the regalian imperative of democratic governance, protection, and defence.


Fiona Schnell