September 4, 2008

A Long Way to Defence Diplomacy

A unified concept of outreach would give greater cohesion to foreign and security diplomacy.

A unified concept of outreach would give greater cohesion to foreign and security diplomacy.


Riina holds an MA in Political Science from the University of Stockholm and has also studied social anthropology at Stockholm University and the Queen’s University of Belfast. Riina worked at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1993-1997, including tours in the Embassies in Oslo and Stockholm. In 2002, she was briefly employed as a research assistant by the University of Stockholm. From 2003-2004 she worked in Kyiv within the framework of the „Public Administration Reform” project run by SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency).

From 2004-2007 she worked at the Estonian Ministry of Defence, including two and a half years as an Assistant to the Permanent Undersecretary.’)” class=”internal-link”>Riina Kaljurand

A Long Way to Defence Diplomacy

A unified concept of outreach would give greater cohesion to foreign and security diplomacy.

The everyday life of politicians and civil servants is to a great extent influenced by various agreed concepts and terms that we recognise, treat as signposts and use to keep us on the right course. Estonia’s accession to the European Union and NATO exposed us to a barrage of new terminology in different fields; it takes a great effort to know all the concepts in one field, not to mention their context. It often happens that while we may be familiar with a particular phenomenon and have dealt with it for a long time, we do not manage to articulate its precise meaning as we lack an agreed definition. One example in Estonia is the concept of outreach policy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers development and humanitarian aid. But what is the right name for a policy of providing defence-related aid?
Concepts such as ‘outreach’, ‘security sector reform’ (SSR) and ‘defence diplomacy’ have lately become huge hits on the security scene. All three of them originate from the end of the Cold War, but their present formulation dates back to the end of the 1990s when the British began to develop systematic outreach policies, setting a good example to everyone else.
The international community has embraced these concepts, because there are ever more countries willing to share their reform experiences, including Estonia.
This article aims to shed more light on the background of the development of these concepts, the distinctions between them and the importance of knowing them.
Security and SSR
There is a story or even a logic behind every concept. A term or concept is useful only if it conveys meaningful content. At the same time, there are numerous concepts whose content changes, widens or transforms, and these changes are also welcome. For example, let us take the concept of security. It could be claimed that the coining of such new terms as SSR, ‘defence diplomacy’ and ‘outreach policy’ would not have been possible without the transformation of the initial concept of security.
According to the classical theory of international relations, states are major players in the global arena and national security is the top priority for every state. This means that the state is the principal security object and that security is state-dependent. States were the entities that fought wars in order to achieve geopolitical objectives. Similarly, the main aim of diplomacy in its classic meaning was to carry out negotiations between state representatives to win allies for bringing peace, fulfilling common strategic aims, boosting economic and trade cooperation, and so on. It was never an accepted or widespread practice to undertake military or other interventions in the internal conflicts of sovereign states.
The end of the Cold War, the resulting shift in the balance of power and the opening of the doors of international organisations, which reinforced the superiority of international law over national law – all these factors have increased the democratic regularisation of the security sector and made it possible to demand that security institutions should follow democratic principles.
During the Cold War, the thing that mattered was the side you chose – the East or the West – not the existence of a democratic security sector. Agencies and organisations offering development and humanitarian aid consciously and consistently avoided dealing with security issues that were unavoidably associated with political ideologies. Security-related activities focused on the classical task of defending states against military threats, while the ideological war between the East and the West legitimised the support given to several regimes of dubious nature.
As the Cold War came to a close, the concept of security started to transform. The traditional interpretation lost its applicability because states are not always the best or the most effective security providers. On the contrary, states can even constitute a threat to their own citizens.
The shifting of the emphasis on national security in the international strategic context gave rise to certain conflicting interpretations of the concept of security. What is the point of increasing national security, if it might decrease human security? It is well known that if a state’s borders are secure from outside attack, it does not necessarily mean that every person inside is safe.
This renewed security concept has expanded the sphere of responsibility of the security sector, opening up new perspectives and defining new roles for foreign and security policy.
The main focus of the new increasingly popular security concept has centred on man, on the individual. ‘Human security’ has become the starting point for foreign and security policy. National security interests still exist, but on the international level, security cannot be separated or detached from personal security.
What is this ‘human security’? It all begins with physical safety, which is followed by the protection of core values and the fundamental rights of the individual. If physical safety has been guaranteed, the rule of law and democratic institutions should take care of all the rest, at least in an ideal world. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. States that are suffering from war, authoritarianism, corruption, political crises or poverty are not capable of guaranteeing personal security.
The concept of human security has somehow given the international community a mandate to intervene in intrastate conflicts and the acceptance of such interventions has been growing. There have been cases when interventions by the international community have been absolutely necessary, for example in the case of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
The emergence of the concept of human security has transformed, in its turn, the concept and content of intervention by the international community. In conjunction with military interventions, peacekeeping missions and the dispatch of humanitarian aid to crisis regions, such interventions create the conditions for ensuring a solid foundation for the democratic rule of law and the protection of human rights. Certainly, this has been partly due to the evolving concept of threat, because new unconventional threats have emerged in addition to conventional threats, e.g. attacks by foreign powers. Today, a state’s security does not depend solely on intrastate peace and democracy. Moreover, it does not suffice to keep a whole region stable and calm. Security must be created in places where it does not exist, so that instability cannot reach our own doorsteps.
Interventions by the international community can thus take on a variety of forms, from post-conflict state-building and crisis management to the establishment or reformation of security institutions in accordance with the needs of the target country. It is now accepted that there is no point in offering other forms of foreign aid to a country in crisis, if the physical safety of its people has not been guaranteed. This aid would be like a drop of water that would not quench a person’s thirst on their dusty road to endless chaos and ruin. Security and development aid must go hand in hand.
The umbrella term ‘outreach’ unites all the activities conducted to provide security: from military intervention, crisis management and peacekeeping to safeguarding security through the reform of defence forces and other security institutions within the framework of democratic governance. In the context of NATO and the EU, the term SSR often refers to the same process, while it clarifies the definition of outreach activities and pinpoints exactly where reforms are necessary. SSR incorporates the introduction of pro-reform legislation in compliance with international law and the strengthening of civil control.
This topic is gaining ever more ground in NATO and the EU because SSR, as a relatively new term, is gradually developing into a multi-faceted concept and an effective tool for sharing democratic principles – all the more so as SSR constitutes a process and an instrument for providing intra- and extra-state security.
As SSR concerns a wide range of topics and components (from reforming defence forces to increasing the role of civilians in the security sector), it also brings many different actors to the field. The hardest task is thus to define the SSR concept and to divide its responsibilities between various areas, agencies and organisations. Effective policy implementation is heavily dependent on a clear division of labour and responsibilities.
Unfortunately, organisations and states do not interpret the concept and its content in a similar way. In the field of concept development, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the European Union have come furthest and proposed their own definitions. NATO has not formulated a precise definition, even though the cooperation that exists between its candidate countries and partners pursuant to various NATO framework documents and partnership programmes satisfies SSR criteria in all respects.
At the moment, the adoption of a ‘comprehensive approach’, which in addition to defence sector reform involves the security of society as a whole, including ‘good governance’ and ‘human security’, is the only thing that has been agreed upon.
Due to the vagueness and all-inclusiveness of the SSR concept, many bi- and multilateral aid donors have entered the arena. This diversity is in a way welcome for countries that receive aid. Paradoxically, it could also inhibit their reform efforts. For example, aid providers might offer contradictory solutions, making it hard for aid recipients to decide whose advice they should listen to.
Nonetheless, the EU and NATO are the driving force behind SSR in terms of both resources and experiences. When conducting outreach activities, EU and NATO members apply the principles of the partnership or neighbourhood policies pursued by the respective organisation. Yet they do not coordinate their activities – work in some areas is duplicated, while others are not covered at all. The SSR process requires the adoption of a holistic approach: it presumes parallel and systematic work in every area. Civil control cannot be promoted if the necessary legislation has not been adopted. Similarly, it is not possible to reform a state’s defence forces and to enhance their deployment capability on the international level without outlining the respective procedures. All fundamental reforms that affect society must have public support. SSR does not come cheap; it requires money and human resources. This is just one more reason why organisations and member states should cooperate and share responsibility. However, another problem might arise here: the provision of aid to a specific target country might create conflicts of interest between different states and organisations. In addition, there is always the question of the relevance and local applicability of the expertise offered.
The role of defence diplomacy in reuniting SSR and development aid
The aid donors also face difficulties, because security issues fall under the scope of different ministries, each one of which is individually, to a greater or lesser degree, involved in outreach activities. Border guards and police officers share their experiences, lawyers offer advice on legal reforms and public relations experts emphasise the importance of providing information to the public. But not all their efforts are coordinated on a national level.
The concept of defence diplomacy incorporates national policies implemented in the security sector. In an ideal case, it also unifies the military and the development component. However, as a unified concept has not been formulated, we should refer separately to all its parts – ad hoc outreach projects, development and humanitarian aid and contributions to international military operations and peacekeeping missions. Of course, we could label them ‘defence diplomacy’, but we would only discredit the concept.
The UK has managed to take a commanding lead in developing its outreach policy because it has implemented a whole-government approach, which means that outreach activities are not pursued independently by separate government departments. The UK started with the establishment of an inter-agency working group that formulated a unified national SSR concept. In addition, two inter-ministry foundations were set up in order to fund peacekeeping, state-building and reform programmes developed by the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development. A similar reform was implemented in the Netherlands where a special inter-agency foundation was established to finance SSR and development aid programmes. Sweden has also made great efforts to follow suit.
Estonia does not pursue defence diplomacy in a coordinated manner, though this is only natural. By now, we have successfully implemented many reforms, owing much to the help of other states. We were very eager to offer our help to countries that needed it and we have obtained quite good results so far, as we chose countries which could benefit most from our experiences (Georgia and Ukraine). Providing development aid and sharing our reform experiences, we have learned our first lessons and developed our skills. Nevertheless, we should not rest on our laurels after achieving initial success as aid providers as we still have a long way to go. Our understanding of aid is still quite vague. Hence, we do not have a clear picture of how the provision of aid should be coordinated. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the development aid policy, while the Ministry of Defence coordinates the provision of defence-related aid, i.e. our outreach policy. These ministries have separate budgets and they do not maintain close working contacts, even though this would give greater cohesion to the foreign and security diplomacy of the government.
Our experiences would be more valuable and useful, if we knew the ins and outs of all the respective concepts and terms. We should start with mapping and analysing the reforms implemented in Estonia. Then we should draw our own conclusions and position this knowledge within the international context of SSR and development aid.

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