DCAFProgrammes › Intelligence Governance

Intelligence Governance

Intelligence and security services are an integral part of the security sector, and – when subject to democratic control, oversight and the rule of law – they can make a valuable contribution to the provision of security and protection of human rights. DCAF’s intelligence governance programme focuses on strengthening legal and institutional frameworks for the oversight and control of intelligence and security services. The programme’s work covers both emerging and established democracies.


  • Raising awareness of the importance of (re)developing legal and institutional frameworks for democratic intelligence governance as part of SSR processes
  • Facilitating the development of effective oversight and control bodies
  • Strengthening the capacity of oversight and control bodies
  • Improving intelligence and security services’ respect for the rule of law and human rights
  • Contributing to the promulgation and implementation of international standards on intelligence governance

Types of work

  • Comparative research.The programme’s work includes both policy-orientated and academic research, which focuses on intelligence governance in transition settings and established democracies.
  • Training and capacity-building. Members of the programme participate in seminars and workshops aimed at awareness-raising and exchanges of knowledge with a wide variety of stakeholders.
  • Advice and guidance. Members of the programme provide commentaries on draft legislation and regulations.
  • International standard-setting. Members of the programme participate in multi-stakeholder processes aimed at identifying and promoting practices which contribute to the democratic governance of intelligence and security services.

Who do we work with?

  • Parliaments/legislatures
  • Autonomous oversight bodies (e.g., expert intelligence oversight bodies, ombuds institutions)
  • Executive bodies responsible for intelligence and security services
  • Intelligence and security services
  • Civil society organisations and the media
  • International organisations

Current and Recent Projects

  1. UN compilation of good practices on intelligence services and their oversight
  2. Strengthening intelligence oversight in the Western Balkans
  3. Study on the oversight of security and intelligence agencies in the European Union
  4. International intelligence cooperation and accountability

Key Publications

The programme’s publications are aimed at both policy and academic audiences. Its principal publications, some of which are available in multiple languages, include:

  • Overseeing Intelligence Services: A Toolkit (2012)
    A compilation of policy-relevant guides on the oversight of specific aspects of intelligence services’ activities, as well as on the design, establishment and improvement of independent oversight bodies.
  • Parliamentary Oversight of Intelligence and Security Agencies in the European Union  (2011)
    A study of the oversight of national security and intelligence agencies by parliaments and specialised non-parliamentary oversight bodies that was undertaken with a view to identifying good practices which can inform the European Parliament’s approach to strengthening the oversight of EU security and justice agencies.
  • Understanding Intelligence Oversight (2010)
    A concise question and answer guide which provides an overview of various aspects of work of intelligence services and their oversight bodies. It is primarily aimed at the non-expert audience.
  • Democratic Control of Intelligence Services: Containing Rogue Elephants (2007)
    An edited volume which discusses the challenges of establishing and maintaining accountable and democratically controlled intelligence services, drawing both from states with well-established democratic systems and those emerging from authoritarian systems and in transition towards democracy.
  • Making Intelligence Accountable (2005)
    A policy manual which catalogues and evaluates the legal standards regarding democratic accountability of I&SS. It identifies and recommends good practices applicable to both transition countries and well-established democracies.
  • Who's Watching the Spies? (2005)
    An edited volume that examines systems of intelligence oversight in selected democracies in Europe, Asia and North America.