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Ombuds Institutions for the armed forces

Ombuds institutions for the armed forces enhance respect for human rights and prevent abuse by providing channels to resolve grievances. By strengthening and supporting the work of ombuds institutions for the armed forces, DCAF contributes to the democratic governance of the security sector and the respect for human rights within the armed forces by:
•    producing original research and knowledge products; 
•    promoting norms and good practice; 
•    providing legal and policy advice; and 
•    developing capacities of partners. 

 

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Photo: Neoclassicism Enthusiast, Wikimedia
 
ICOAF is the only platform of its kind for independent Ombuds institutions for the armed forces to share good practices, and learn from each other on a variety of challenges facing us as ombudsmen in this specialist sector. 
Nicola Williams, Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

Workstreams/Projects

 

DCAF launched the International Conference for Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces (ICOAF) in 2009. The conference brings together representatives of ombuds institutions from various countries with the purpose of exchanging information and experience.

Ombuds institutions provide an important oversight function of the armed forces. For this reason, DCAF places a high emphasis on supporting these institutions as part of its wider mandate to improve “the security of states and people within a framework of democratic governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

To date, hundreds of representatives of ombuds institutions from over 70 countries have participated in ICOAF and the membership is consistently growing, a strong indication of the appreciation and usefulness of the conference.

This Project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Office of the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands and the Foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Useful links 

 

 

The 8th ICOAF (held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands) explored the role of ombuds institutions in exerting oversight of armed forces personnel engaged in international missions. At the conference, it was agreed that visiting troops stationed abroad and receiving complaints from them was an essential responsibility of these institutions.

However, many of them face difficulty in doing so. In addition, many institutions highlighted challenges in fulfilling their mandate in multinational missions due to legal constraints. These institutions are not empowered to handle complaints pertaining to personnel from other countries, and there is a gap in international frameworks.

As a result, DCAF assists a number of ombuds institutions in exploring different modalities towards addressing these legal constraints and filling gaps in international frameworks.

The initiative has already yielded considerable results. Several ombuds institutions have conducted visits to personnel stationed abroad for the first time. They have also devised other innovative solutions, such as conducting joint inspection visits, pooling resources, and sharing good practices with their peers.

This Project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

Publications and further reading
 

 


Ombuds Institution for the armed forces : A Handbook
This handbook examines ombuds institutions for the armed forces and their role in the promotion and protection of human rights as well as in the prevention of maladministration.
Developed in request of participants of ICOAF, the handbook compares different institutional models to highlight their strengths and weaknesses, as well as seeks to support the development of relevant legal and institutional frameworks by bringing together a range of good practice on the functioning and establishment of such institutions.
The handbook is designed to be of use to well-established and newly formed institutions alike and contains key sections on:
•    History Functions and Models;
•    Complaints;
•    Investigations; and
•    Reporting and Recommendations.

Integrating Gender into Oversight of the Security Sector by Ombuds Institutions & National Human Rights Institutions
This guidance note on Integrating Gender into Oversight of the Security Sector by Ombuds Institutions & National Human Rights Institutions, developed by DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR and the OSCE Gender Section is a practical resource for ombuds institutions and NHRIs, and those who support them. It can help an ombuds institution or NHRI engage more effectively with police, militaries and other security sector institutions to monitor and reinforce how the human rights of men and women working there are upheld.  It can strengthen oversight of how well police and others meet the needs of communities.

Gender and Complaints Mechanisms Handbook
This handbook brings together knowledge and experience as regards prevention of misconduct, and handling and monitoring of complaints within armed forces, with particular regard to gender. It is a resource for armed forces, ministries of defence, ombuds institutions and others that manage and oversee armed forces in:
•    establishing a safe and non-discriminatory environment for men and women in the armed forces;
•    dealing with instances and complaints of gender-related discrimination, harassment, bullying and abuse in the armed forces; and monitoring and overseeing the handling of instances and complaints of gender-related discrimination, harassment, bullying and abuse in the armed forces.

Social Media Guide for Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces
The aim of this guide is to promote and support ombuds institutions in adopting and competently using social media as part of their broader business and communications strategy. Social media can be used as a safe and effective tool through which ombuds institutions do business, communicate, connect, engage, inform and listen to the public, as well as members of the armed forces under their jurisdiction. In addition, by using social media to raise awareness about the work of ombuds institutions as well as raise their profile, this guide aims to support and promote the values and objectives associated with such institutions, within the larger message of good governance. In this guide, there are practical examples of the positive use of social media by ombuds institutions, as well as lessons learned from the armed forces in the adoption of social media. There are illustrations of good practice in later sections, drawn from the experiences of diverse military and police services.

Human Rights of Armed Forces Personnel: Compendium of Standards, Good Practice And Recommendations
This compendium is a flagship publication of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and DCAF, which explores existing laws, policies and mechanisms for ensuring the protection of the human rights of armed forces personnel in line with international standards and OSCE commitments.
Good practices and recommendations for protecting and respecting the human rights of armed forces personnel are presented at the end of each chapter.
The compendium highlights the importance of human rights in the armed forces to maintain the military’s accountability and embody the democratic commitments of every state. In doing so, it underscores the primary role of commanders in cultivating a climate in which the human rights of all service personnel are respected.
 

 

Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces: Selected Case Studies
Ombuds institutions for the armed forces are key actors in establishing good governance and implementing democratic controls of the security sector. These institutions are tasked with protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of armed forces personnel, as well as providing oversight and preventing maladministration of the armed forces. This publication highlights good practices and lessons learned in seven case studies of ombuds institutions for the armed forces from the following OSCE states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Finland, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Mapping Study: Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces in Francophone Countries of Sub-Saharan Africa
This mapping study project on ombuds institutions for the armed forces in francophone countries in sub-Saharan Africa draws on extensive research undertaken as part of a previous OIF-DCAF research project in 2013 entitled “Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces in Francophone Africa: Burkina Faso, Burundi and Senegal”.
The objectives of the mapping study are to develop a comprehensive analysis of the activities and role of the ombuds institutions; to identify factors that may facilitate or hinder the establishment and functioning of such institutions; to encourage ombuds institutions to deal with the armed forces and to improve the functioning and effectiveness of existing institutions; and to involve the ombuds institutions of the states concerned in the global process of exchanging good practice and experience between existing ombuds institutions.

Mapping Study on Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces in the OSCE Region
This publication has been developed in joint cooperation between DCAF and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as part of an ongoing research project on Ombuds institutions for the armed forces.  It is the result of an effort to conceptualize and examine issues and challenges related to oversight of the armed forces and the promotion of human rights based on the feedback provided by the institutions themselves. It maps prominent capacity development needs of Ombuds institutions in the OSCE region and offers best practices through which these needs can be addressed. The study also examines different models, functions and approaches of ombuds institutions for the armed forces in the OSCE region.
The mapping study will help states that wish to establish ombuds institutions by identifying the best format for doing so, but it can also support existing Ombuds institutions, scholars, policy-makers and armed forces commanders by offering a reference instrument on the current state of ombuds institutions in the OSCE region.

Impact of COVID-19 on Armed Forces
The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on societies and their institutions has led to a series of extraordinary responses by governments around the world. COVID-19 has affected all dimensions of the security sector, including armed forces, which have been deployed to assist civilian authorities in fighting the pandemic in a vast majority of countries.
The objective of this briefing note is to map the substantive impact of COVID-19 on armed forces from two perspectives: how the pandemic has influenced the mandate of armed forces and their operations, and;
how the pandemic has affected the rights of armed forces personnel deployed to assist civilian authorities.
This briefing note builds on the discussions held during the 12th International Conference of Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces in October 2020, and presents the key results from the COVID-19 survey DCAF has distributed to the participants prior to the Conference. 
To learn more about how ombuds institutions are responding to the COVID-19 challenges, read our blog: The Armed Forces in a Time of COVID: What Role for Ombuds Institutions?

Impact of COVID-19 on Ombuds Institutions
The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on societies and their institutions has led to a series of extraordinary responses by governments around the world. COVID-19 has affected all dimensions of the security sector, including armed forces, which have been deployed to assist civilian authorities in fighting the pandemic in a vast majority of countries.
The objective of this briefing note is to map the substantive impact of COVID-19 on armed forces from two perspectives: how the pandemic has influenced the mandate of armed forces and their operations, and;
how the pandemic has affected the rights of armed forces personnel deployed to assist civilian authorities.
This briefing note builds on the discussions held during the 12th International Conference of Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces in October 2020, and presents the key results from the COVID-19 survey DCAF has distributed to the participants prior to the Conference. 
To learn more about how ombuds institutions are responding to the COVID-19 challenges, read our blog: The Armed Forces in a Time of COVID: What Role for Ombuds Institutions?

 

 

 

 

PAST RESEARCH


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This handbook examines ombuds institutions for the armed ...

Contacts

William McDermott, Project Coordinator, Policy and Research Division (w.mcdermott@dcaf.ch)

Ajla Kuduzovic, Project Assistant, Policy and Research Division (a.kuduzovic@dcaf.ch)