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How is the security sector covered in this module?

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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The security sector is a broad term that includes “defense, law enforcement, corrections, intelligence services and institutions responsible for border management, customs and civil emergencies”, among other actors and institutions (United Nations General Assembly, 2008).

Given their central role in the prevention of and response to violence against women, this module primarily covers the police, and where relevant, the armed forces; management and oversight bodies; as well as civil society including community-based groups that work on women’s security issues. The role of the justice sector - including the penal system - is covered in the justice module and the role of international peacekeepers is covered in the conflict/post-conflict module. Links to other modules on the site are made as appropriate.

Key actors and institutions across the sector that can play an important role in both the prevention of and response to violence against women and girls include:


State security actors:

Police services: police based within communities and community liaison officers; national police; border/frontier police; cross-border police (e.g. Interpol – the largest international police organization – and Europol); gendarmerie/ military police

Armed forces: the army; navy; air forces; military installations and official state paramilitary forces (distinct from armed groups) (e.g. Indian Paramilitary Forces)

Border control: border guards, police or patrols; frontier guards or police; customs authorities; and coast guards

Reserve security units: civil defense forces; civil protection forces; civil emergency forces; national guards

Intelligence services: internal and external (e.g. national intelligence services, national security agency, see a list of national intelligence agencies)

Justice services: prisons; criminal investigation; and prosecution services (e.g. Federal Bureau of Investigation, USA)


Management and oversight bodies:

Executive bodies: the executive; national security advisory bodies/ committees; ministries (defense, internal affairs, foreign affairs, justice, and finance); and national audit office

Legislative bodies: Parliament and select legislative committees (e.g. defense, foreign affairs, interior, public accounts)

Independent oversight bodies: ombudsperson; human rights; and public complaints commissions

Civil society organizations: civilian review boards; non-governmental organizations; and community groups

Regional organizations: where these bodies operate in a peacekeeping or election monitoring capacity, management and oversight role such as the United Nations; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; European Union; African Union; and Economic Community of West African States Standby Force


Non-state actors:

Non-statutory security forces/ armed groups: liberation armies; guerrilla armies; private security companies; political party militias; paramilitaries; and vigilante groups

Traditional authorities: Customary and traditional authorities; justice systems
In some cases, boundaries between state and non-state actors become blurred (e.g. state-sponsored paramilitaries or militia groups)