Monday, March 1, 2021
Home World Human Rights and Civilian Harm in Security Cooperation: A Framework of Analysis

Human Rights and Civilian Harm in Security Cooperation: A Framework of Analysis

This is an excerpt from Remote Warfare: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Get your free obtain from E-International Relations.

On 13 March 2019, the US Senate handed a decision supposed to carry an finish to US assist for the Saudi-led navy marketing campaign in Yemen. For practically 4 years, the US had supported its ally with gear, intelligence and logistical assist amidst a rising file of large-scale civilian casualty incidents and in the wake of a mounting human toll from the battle. But with every report or picture of the devastation wrought by the Saudi-led marketing campaign, and the homicide of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, cracks started to emerge in the long-held assumption that the strategic partnership was resistant to American public considerations in regards to the Kingdom’s human rights file. While the Senate’s vote on Yemen is one of the newer, and probably the most infamous instances, it’s one of many circumstances in which American strategic pursuits have been compromised by inadequate consideration given to the dangers of civilian hurt – and to together with civilian casualties, human rights abuses and humanitarian crises both created by, or related to, its safety cooperation and safety help actions.[1]

The case of assist to Saudi demonstrates a technique in which the United States Government might encounter a coverage impediment, in the shape of public scrutiny, that outcomes from dangerous insurance policies and practices of a companion over which it has little or no management. But civilian hurt and human rights violations dedicated by America’s companions may also undermine progress towards the safety pursuits that safety cooperation is meant to realize in extra basic methods. For instance, human rights abuses by a companion can counteract joint efforts to counter terrorism by eroding the general public’s belief in the legitimacy of the companion state (and by extension, the United States), and even by growing the quantity of the disaffected who might flip to violence in response to state-sponsored abuse (UNDP 2017, 5, 80). Meanwhile, offering safety help in fragile states, the place such harms could also be extra possible or prevalent, may also irritate battle, undermine stabilization, or counteract peacebuilding efforts (Kleinfeld 2018, 282–285). Finally, human rights abuse or civilian hurt could also be symptomatic of bigger institutional deficits or structural phenomena (e.g. corruption) that vastly diminish the probability that safety cooperation will ever obtain its desired outcomes.

Having a sounder understanding of dangers particular to human rights and civilian hurt might, at minimal, permit the US authorities to optimise the specified returns on safety cooperation with fewer attendant prices. This chapter units out a abstract of a framework developed by Center for Civilians in Conflict, by which the US – and even different states or establishments – would possibly assess the human rights and civilian hurt dangers concerned with enterprise safety cooperation actions with specific companions. It additionally presents a variety of elements to think about in the design of the partnership to make sure ‘interoperable’, i.e. suitable, approaches to threat mitigation.  As such, the US Government would possibly use the framework in one of 3 ways: 1) ex ante coverage evaluation of its companions to assist formulate safety cooperation methods; 2) ongoing evaluation of dangers that can be utilized to go off important issues arising from hurt or to observe progress or enhancements; and 3) a method of designing and customizing threat mitigation measures particular to, and acceptable for, partnerships of vastly totally different character.

Scope of Application

For functions of this evaluation, safety cooperation can embrace a spread of actions alongside a spectrum of involvement, from partnered operations involving each international locations in the navy or safety operations, to the supply of recommendation, operational or logistical assist, arms gross sales, and coaching and schooling (Knowles and Watson 2018, 3) . While partnership with civilian regulation enforcement could also be implicated by this framework, and sure analytical standards might apply to police actions, the evaluation is primarily geared towards utility to cooperation between, and with, navy forces. Meanwhile, the framework relies on the speculation that safety cooperation can correspond straight or not directly with human rights or civilian hurt (which can or is probably not per se lawful) in a number of methods, inter alia:

  1. Assistance might straight allow hurt brought about independently by the companion (e.g. missiles offered by the US are used to strike hospitals, or a unit educated by the US commits a mass atrocity)
  2. Assistance, supplied over time, might extra usually improve the lethality of a companion drive in a vacuum of acceptable constraints
  3. Assistance might distort, or exacerbate, the distortion of defence or safety priorities (thereby depriving civilians of wanted safety providers)
  4. Support or help might abet hurt as a direct end result of collectively conceived or deliberate actions or operations (e.g. the US acts on intelligence from a companion that yields a focusing on error and civilian casualties)
  5. Assistance or materiel supplied in the absence of enough controls could also be diverted to different teams or people who subsequently hurt civilians
  6. Support or help might happen independently, however incidental to important kinds of hurt (the US sells main navy gear to a rustic with an abusive police drive)
  7. Support to safety forces with a file of human rights abuses or civilian hurt in the absence of accountability dangers tolerating and even endorsing impunity
  8. Acts of safety cooperation might elevate the tolerance threshold of threat for human rights abuses or civilian hurt (e.g. the US pressures a companion to behave extra assertively in a navy operation)

Limitations on Current Approaches to Risk Management

The United States authorities does, by all accounts, take human rights and civilian hurt dangers into consideration because it plans and implements its safety cooperation actions. However, whereas the constituent components of its present strategy to threat administration are every independently worthwhile, they might not collectively represent an strategy that’s optimally designed for each anticipating and managing dangers. Restrictions on help based mostly on previous conduct, and particularly conduct associated to human rights violations (reminiscent of by means of the US ‘Leahy Laws’[2]) may be efficient for decreasing materials assist to particular models who’ve already dedicated violations. But analyzing the chance of partnership on the premise of previous conduct might not adequately think about variables that relate to the probability of hurt in the future.  Meanwhile, leaning on authorized evaluation to make sure an act of assist is technically ‘lawful’ beneath its personal interpretation of obligations beneath state accountability might have little bearing on the sensible results of harms skilled by civilians and might not comport with public and even worldwide perceptions of lawfulness or legitimacy (Shiel and Mahanty 2017, 9).

Moreover, technical assessments of competencies or functionality gaps, might not adequately think about authorized, political, or different environmental elements which will have a big bearing on the probability of human rights abuses or civilian hurt, and in so doing, might ignore the interplay between variables on the political and operational – and even tactical – ranges. Although sure institutional variables might proxy for different kinds of dangers (e.g. insufficient authorized safeguards might signify operational threat of human rights violations) and are subsequently worthy of consideration, attending to the chance of partnership with a give attention to one class of evaluation on the expense of others can result in narrowly conceived options which fail to deal with the supply of threat.  Finally, makes an attempt to cut back threat by means of purely technical interventions like coaching, or the supply of lower than deadly gear or precision weapons might yield some optimistic advantages beneath sure situations, however might not overcome institutional deficiencies or overcome overriding political incentives that allow hurt to happen (Dalton et al. 2018, 23).

In diagnosing dangers, and in designing measures to mitigate them, an excessively slender scope of utility can carry unintended penalties. First, policymakers might over-estimate the extent to which anybody safeguard really mitigates probably the most urgent dangers (e.g. the federal government might defend its assist to a companion based mostly on its confidence in the capability for human rights coaching to beat gaps in accountability). Second, the federal government might overlook alternatives to realize the supposed end result of a safety cooperation exercise whereas additionally managing the chance by means of extra proactive, and efficient controls. Finally, any of these approaches might fail to account for the best way a cooperative relationship, and the context in which it exists, can change over time.

A Framework of Analysis for Civilian Harm and Human Rights Risks in Security Cooperation

To set up a extra appropriate strategy to managing the totally different varieties of dangers related to totally different varieties of safety cooperation, policymakers, program managers and those that consider authorities practices from the surface, would possibly look towards a brand new framework of evaluation that establishes the premise for designing applications with enough controls and safeguards in place. A well-designed framework would 1) align with the rising coverage consensus in regards to the vital parts of efficient and sustainable safety cooperation applications; 2) determine the variables inside a number of classes of evaluation (e.g. political, authorized, and operational) that correspond with the dangers most worthy of consideration; 3) permit for customised utility to a selected safety cooperation exercise; 4) think about the dangers that derive each from the ‘partner’ in addition to from the ‘acts of partnership’, and 5) lend itself to comparatively clear coverage prescriptions that stream from the analysis it presents.

Each class of dangers in the framework that follows features a pattern of consultant threat indicators, together with an related declare about how any perceived or deal deficits might impair the federal government’s potential to realize a desired end-state with its companion. Ideally, the federal government might use the framework to make coverage selections in regards to the viability of partnership (e.g. as prerequisite situations); to design and modify partnership actions; and to prioritise and combine threat mitigation measures. Among choices which may be thought of in response to evaluation performed on the premise of this framework, policymakers or program managers would possibly think about moderating or decreasing any kinds of help that materially improve the lethality of safety forces (Kleinfeld 2018, 283–285).  The authorities may elect to sequence assist or set up pre-requisite necessities (e.g. demonstrating a selected competency) previous to offering sure varieties of help or partaking in sure varieties of partnership actions; (Shiel and Mahanty 2017, 32), or to require extra direct oversight (‘operational end-use monitoring’) (Lewis 2019, 28) of operations that profit from assist or help.

Political Factors

The political context in which safety partnerships happen has direct and inextricable bearing on the chance of human rights or civilian hurt in at the least three discernible methods. First, safety relationships between states are formed by, and sure to, the alignment or misalignment of political intentions and aims of every state (Tankel 2018, 308–310). When aims are misaligned, a state dangers taking part in safety operations that don’t serve its core pursuits, but additionally partially ‘owns’ any unfavorable penalties (Rand 2018). As importantly, the political organisation of the state and the political orientation of its safety forces carry important implications for the methods in which the state employs the use of violence (e.g. in the violation of human rights). When a state such because the United States enhances the capability of state safety establishments, they’re higher in a position to serve no matter political goal they finally serve (Kleinfeld 2018, 284).  If state safety forces have been instrumentalised to protect the financial or political energy of a rent-seeking elite, then the safety forces might in flip instrumentalise the use of drive in service of that goal. In these instances, enhancing the capability of the state might contribute to the state’s maintain on the monopoly on the use of violence, however in service of illegitimate ends.

The extent to which the political character of safety establishments ought to and can have an effect on the evaluation of human rights and civilian safety dangers largely will depend on the sort of cooperation exercise and the size of divergence between the established order and a desired finish state. Indicators in this class are most helpful throughout coverage deliberations about whether or not, and how a lot, the United States ought to pursue its overseas coverage goals by means of safety cooperation actions.

Figure 1: Political/Strategic (companion State)

Figure 2: Political/Strategic compatibility

Security Governance Factors

The proclivity of safety forces to interact in human rights abuse or conduct that outcomes in hurt may rely on the extent to which safety establishments are topic to acceptable constraints in the shape of inside controls, exterior oversight[3] and accountability measures (DCAF 2018, 7–10). While the strategies and means of exercising oversight and accountability of safety forces might fluctuate relying on the circumstance, they need to work collectively to make sure the prevention of and accountability for human rights violations and ought to work to rectify shortcomings in safety governance. Partnering with, or supporting, a state’s safety forces that function in a vacuum of accountability and oversight will increase the chance that the help might straight result in abuse or hurt. There can be the chance that the offering state will turn out to be related to hurt to which it has made no specific contribution (Goodman and Arabia 2018, 33–35; Shiel and Mahanty 2017, 31).

While you will need to consider the institutional make-up of the companion forces and the oversight our bodies that govern them, it’s equally vital to evaluate the extent to which the partnership itself is topic to oversight and accountability. For instance, it might be acceptable or prudent to topic sure options of a partnership to parliamentary oversight to make sure a level of ‘informed public consent’, even when such preparations are usually not sure by treaties requiring parliamentary approval. Indicators inside this class are most helpful throughout coverage deliberations, but additionally in determinations of the varieties of cooperation the US could also be keen to undertake – or ought to keep away from, reminiscent of deadly help – given any main institutional deficits.

Figure 3: Security Governance – accountability and oversight

Figure 4: Security Governance interoperability

Legal Compliance and Interoperability Factors

Questions associated to the interplay between safety cooperation and worldwide regulation fall loosely into two broad and distinct, however associated, classes. The first class consists of questions that relate to the obligations every state has beneath worldwide regulation, how the cooperation exercise accrues accountability to every for their very own motion and how every would possibly share accountability for the actions of the opposite. The diploma of authorized legal responsibility imparted to states that take part in safety cooperation actions largely will depend on the relevant authorized idea of state accountability (and how it’s being interpreted), and might rely on the character and significance of the motion, and whether or not and how a lot a state ‘knows’ about any internationally wrongful acts it’s supporting. [4] This class of considerations additionally raises questions on any gaps which might be created with respect to attribution and accountability for actions amongst states in ‘coalitions of the willing’ (Tondini 2017, 11–13). Common Article 1 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions additionally obliges states to ‘undertake to respect and to ensure respect’ for worldwide humanitarian regulation (IHL), which might, in idea, create an extra obligation on states to advertise respect for IHL by means of each optimistic and unfavorable means obtainable.

Figure 5: Legal (companion state)

Other questions relate to the diploma of ‘legal interoperability’[5] between the partnering states that ensures suitable interpretation and utility of the regulation (Goddard 2017, 211, 212). Legal interoperability may also embrace a consideration for a way any formal or casual authorized preparations dilute or strengthen accountability to the regulation, e.g. in the shape of standing of forces agreements that relieve one of the states of accountability (Hussein, Moorehead and Horowitz 2018). Indicators in this class could also be most helpful for circumstances in which the US is offering operational assist or is concerned with the companion in joint operations (so-called ‘partnered operations’).

Figure 6: Legal interoperability

Operational Factors

Operational capability is unlikely to beat elements on the political stage that allow, encourage or tolerate human rights abuses. But a point of tradecraft competency is critical for translating a political dedication to defending rights or stopping hurt into operational actuality. In the case of regulation enforcement operations, police, or safety forces performing as police, can keep away from or cut back hurt by means of tactical proficiency in escalation of drive or the efficient use of non-lethal strategies (OHCHR 2004, 27). Similarly, navy forces can take significant steps towards stopping, mitigating, and responding to any ham they trigger in the course of their very own operations throughout the conduct of hostilities (Lewis 2019, 38). (Note: the small choice of pattern variables right here applies to navy operations and civilian hurt, slightly than regulation enforcement actions and human rights. They are supposed to be consultant of the varieties of variables which may be acceptable.)

Figure 7: Operational

Similar to the opposite classes inside this framework, operational dangers derive not solely from the traits of the companions, but additionally from the acts of cooperation they undertake. Just as dangers can emerge from variations in the understanding and utility of regulation, so can also they stem from gaps in interoperability in joint or partnered safety operations, to incorporate the methods in which companions plan, put together, and execute missions, and in the methods in which they reply to allegations or experiences of hurt or abuse (Dalton et al. 2018, 20). When offering materiel or logistical assist, the US might profit from making certain it is ready to undertake ‘operational oversight’ (or ‘operational end-use monitoring’) in order that it might higher perceive the character of the navy actions it’s supporting. (Lewis 2019, 28).

Figure 8: Operational interoperability

Civil-Military Relations and Civil Society Factors

Finally, the chance of civilian hurt or human rights points may be managed by means of constructive and significant interplay between safety forces and civilians, to incorporate the consideration of civilian views in the design and implementation of safety cooperation actions. Two broader classes of engagement are significantly germane to this framework. The first is the capability of both, or each, companions to interact in efficient civil-military relations in the context of safety operations, which incorporates having channels obtainable for understanding and responding to group safety wants, to incorporate the dangers confronted by civilians; and the diploma to which the navy and the general public have a shared understanding of ‘security.’ Important to the evaluation are the methods in which safety forces talk with civilians in advance of, throughout and after operations and the extent to which the navy avoids creating or transferring dangers to civilian populations by means of sure actions. These can embrace looking for intelligence, sustaining an lively presence close to civilians, or failing to think about security, safety, or privateness of the communities or people with whom they have interaction.

Figure 9: Civil-military and civil society

The second class of standards that may be pertinent to the design of safety cooperation is the function and performance of civil society as each a supply of public oversight of safety drive actions, and a possible sign of knowledgeable public consent to partnership preparations (Dalton et al. 2018, 12). Governments enterprise safety cooperation actions needs to be cautious of tacitly encouraging or abiding by instances in which the companion authorities has positioned specific, or implicit, restrictions on civil society and its potential to behave as a significant test on authorities actions. In some instances, civil society, for political causes or in any other case, is probably not current, lively, or coordinated to interact authorities on safety coverage. In these instances, the United States ought to make sure that it seeks significant and voluntary enter from sources that may function a proxy – or it ought to calibrate its actions to account for the extra threat imposed by the shortage of civil society as a significant test.

Figure 10: Civil-Military interoperability


Even because the US Government shifts its said defence priorities towards ‘great power competition’, and reduces the numbers of its personal forces from theatres reminiscent of Afghanistan and Iraq, the period of safety partnership, and the emphasis on ‘by, with, and through’ is probably going right here to remain. If something, as nice powers search to keep away from the devastation of direct confrontation by competing by means of extra oblique means, the vary and scale of safety cooperation actions and safety help may very well improve. In the absence of the right controls, these actions might run the chance of distorting native techniques of governance, exacerbating corruption, or contributing to human rights abuse.

The mere availability of a extra organised set of threat indicators won’t routinely generate the suitable coverage response now, or in the longer term, till policymakers recognise the significance of taking human rights and civilian hurt extra severely when designing and implementing safety cooperation and help actions. After all, the US authorities was not oblivious to the human rights file of its Saudi companions, nor unable to diagnose gaps in its curiosity or capability to keep away from civilian hurt utilizing US-manufactured weapons. Even so, a extra complete framework of evaluation might help policymakers and safety cooperation program managers in anticipating issues earlier than they come up, compelling clear coverage decisions, and in figuring out the areas the place mitigation measures are greatest positioned all through the life cycle of a partnership. 


[1] A notice on terminology: While safety cooperation and safety help have totally different definitions in sources of US Government steering, this paper will use the time period ‘security cooperation’ to incorporate safety help actions for functions of simplicity.

[2] For background on the Leahy Laws, see: ‘Leahy Law’ Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview.

[3] According to DCAF, ‘Oversight is a comprehensive term that refers to several processes, including ex-ante scrutiny, ongoing monitoring, and ex-post review, as well as evaluation and investigation. Oversight of security services is undertaken by a number of external actors, including the judiciary, parliament, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) and ombuds institutions, National Preventive Mechanisms (NPM), audit institutions, specialised oversight bodies, media and NGOs. Oversight should be distinguished from control as the latter term implies the power to direct an organisation’s insurance policies and actions. As such, management is often related to the chief department of authorities.’ (DCAF, 6)

[4] See Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, ILC Yearbook 2001/II (2)(ARSIWA or Articles on State Responsibility), Articles 6, 16, 17, and 47. ilc_2001_v2_p2.pdf.

[5] Defined by the International Committee of the Red Cross as ‘a way of managing legal differences between coalition partners with a view to rendering the conduct of multinational operations as effective as possible, while respecting the relevant applicable law.’ International Committee of the Red Cross, International Humanitarian Law and the Challenges of Contemporary Armed Conflicts: 32–33.  


Beittel, June S., Lauren Ploch Blanchard, and Liana Rosen. 2014. “Leahy Law” Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview. Congressional Research Service.

Dalton, Melissa, Shannon Green, Hijab Shah and Rebecca Hughes. 2018. Oversight and Accountability in US Security Sector Assistance: Seeking Return on Investments. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Washington, DC.

Dalton, Melssa, Jenny McEvoy, Hijab Shah and Daniel Mahanty. 2018. The Protection of Civilians in US Partnered Operations. Policy, Center for Strategic and International Studies. Washington, DC.

DCAF. 2018. International Standards and Good Practices in the Governance and Oversight of Security Services. Policy, Geneva: Geneva Center for Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF).

Goddard, David. 2017. ‘Understanding the Challenge of Legal Interoperability in Coalition Operations.’ Journal of National Security Law and Policy, 9: 211–232.

Goodman, Colby, and Christina Arabia. 2018. Corruption in the Defense Sector: Identifying Key Risks to US Counterterror Aid. Policy, Washington, DC: Center for International Policy.

Hussein, Rahma, Alex Moorehead and Jonathan Horowitz.’Niger Facing Pressure to Ensure U.S. and French Drone Strikes Comply with Human Rights Law.’ Just Security. 6 September.

International Committee of the Red Cross. 2015. International Humanitarian Law and the Challenges of Contemporary Armed Conflicts.

Kleinfeld, Rachel. 2018. A Savage Order. New York: Pantheon.

Knowles, Emily, and Abigail Watson. 2018. Remote Warfare: Lessons Learned from Contemporary Theatres. Research, London: Oxford Research Group.

Lewis, Larry. 2019. Promoting Civilian Protection throughout Security Assistance: Learning from Yemen. Policy Washington, DC: Center for Naval Analysis.

OHCHR. 2004. ‘Human Rights Standards and Practice for the Police.’ Training, Geneva: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Rand, Dafna. 2018. ‘Extricating the United States from Yemen: Lessons on the Strategic Perils of Partnered Operations.’ Lawfare. 25 November. Accessed 1 June 2019.

Shiel, Annie, and Daniel Mahanty. 2017. With Great Power: Modifying US Arms Sales to Reduce CIvilian Harm. Washington, DC: Stimson Center and Center for Civilians in Conflict.

Tankel, Stephen. 2018. With Us and Against Us. New York: Columbia University Press.

Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. 2019. Final Report of the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Policy, Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Tondini, Matteo. 2017. ‘Shared Responsibility in Coalitions of the Willing.’ In The Practice of Shared Responsibility in International Law, edited by André Nollkaemper and Ilias Plakokefalos: 701–732. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. UNDP. 2017. Journey to Extremism in Africa. Research. New York: United Nations Development Program, Regional Bureau for Africa.

Further Reading on E-International Relations

Leave a Reply

All countries
Total confirmed cases
Updated on March 1, 2021 3:07 am

Most Popular

Most Popular

Recent Comments

Chat on WhatsApp
How can we help you?