The African Security Sector Network (ASSN) was created at Elmina, Ghana, in November 2003 out of a recognition of the need to harmonise and facilitate the activities of the various African organisations working in the area of Security Sector Reform and Governance (SSR/G).
The principal objective of the network is to promote democratically governed and effective security for the peoples of Africa, and to enhance the capacity of African governments, security institutions, legislatures and civil society organizations to undertake and own Security Sector Reform (SSR) programmes and projects.
The ASSN has developed as a multidisciplinary network spanning academics, think-tanks, CSOs, security practitioners (active and retired), legislators in defence and security committees, etc, with a pan-African character that enables experiences from different traditions of security organisation and practice (Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone) to be shared.
The network derives its core strength from its diverse competencies and locations (which enable it to work for change from both within and without); from a capacity for internal debate; and an ability to engage a broad range of security actors (national, regional and international), as well as policy-and decision-makers.
The vision of the ASSN is that of democratically governed and effective security for the peoples of Africa.
The ASSN’s corporate mission is the transformation of security governance and promotion of peace and justice in Africa through:
- Advocacy and facilitation of emerging SSR/G networks;
- Promoting inclusive dialogue and informed debate around issues of security and justice, designed to influence decision-makers and policy processes;
- Enhancing security literacy among the continent’s policy- and decision-makers and the general public, through training, education, and dissemination of resource materials;
- Supporting policy and institutional development, via applied research and provision of advisory and consultancy services;
- Building capacity within the security sector, as well as its policy and oversight institutions;
- Promoting an African-centred focus by disseminating African ‘best practices’ in the areas of SSR/G; and by
- Serving as a continental information repository.
The core values of the ASSN are an Africa-centred agenda, Accountability and transparency, Inclusivity, Integrity (and objectivity), Diversity, Responsiveness, Sustainability and Partnership.
The ASSN carries out a wide range of activities, both at the corporate level and through its member organisations. Over time, however, four core roles have evolved:
- Critical collaboration with the African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and national governments to promote African ownership of SSR and to build the policy and institutional capacity to address security issues within a democratic and accountable framework;
- Working with African parliaments to improve their security oversight capabilities;
- Empowering Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) by equipping them with the skills (political as much as technical) to engage (and transform) the security sector; and
- Engaging with external partners interested in supporting SSR in Africa.
While the original mandate of the ASSN was that of facilitating the activities of its member organisations (and this remains an important part of its focus), increasingly over time the priority has shifted to constituting the ASSN as a pan-African SSR/G Expert Roster, available to the AU, RECs, national governments and external partners who share the values of the network. This has necessitated the creation of an independent Secretariat for the network (replacing the earlier skeletal administrative structure) and a personality separate and distinct from that of its member organisations.