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Output legitimacy

As discussed in Chapter 2 of this book, theories of modern democracy argue that specialised NGOs and local actors can increase “system effectiveness or output legitimacy”, i.e. the amount of “beneficial consequences” or citizens’ “utility gains” by promoting the “welfare of the constituency in question” (Sternberg 2015: 615; see also Scharpf 1997). Research-oriented think tanks but also academic scholars as well as other civil society associations can play a role in initiating or animating public policy debates and reforming the security sector by shifting the normative focus to human security (Cawthra 2003: 41; Cawthra and Luckham 2003: 309) and comprehensive security approaches while highlighting the shortcomings and side-effects of purely militaristic strategies (Cawthra and Luckham 2003: 309) in efficiently eliminating security risks. A conceptual understanding of democracy underpinned by output legitimacy invokes the consideration of the logic of consequentialism and value-added of decisions for the sustainable advancement of the state. For example, a preference might be democratic in the sense that was based on the choice of the majority of the people, but might be non-compliant with democratic content, e.g. human rights, which is associated with beneficial implications for citizens. This definition of democracy allows ruling out that honour killings or mob violence in rural areas in Pakistan and other countries might be assessed as democratic only because the decision was deliberated by a majority. Thus, output legitimacy is considered to be “derived from the quality of the outcome” or the benefits it generates for citizens (Curry 2016). The more beneficial an outcome is, the more legitimate a political decision is. In order to overcome the difficulty to operationalise ‘beneficial’ - one outcome might be perceived to be beneficial for some groups, while others might consider it non-beneficial - this sub-section will focus more on the level of influence that NGOs had on improving public policy and governance outcomes/ processes in fields related to human security.

Civil society associations perceive their contribution to the improvement of political outcomes as per the following examples:

  • • ‘[We] attempt to reach the parliament, share research inputs with them - assumed that final results reflect collective inputs. But there is no instrument to measure impact and whether inputs are integrated’ (Interview Participant #2, Senior NGO Representative).
  • • ‘We issued the Peshawar Declaration of Peace, at a time, we were stronger (...) through advocacy in different districts, press conferences and a petition to Peshawar Court’ (Interview Participant #2, Senior NGO Representative).
  • • T went to some sessions to NACTA when the CVE programme was drafted, they did not consider my recommendations’ (Interview Participant #16, Senior NGO Representative).
  • • ‘We conducted some bilateral projects with regional players, e.g. Afghanistan and Central Asian countries (...). Regional peace, connectivity and stability is key in these processes. (...) We do research, e.g. we research the key drivers of radicalisation in Pakistan and draw recommendations for government and civil society. (...) One day, we got a call from DG ISI saying that they adopted some of the recommendations and asking for future collaboration. So, there is a policy impact, but no mechanism to assess the impact of that policy, because several stakeholders are involved’ (Interview Participant #17, Senior NGO Representative).
  • • ‘Change can only be brought via political momentum - CSOs’ role in stimulating that political momentum (...). There is impact on policy-making, via meetings in five stars hotels, with decision makers, they assist in the preparation of laws on protection of women or the child marriage act. NGO workers are educated, have know-how’ (Interview Participant #30, Senior NGO Representative).

• ‘From 2005, we work on SSR, counterterrorism, CVE and related security challenges. (...) Only 7-8 think tanks are working in these areas. They help state and policy makers to map the trends and progress on the debate on security. (...) There is some contribution, including on formulating the NAP, many CSOs were invited to give their inputs. In Islamabad, CSOs engage in two areas which are security-relevant: 1) Counterterrorism, which is more hard security, they engage mainly with retired military personnel, police or their organisations and 2) CVE, is mainly at grassroots level’ (Interview Participant #35, Senior NGO Representative).

These results indicate that the participants with good knowledge of the sector believe that civil society actors can contribute to improving the quality of political decisions and outcomes in security-related policy areas by enabling the transfer of inputs, i.e. of own assessments or research, at a policy level. Recommendations or key findings based on local assessments and measurements can be beneficial for advancing locally designed models of SSR, conflict transformation and management. Ownership of these processes and outcomes can enhance compliance by both citizens and state institutions and thus increase the effectiveness of democratic security governance. A few organisations were found to be involved in policy formulation processes during policy drafting phases. While some of the inputs they provided were sometimes considered in the final form of specific policies, e.g. the National Action Plan (NAP), others were not. In a rare example, one organisation in the analysed sample was found to be involved in foreign policy and external security projects at regional and transnational levels.

Local actors’ role in generating output legitimacy, although difficult to operationalise, was perceived by the respondents from the media, academia and military to be moderate, as the following interview fragments indicate:

  • • ‘The role of CSOs in conflict resolution, conflict management, peacebuilding, advocacy, conflict transformation (...) Track 2 diplomacy is on the way. Confidence building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan emerged as result of Track 2 activities. For example, the bus service (...). CSOs and media played a role in initiatives started by India and Pakistan. (...) Media and CSOs can influence setting the agenda. They do lobby work, conceive CBMs. (...) There is no clear study about the genealogy of political actions, but the link is there’ (Interview Participant #7, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘CSOs can be advocates of peace between India and Pakistan and they have been taken efforts since 1970s, 1990, before the Kabul war. That simply destructed this process between India and Pakistan. (...) The only solution is to build a narrative of peace via exchange of students, media, and intellectuals. (...). CSOs might have played a role, even during Musharraf - e.g. maybe they influenced Musharraf’s decision to go to India for negotiations or maybe they started supporting the judiciary against Musharraf’ (Interview Participant #23, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘CSOs play a constructive role in conflict resolution, conflict transformation, in the context of conflict at state level, e.g. India-Pakistan. All these organisations have contributed very positively, but at the level of CBMs. Civil society is a main tool for connecting these elements (...)’ (Interview Participant #37, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘[The impact] is much more prominent in Islamabad as far as security and foreign policy issues are concerned. (...) In areas like education and gender, there is a significant impact’ (Interview Participant #21, Senior Military Representative).
  • • ‘CSOs’ work on issues like conflict resolution, counterterrorism, upgrading laws, customs, women. (...) Civil society keeps raising its voice. Those which are not associated with political parties, those independent, such as PILDAT, Youth Parliament. Other CSOs are funded with vested interests, some work for foreign intelligence, from Saudi Arabia, the UK, USA. There are strong lobbies, e.g. India finances CSOs in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh. The quality is not very high, but some are doing good work on children and women’ (Interview Participant #28, Senior Military Representative).

It is generally acknowledged that Track 2 diplomacy is under way and non-state organisations had a contribution in the emergence of confidence building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan, such as the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, which benefitted Kashmiri trade and families on both Indian and Pakistani sides. In addition, the CSOs’ potential and impact on building a narrative for peace, but also in promoting gender empowerment and education for children, were outlined. Fears about the potential interference or espionage of some NGOs funded by regional or international powers were also expressed. Another issue highlighted was the impact of organisations working on foreign policy and security issues. Their work is predominantly centralised and based in Islamabad, where federal governmental offices and institutions are located, while some provinces are perceived to be less represented.

Despite non-state actors’ visible work at a policy level, many respondents perceive that this has failed to have resulted in major tangible outcomes:

  • • ‘So far, they could not make much impact, there are no major tangible outcomes. Efforts have been made to relax India-Pakistan visa, but visas were not relaxed. There are some isolated exchange projects, but they did not make an impact, in particular working on the issue India-Pakistan, there are a lot of things of doubt here - CSOs are not perceived as trustful’ (Interview Participant #23, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘In our organisation, we used to have a regular India-Pakistan convention, exchanges of a group of people (ca. 100), but has stopped, because of lack of funds. (...). [It] did not have any impact on policy’ (Interview Participant #26, Senior NGO Representative).
  • • ‘NGO impact is fragile, is not well established, because CSOs have a long way to go. (...) As far as the practical approach is concerned, the results are not coming’ (Interview Participant #29, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘The civil society’s impact on collaboration with the government on policy, in defining the problem, in finding a solution and in raising the problem at institutional level, I think the role of civil society is marginally. (...) There was increased impact after Musharraf. Civil society became more aware about its rights and media and courts. They have the courage to highlight or demonstrate the negativity of the armed forces’ power’ (Interview Participant #37, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘CSOs are developing in Pakistan. Their impact is difficult to quantify. (...) In electronic and social media is strong, but their impact on policymaking is unsure. (...) Initial excitement about CSOs is reducing, people are becoming suspicious, because they have agendas (...). Overall, civil society is getting more influential. (...) But they have not solved core issues, such as educate poor children, health. On corruption they had a weak impact’ (Interview Participant #8, Senior Military Representative).

The conflict between India and Pakistan was highlighted as one domain in which CSOs had only a limited impact, e.g. in exchanges or CBMs, but did not make substantive progress in achieving tangible measures towards settling the dispute, e.g. in the visa relaxation domain. Having an impact on security and foreign policy is often associated with having an impact on the military institution, because they are considered to be the last resort for these policy domains. The impact of civil society at an institutional level is perceived to have considerably increased after Musharraf, even though developments have not been progressive or linear. NGOs were found to have more courage to pursue a critical public discourse and highlight, inter alia, the shortcomings of the military’s operations and approaches to foreign policy or internal security. The lack of trust in NGOs was highlighted as one recurrent impediment towards greater cooperation.

One significant impact of civil organisations emphasised by many respondents was in awareness building:

  • • ‘Through the awareness created, political parties were not ready to accept military intervention post-2008’ (Interview Participant #7, Senior Academia Representative).
  • • ‘CSOs have been successful in building public opinion. Few CSOs, e.g. [anonymised], and journalists, have been raising the issue of military support for Taliban openly. (...) Most CSOs and journalists are on the side of the establishment, so that they can operate. (...) There are taboo topics, like blasphemy, except for [anonymised], or very few or none’
  • (Interview Participant #32, Senior Media Representative).
  • • ‘They brought a lot of awareness about human security related issues’
  • (Interview Participant #37, Senior Academia Representative).

Non-state organisations were perceived to have had a tangible value-added for consolidating democratic security in several instances in which they were successful in co-opting political parties or the public opinion in signalling intolerance towards potential non-democratic developments, e.g. a potential military takeover.

The evidence presented leads us to the conclusion that the NGOs’ role in generating output legitimacy, understood as ‘beneficial consequences’ or ‘utility gains’ for citizens, is rather moderate. Initiatives such as the Peshawar Peace Declaration or the inclusion of NGOs in the processes of drafting national strategies, such as the NAP, indicate that they can create some political momentum. However, as most of the non-NGOs’ respondents perceived, the civil society’s role is ‘under way’. While non-state actors’ work at a policy level is ‘visible’, particularly in areas such as gender empowerment, there is a lack of major tangible outcomes. In the case under examination in this book, local actors were found to have a considerable positive effect in building awareness, particularly post-Musharraf regime. The consolidation of the NGO sector is strongly hindered by the mistrust in the organisations’ objectives and impact, not only by the military, but often by civilian institutions and citizens as well. Why this is the case can be related to several factors. First, the expectations vis-a-vis NGOs are quite high; they are expected to ‘solve’ core issues and problems. Until the level of expectation will not drop to more realistic levels - NGOs cannot solve core problems of states; they can only capacitate and contribute to a limited extent - the contribution and impact of non-state organisations will not be accurately perceived. Second, the organisations’ impact will also depend on their training and capacity to have a positive contribution to democratising security governance and institutions. Third, the impact will also be strongly influenced by the power-relations with other actors and the space within which NGOs, think tanks and other non-state actors are ‘allowed’ to contribute. Fourth, think tanks’ impact in improving the quality of political decisions and outcomes for citizens’ benefits will also depend on their numbers, with few organisations expected to have a minimal impact while more could possibly form alliances and have a more substantial contribution.

The next sub-section discusses the local actors’ impact in strengthening diagonal accountability and civilian oversight.

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