INTERNATIONAL GOOD PRACTICES IN DEMOCRATIC CIVILIAN CONTROL : BRITAIN AND SLOVENIA
Discussion of issues of public importance is one of the more effective instruments of the democratic civilian control is a public. Nevertheless, the willingness and ability of political leaders and governments to initiate a broad public consultation with the academic community, NGOs, opinion leaders and citizens is often limited.
The avoidance of the public discussions of the defence policy is often explained by the classified information and insufficient competence of the general public to participate in discussions of such matters. However, two examples from the UK and Slovenia illustrate how using a wide public consultation managed to enhance efficiency, transparency and support for defence policy and decision making in the military sphere.
In 1997, the newly elected Labour government conducted a Strategic Defence Review. The Minister of Defence, George Robertson, encouraged the MOD to work closely with other government departments in order to ensure that future defence policy was in support of national and foreign policies.
It was also imperative that proposals for future military missions and tasks were accurately costed, thus the MOD also worked with the Treasury to ensure that policy prescriptions were within Treasury guidelines.
The defence minister was also willing to solicit the opinions of non-governmental organizations, university and civil society.
This he did by holding public fora around the country, participating in radio phone-ins and writing a number of articles and responding to the feedback from the public.
The resulting policy was one, which the military, other government departments, other political parties and the public supported. This method of consultative or participatory policy formation has continued, and SDR and the Defence White Paper are product of it.
Slovenia also has employed this participatory method in defence restructuring. Despite the victory achieved in the 10 Day War of Independence from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, there was a general recognition among the political elite and the public that the armed forces would not be able to ensure the territorial integrity of Slovenia.
The government conducted a series of public opinion surveys and tailored their foreign and defence policy accordingly. The result was a stated ambition to join NATO, now realized, and the structuring of the armed forces such that their principle functions would be to provide niche capabilities for NATO and aid to the civil community in case of environmental disasters.