Research uncovers what citizens' think about the security sector in the Arab World

July 27, 2015
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research

Researchers are exploring local perceptions of the security sectors in Tunisia, Iraq, Yemen, and the West Bank and Gaza. Carried out with the aid of an IDRC grant, data from public opinion surveys taken in 2014 has led to the development of a first-of-its-kind “Arab Security Sector Index,” and the findings are now available in the report Arab Security Sector Index and Citizens’ Perspectives, 2015.

What do citizens’ in the Arab World think about the security and justice systems?
Research teams are learning that in the minds of the public, little progress has been made in reforming the security sector. In fact, half of the citizens surveyed do not trust their security services and are dissatisfied with their performance. Here, direct experience with security services leads to more negative opinions, and perceptions of personal and family safety play a critical role in citizens’ evaluation of their country’s security sector. The more secure the public feels, the higher the security sector score and the less secure, the lower the score. Political and sectarian affiliation has also emerged as having a significant role in determining attitudes toward the security sector especially in Iraq. Individuals and groups that do not support or are not affiliated with the ruling party or sect feel the absence of security much more than those with closer ties. Perhaps, for this reason, a majority of the Arab public believes that the security services in their countries work for the regimes, not the citizens.
While the data suggests that perceptions differ among respondents, the findings nevertheless point to the need to speed up the process of security sector reform across the Arab World. The research teams acknowledge that effective security sector reforms require institutionalizing accountability, combatting corruption, respecting human rights, and clearly defining tasks, missions, and chains of command. They argue that these measures provide the only means of winning public trust.
What is the Arab Security Sector Index?
The Arab Security Sector Index documents public perceptions of the security sector in Tunisia, Iraq, Yemen, and the West Bank and Gaza. Specifically, the security sector is assessed through 12 major indicators which are in turn made up of several sub-indicators that relate to a specific aspect of the security sector. Together, these 116 sub-indicators reflect the overall status of the security sector and the justice system as perceived by the general public.