Spotlight series: Institute for Security Studies

5th June 2014

The second article in our “Spotlight series” profiling research organisations based in developing countries looks at the work of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa.

ISS is an organisation firmly rooted in South Africa's history. Reflecting on its ground-breaking origins the Executive Director, Dr. Jakkie Cilliers, related:

"We often forget the difficult times of our past and where we come from. The idea and motivation for the ISS was born during a meeting organised by Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA) between a number of concerned South Africans and members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC, in 1990. This was a groundbreaking conference of security specialists and analysts from within and outside South Africa – the first of its kind despite the unbanning of the ANC earlier that year".

For a non-governmental organisation, working on security related issues at this time in South Africa's history was a major challenge. Civil war threatened and the new organisation suffering intimidation from the state’s security services of apartheid South Africa. However the ISS, through its applied policy work, played a key role in South Africa's transition to a democracy.

Since 1996 it has had a pan-African perspective and now has offices in Ethiopia, Senegal and Kenya. Indeed the ISS prides itself as an African organisation which is squarely focused on enhancing human security on the continent. It undertakes independent research, provides policy analysis and advice, and delivers practical training and technical assistance. It focuses on four areas of work:

  • Governance, Crime and Justice. To promote democratic governance and reduce corruption through enhanced levels of accountability, transparency and respect for human rights in African democracies; and reduce crime and improve justice by assisting African governments to develop evidence-based policies
  • Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis. To help prevent conflict and improve state capacity for risk analysis by contributing to the understanding of the latest human security developments on the continent.
  • Conflict Management and Peace Building. To enhance effective conflict management and peacebuilding by assisting governments and relevant regional and international institutions to improve their management of conflicts and provision of security.
  • Transnational Threats and International Crime. To enhance the ability of African inter-governmental organisations, national governments and civil society to respond more effectively and appropriately to transnational threats and international crimes.



If you want to get to know ISS’s research better visit their organisation profile. For a quick introduction Dr Cilliers suggests the following three documents would be a good place to start: