ISS Africa
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How we work

The Institute for Security Studies is an African organisation which aims to enhance human security on the continent. It does independent and authoritative research, provides expert policy analysis and advice, and delivers practical training and technical assistance. 

The ISS head office is in Pretoria, South Africa. Regional offices are located in Nairobi, Kenya; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Dakar, Senegal.

The vision of the ISS is a peaceful and prosperous Africa for all its people. The mission and overall goal of the ISS is to advance human security in Africa through evidence-based policy advice, technical support and capacity building.

The ISS was founded in 1991 as the Institute for Defence Policy by the current Executive Director, Dr Jakkie Cilliers, together with Mr PB Mertz. 


Areas of work

The ISS pursues its vision and mission through the work of the following four divisions:

Governance, Crime and Justice

This division aims 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, legislation and strategies and improve the performance of their criminal justice systems.

Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis

This division aims 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

This division aims to enhance effective conflict management and peace building by assisting governments and relevant regional and international institutions to improve their management of conflicts and provision of security.

Transnational Threats and International Crime

This division aims to combat transnational threats and in­ternational crimes by enhancing the ability of African inter-governmental organisations, national governments and civil society to respond more effectively and appropriately to transnational threats and interna­tional crimes.

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The ISS is registered as a non-profit trust in South Africa and is accountable to a board of trustees. The trustees of the ISS are:

  • Amb Nicolas Bwakira worked at the UN High Commission for Refugees from 1970 to 2002 in several senior positions including among others: Representative to Angola, Regional Liaison Representative to the Organisation of African Union and UN Economic Commission for Africa and Representative to Ethiopia, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Namibia, Regional Director for SADC based in Pretoria, Director of UNHCR Office in New York, and Director for Africa at Headquarters in Geneva. After retiring from the UN, Mr Bwakira was the Director for International Relations and Partnership at the University of South Africa (UNISA) for five years, and thereafter served as the African Union’s Special Representative for Somalia.
  • Dr Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director of the ISS. Dr Cilliers co-founded the ISS in 1991 and played an important role in the transformation of the South African armed forces and the institution of civilian control over the military in the period 1990 to 1996.
  • Mr Sakumzi (Saki) Macozoma, President of Business Leadership South Africa. After spending five years in prison on Robben Island, Mr Macozoma joined the South African Council of Churches. He also worked for the ANC, South and African Breweries. Mr. Macozoma was managing director of New Africa Investments, Chairman of MTN and the Council on Higher Education. He became a Member of Parliament in 1994 and left the Legislature to take up a position as Managing Director of Transnet Limited. He is Chairman of Liberty Holdings, Deputy Chairman of the Standard Bank Group, Non-Executive Chairman of Safika Holdings and Chairman of the Council of Wits University.
  • Dr Wendy Ngoma is the former Director of the Wits Business School. Before that she has worked as an academic at both the Wits Business School and the Wits Graduate School of Public Management, for over ten years. Wendy has expertise and knowledge ofHuman Resource Management, Change Management, Organisational Transformation, Strategy and Performance Management. She is the CEO of Angle Tide Business Solutions, a management consulting firm and is the alumni of the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme. Wendy serves as a board member for a number of organisations.
  • Prof Maxi Schoeman, head of the Department of Political Sciences and chairperson of the disciplinary cluster of Social Sciences at the University of Pretoria. Prof Schoeman is also an adjunct professor in the School of Public Policy, George Mason University and the deputy chair of the Institute for Global Dialogue (SA).

An international Advisory Council meets annually to provide advice to the ISS on strategic policy and management issues. Members of the Council are:

  • Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, Former prime minister of Tanzania, former Secretary-General of the OAU, member of the AU Panel of the Wise, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (President of the Advisory Council)
  • Amb Saïd Djinnit, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, UN Office for West Africa, Dakar, Senegal
  • Lt Gen LM Fischer (rtd), High Commissioner of Botswana to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Abuja
  • Amb Kåre Aas, Norwegian ambassador to the USA, Washington DC
  • Prof Ramesh Thakur, ANU Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, Hedley Bull Centre, Canberra, Australia
  • Prof Deon Fourie, retired, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Dr Agostinho Zacarias, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Prof Elrina van der Spuy, Associate Professor in the Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Amb Francis Deng, UN Special Representative on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, New York, USA
  • Lt Gen Lazaro Sumbeiywo (rtd), Executive Director, Moi Africa Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Dr Leonardo S Simao, Executive Director, Fundação Joaquim Chissano, Maputo, Mozambique
  • Amb Ahmed Haggag, Secretary General, Africa Society, Cairo, Egypt
  • Dr Abdallah Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary, Governance and Public Administration, UNECA, Addis Ababa
  • Ms Brigalia Bam, former Chairperson Independent Electoral Commission, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Dr Susanne Luther, Director of the Institute for International Contact and Cooperation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Munich, Germany
  • Amb Christian Dussy, Director, Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Switzerland
  • Amb Rene Dinesen, Ambassador of Denmark to South Africa

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Development partners

The work of the ISS is made possible through the generous support of donor partners. The 2013 donors as reflected in the work of the ISS were:

Partnership Forum

Government of Australia
Government of Canada
Government of Denmark
Government of Finland
Government of Japan
Government of Netherlands
Government of Norway
Government of Sweden
Government of the United States of America / USAID

Project donors

European Commission (EU)
Ford Foundation
Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP)
Government of Germany / Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Government of New Zealand
Government of the United Kingdom / Department for International Development (DFiD)
Grand Dutchy of Luxembourg
Hanns Seidel Foundation
Humanity United
International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
National Endowment for Democracy
Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA)
Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)
The World Bank
United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

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What led to the establishment of the ISS?

The ISS was founded in 1991 as the Institute for Defence Policy by the current Executive Director, Dr Jakkie Cilliers, together with Mr PB Mertz. In 1996, the organization was renamed the Institute for Security Studies.

Reflecting on the origins of the ISS, Dr Cilliers noted in 2009 that '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 Lusaka, Zambia in May 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'. The meeting was dominated by a debate on the future of the military in a post-settlement South Africa that took place between Chris Hani, commander of MK, and Jakkie Cilliers. Several years before this meeting, Dr Cilliers had resigned from the South African Defence Force (SADF) for political reasons.

Shortly after the May 1990 meeting, the forerunner of the ISS – the Institute for Defence Policy (IDP) – was established with offices in Midrand and a staff of three people. Dr Cilliers explains that 'These were difficult times as South Africa was still under effective National Party apartheid rule. As former military comrades considered [Jakkie Cilliers who had been] a Lieutenant Colonel in field artillery a traitor, the phones of the IDP and its staff were tapped; we were under heavy intimidation by the Civilian Cooperation Bureau and the lives of the staff and those associated with the staff were placed in considerable danger. Ironically, IDP's credibility was guaranteed by an MK enquiry into whether the Institute was a military front organisation, only to find out that military intelligence thought that we were an ANC front organisation'.

For a non-governmental organization, working on security related issues at this time in South Africa's history was a major challenge. Dr Cilliers explains that 'We shouldn't forget that at that time civil war threatened. The true transition of power in South Africa did not happen during the elections of 1994, but during the events in the then homeland of Bophuthatswana when the SADF neutralised the right wing coup that had been organised by the leader of the Freedom Front, a former chief of the SADF, General Constant Viljoen, and a band of rag-tag racist thugs (the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging). Remember that the former SADF was a formidable military force, that white South Africa was a heavily militarised society at this time of regional war and internal unrest, and that Gen Viljoen had something of a cult status amongst many Afrikaners'. Nevertheless, despite the challenges, the applied policy work of the IDP meant that the organisation played a key role in South Africa's transition from an apartheid state to a democracy.

After focusing on South Africa's transition in its early years, the work of the ISS took on a regional dimension after 1996, resulting in the thriving continental organisation that it is today. The development of the ISS would not have been possible without the support of partners from South Africa and the international community. The first funds that the Institute received were from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Bonn and Anglo American and De Beers Chairman's Fund. Subsequently the Hanns Seidel Foundation would become an important partner of the ISS, along with many valued local and international partners.

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