Friday, June 16, 2006

The private security company debate lingers

Peace Corp written by Rebecca Ulam Weiner first published in the Boston Globe examines the desire by the corporate security sector to advance the delivery of aid. Well, why not? Even if cynics might say its all about the money, isn't there an imperative here? Is the acceptance stategy really valid? Why not use professional security companies to ensure space to work?
Any comment?

5 Comments:

Anonymous J.S.Renouf said...

The debate about the use of PSCs will last... According to Professor William Douglas of Johns Hopkins University, “the use of private security firms to enforce international peace is eminently ethical because it is the mission that determines the morality of the operation, not the types of troops that perform it” (Jim Fisher-Thompson, “Contracting for Peace is Rational Approach”, http://usinfo.state.gov/usinfo/products/washfile.html, 28 November 2003). If Blackwater's proposal does primarily attract, medium and long term consequences of security privatisation should be carefully taken into consideration.
The risk with privatised peacekeeping operations is that a multidimensional and sensitive political process is reduced to a simple technical operation. In the same way that states’ support for humanitarian organisations is often accused of being an alibi for an absence of political commitment, one can wonder whether the increasing privatisation of peace operations is not in reality a disengagement of the state. However, the next questions might well be how far can PSCs replace the state in any peace operation and what is the peace operation’s nucleus that cannot be outsourced?

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not have the private sector 'doing' humanitarian asssistance? Why does the humanitariain community imagine it has some sort of exclusive hold on the 'needs' market?

Acceptance is a great security strategy for most of the context where aid agencies are based, but it sure ain't worth much in southern Afghanistan. Why not get some comments from NGOs that have already hired these private security companies in Afghanistan? Is their humanitarian space better or worse?

2:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not have the private sector 'doing' humanitarian asssistance? Why does the humanitariain community imagine it has some sort of exclusive hold on the 'needs' market?

Acceptance is a great strategy for most contexts where these agencies work, that is something that shouldn't be overlooked. Yet, it ain't much of a success in southern Afghanistan. Why don't we have some comments from the NGOs that have already hired such private security companies in Afghanistan? Is their humanitarian space better or worse?

2:47 AM  
Anonymous J.S.Renouf said...

I won't answer for the NGOs using a PSC but, like you, I think it's a good idea that they share their experience.
Concerning your first point the humanitarians do not have the excusivity of the provision of assistance; however, it's precisely because providing assistance is not a "market" as you say, that for-profit entities are not the best in dealing with those issues. Assistance is based on the basis of the existing needs, not on the basis of whether signing a contract with a donor will provide some margin or not. Furthermore, the risk exist that for-profit entities provide a lesser quality work (or materials) in order to save some money on the margins.
I don't say private entities should not play any role in humanitarian action. Most of the NGOs and UN could not operate without dealing with the private sector, but for the implementation of assistance, I think the humanitarians are the best... or the least worst if you want.

4:20 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Just in case it might happen I would like to suggest that no specific examples of successes and failures in southern Afghanistan or elsewhere can be mentioned here.

That they should not be mentioned here is a point of great shame as I am sure that the success and failures of both and the consequences and values need to be aired. I do request that this forum does not compromise the methods, identities, locations or the egos of specific organisations.

In my opinion there is not yet a private security company that has been able to prove itself in one part of or role in Afghanistan without having been let down in another, with exception to those individual acts and sacrifices that have been made.

The problem for PSC's is that the brush tars from near and afar and that it sticks fast even if the company name or the pitch is changed. I say that with the greatest respect to "anonymous" who may have a certain and valid perspective. I for one am very hopeful that one PSC will one day prove that as the past, and a first step - brand change and sourcing expertise - has happened already.

There are some excellent for-profit companies that are delivering aid with the same humanitarian principles as aid NGOs in some extremely difficult parts and, some might say, that is healthy and worthwhile competition.

As for PSC versus NGO security, the day that there is a meeting and overlap of expertise and that those lessons and standards are passed on to all NGO staff from top to bottom could not come too soon.

By the way do the steps below indicate how the PSC has evolved to profit from the humanitarian and development markets?

1. Private security companies providing security for aid workers.

2. Private security companies aka risk management companies providing non-security support services to aid workers or to aid missions i.e. elections.

3. Risk management companies with directorates providing aid (see point 2) or those mentioned by J.S.Renouf.

What of humanitarian space? I believe that the security of aid workers and humanitarian space are intrinsically linked and that without one you cannot have the other.

Has there been a continuum of humanitarian space in the new 21st century Afghan context or in Iraq for that matter, it would appear not?

4:27 PM  

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