Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PMC/PSC Code of Conduct

Private Military Companies (PMCs)/Private Security Companies (PSCs) have gotten a bad rap over the years because of events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unwarranted civilian deaths, sexual abuse, theft, and fraud have been extensively reported upon by the media. As is often the case, the actions of a few impact the many, even those whose conduct has been exemplary.

If you haven't been keeping up with the PMC/PSC world, the industry came to the conclusion it needed to do something about its image. In November 2010, the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) announced a voluntary code of conduct designed to raise the ethics and operations standards of its members. Representatives from a number of large security firms were signatories to the code in Geneva, Switzerland. As of the first of this month, 211 companies worldwide have agreed to its terms. That's positive movement.

If your organization uses a PSC, you should check if the company has signed the code of conduct (a list of signatories and more information about the code is here). It makes sense for humanitarian organizations that use armed guards to support initiatives like this. However keep in mind that the code currently relies on companies to self-regulate themselves. ISOA is still working out the details on how violations will be dealt with. The alternative to self-policing is some form of internationally adopted legislation that regulates and monitors PMCs and PSCs. The United Nations Working Group on the use of Mercenaries as a means of Impeding the Exercise of the Right of People to Self-Determination (try turning that into an acronym) has been working on just that since 2005.

PMCs and PSCs are here to stay. If security companies can use a code of conduct to avoid incidents such as the2007 Blackwater Nisour Square shootings in Baghdad (and lesser human rights violations), that's great. If not, its likely public outcry will prompt government legislation and oversight. Time will tell...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there, for clarification: the voluntary code you refer to is not a code of ISOA but was developed by a multi-stakeholder initiative convened by the Swiss government (the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC)). ISOA has its own voluntary code of conduct that was revised this year.

5:03 AM  

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