Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Account of FCO-DFID hosted one-day seminar on the Government's Green Paper "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation"

Centre for Studies in Security and Diplomacy, The University of Birmingham: 24 June 2002


  1.  Professor Michael Clark (Pro-Vice-Chancellor, the University of Birmingham) encouraged productive discussions and clear messages.

  2.  Sir David Logan (Director of the Centre for Studies in Security and Diplomacy) noted that the Green Paper did not prejudge the outcome of consultations.

Presentation 1

  Dr Kevin O'Brien, RAND Europe:  "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation" (attached/also circulated at the seminar[4])

  3.  Dr O'Brien considered the FCO's Green Paper well-researched and balanced. Defining private military companies, private security companies and mercenaries remained problematic. Potential discriminators included: transparency, control, accountability; the length of engagements and the roles they were asked by the international community to undertake. His own paper recommended a three-tier system of combining

    —  a licence to operate a Private Military Company/Private Security Company;

    —  a licence to undertake military services abroad; and

    —  a situation-specific licence.

  Bans on military activity abroad or on recruitment for military activity abroad would not add value nor would self-regulation. An industry regulatory authority should be established within the FCO, in co-ordination with DTI and MoD. A similar approach should be encouraged at the international and EU levels. The UK government should integrate its approach to regulating the activities of private military/security companies abroad with its approach to regulating the activities of private security companies domestically.

  4.  Dr O'Brien recommended a prohibition on:

    —  individual (non-corporate) participation in activities;

    —  combat services in zones of conflict (with exceptions for eg support to UK national objectives through international peacekeeping);

    —  Arms brokering (which should continue to be subject to existing arms-export controls in the UK and be kept separate from licensing private military/security company activities).

Presentation 2

  Mr Henry Cummins, University of Cranfield: "Perception and Profit: Understanding Commercial Military and Security Service Provision" (attached/also circulated at the seminar)

  5.  Mr Henry Cummins said that market forces had significant influences over the activities of private military and security companies. Legitimacy, brand equity and transparency were important in a competitive market. Trust and communication between NGOs and companies engaged in the debate needed to improve.

  6.  Mr Cummins described the market for private military and security companies:

    —  Fragmented and characterised by small niche suppliers. Few areas where companies competed directly against each other. Falling demand for combat services but increasing demand for services in the rest of the sector.

    —  Wide range of services provided including security, humanitarian support, logistics, combat and other specialist capabilities.

    —  Attitudes toward the sector tended to be polarised and emotive.

    —  The profit motive was a cause of distrust.

    —  Legitimacy including legal and moral conduct were key to the commercial success of private military and security companies.

    —  Transparency of military and security companies could be improved by the disclosure of basic company information using a "Code of Transparency".

    —  Scrutiny by the media, academics, NGOs and Government had a significant shaping effect on the business of military and security companies.

  7.  Mr Cummins said that national regulation could help to establish and reinforce international standards of conduct.

Presentation 3

  Damian Lilly, representing International Alert: "Regulating Private Military Companies: The need for a multidimensional approach" (attached/also circulated at the seminar)

  Mr Lilly considered that companies wishing to supply military services abroad should be regulated and licensed by the Government. The purpose of regulation should be to control undesirable activities and to promote accountability. Legislation should define the actors, activities and services to which it would apply. HMG should adopt the definition of mercenary included in Article 47 of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. Such definitions should bear in mind the Diplock Report recommendation of focusing on the purpose for which mercenaries or private military companies were hired (rather than their motivation). The Government should ratify the International Convention against Mercenaries and seek to address the weaknesses and imperfections of the Convention.

  9.  Dr Lilley proposed:

    —  a ban on the specific list of activities including direct participation in hostilities by an individual or a private military company, or in activities that might lead to a lethal outcome.

    —  regulation of other activities such as military advice and training, logistical support and security services.

    —  that UK legislation should state the criteria to be used to assess licence applications.

Presentation 4

  A private military company representative

  10.  A private military company representative proposed:

    —  a ban on mercenaries;

    —  a new category of company, the Private Combat Company (PCCs); operating under the control of the UN Security Council, rather than under contract to national Governments;

    —  tougher control of arms sales;

    —  improved training standards;

    —  Government use of private military companies would increase enthusiasm for regulation.

  Points raised in discussion during discussion included:

    —  Problems of defining private military and security companies and mercenaries, and their activities. Whether to include eg civilian police.

    —  The nature and value of transparency and how to achieve it.

    —  The possibility and merits of banning private military companies from participation in some activities, particularly combat.

    —  Whether the Government should seek political control of private military companies' activities.

    —  Whether private sector support could or should offer a long-term solution to conflict.

    —  Whether regulation was desirable, inevitable or neither.

    —  Whether to licence services/activities, types of companies or on a case-by-case basis.

    —  Whether national interest should affect licence issuance.

    —  Whether to establish a general vetting process allowing companies to be licensed for any activity or any country.

    —  The willingness and ability of other countries to develop and enforce regulation. The possibility and merit of EU regulation.

    —  Licensing across borders.

    —  Whether the UN should have a role in regulation.

    —  The cost of a regulatory process.

    —  Whether, and if so how, to monitor the activities of licensed private military/security companies.

    —  The possibility of using criteria similar to those for export controls.

    —  Which Government Department should act as the regulatory body.

    —  The possible rigidity of a licensing regime covering both companies and individuals.

    —  The consequences of a licensing regime for flexibility, speed of delivery and confidentiality of private military/security contracts.

    —  Whether regulation would force private military companies abroad/under ground.

    —  The possibility of developing an industry institute with the aim of increasing transparency and accountability of the industry.

    —  Whether private military companies could or should command and control arrangements similar to those of national forces. More informal monitoring mechanisms such as media.

    —  Lessons from the US and South Africa regulations.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

18 July 2002

4   None of the attachments to this memorandum have been printed. Back

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