CHAPTER 4THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATION
4.1 THE IMPORTANCE
To many of those not familiar with the milieu
of Non Governmental Organisations, their part in the debate about
the regulation of PMCs must seem at best anomalous. The idea of
the hard-bitten mercenary sitting down with the idealistic charity
worker to share views on UK legislation could appear to be very
unlikely. But these two groups meet each other on a professional
and daily basis on every populated continent. For all the legal
wrangling, departmental lobbying and public response engendered
by the debate on PMC regulation in the UK, the people with the
most to offer to make this legislation a workable, relevant and
enforceable law are the fiercely independent NGOs who work in
the same area of operations as PMCs.
The NGO view of PMCs runs the breadth of feeling
from repulsion at one end to contracted helper at the other. NGOs
are cautious of admitting their links to PMCs, as the International
Alert paper "Humanitarian Action and Private Security Companies:
Opening the debate" makes clear,
"Aid agencies are understandably very concerned
about the reputational risks of such associations. This has even
led individual staff members within UN organisations and international
NGOs to flatly deny, contrary to the facts, that their organisation
has ever sought advice from a private security company or used
one for more substantive services. Not surprisingly, there is
little or no quantitative or qualitative information about the
use of private security companies by aid agencies and the nature
of the services that are contracted from them."1
This refusal to acknowledge the use of PMCs,
and indeed the ideological problems that NGOs have with the whole
issue of security, will recur in this section. Although many aid
agencies have been consulted for input to this paper, none were
prepared to have their views put on the record. At one end of
the NGO to PMC relationship is the area where NGOs are forced
to work next to PMCs involved in combat but where NGOs have nothing
but repugnance for the mercenary work that the PMC is contracted
to do. However dialogue will be set up between the two, initiated
by the NGO in order that the NGO can show neutrality and indeendence
in its dealings with all the combatants.2 In the often dangerous
corners of the earth in which these two diverse groups operate,
the unique perspective that NGOs get of the work that PMCs do,
and of the utility of PMCs is invaluable to this paper's assessment.
The NGOs consulted have worked with PMCs in Somalia, Aceh, Liberia,
Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Congo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan,
Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Myanmar. In order to represent
the differences between PMCs and NGOs, this table highlights the
variation in their fundamental principles:
Table 3 PRINCIPLE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN
NGOs AND PMCs
|Strong brand name||Yes
|Willing to sub-contract operations||Unlikely
|Will carry arms||No
|Primacy of Ethics||Yes
|Area of Operations||Poor and failing regimes
4.2 THE ISSUE
For those from a military background, it is crucial to get
inside the corporate mindset of the NGOs to discover how they
see the whole issue of security, which, as already explained is
a concept which has been alien to them in the past. Security should
not get confused with safety which is defined by Randolph Martin
in his article "NGO Field Security" as "protection
from illness and accidents". Security relates to "protection
from acts of violence and crime."3 It is sobering to note
at this point that for the first time, in 1998, more UN staff
died providing emergency relief than in peacekeeping missions.
Between 1997 and 2001 over 200 NGOs lost their lives in the field.4
The reasons that NGOs have failed to engage fully in the issue
of security and private military companies are primarily5:
NGO's legitimate concerns over the associations
of PMCs with mercenaries and the possibility that NGO neutrality
could be jeopardised. Even with the most upstanding PMC, the subject
of tactics, intelligence and weapons does not sit easily with
NGO mandates. A case in point was a PMC intelligence agent in
Liberia who posed as a photographer using an unwitting NGO as
NGOs are a fragmented area of the corporate world
with different mandates and missions, which does not promote harmonisation
of approach or desire to self-regulate. From interviews conducted,
there was the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue at one end of the
spectrum, working with rebel groups on the front lines of conflict
who emphasised the need for ex-military observers in many fragile
situations.6 At the other end was UNSECOORD in the UN Headquarters
who formulate security policy, but rarely have to suffer the consequences
of their own diktats in the field, who have placed severe restrictions
on the use of PMCs by all UN agencies.
NGOs like to dominate the moral high ground, deliberately
distancing themselves from any companies who operate for profit.
Although this is easy for them to do, it does not promote understanding,
or move the debate forward. It is also disingenuous of them to
do this for two reasons. Often the only way for their aid to be
delivered is by bribery of officials in certain countries, yet
they will rarely admit this and secondly NGOs have haphazardly
hired some in-country PMCs whose employees may previously have
been a party in a conflict and may have committed human rights
Whereas for the military, training for dangerous
contingencies expends most of their time, NGOs will rarely have
any expertise in security practice. It is not considered a core
discipline. NGOs are only starting to link the security of their
operations with training for the lawless areas in which they routinely
NGOs have a philosophical worry about engagement
in the debate. It takes the onus off national governments and
the UN to fill the voids in security that PMCs are filling. Clearly
the NGOs would like to be able to rely on responsible regimes
or international institutions to provide consistent security wherever
it may be needed.
Despite their unwillingness to grasp the issue, NGOs will
continue to need security in many of their operations for the
foreseeable future in order to minimise their risk of casualties,
which as stated earlier, have been too numerous. Some NGOs are
now being sued by relatives of former employees who have lost
their lives because of the absence of security training provided
to field operatives who have later been killed.8
The UK military, when deploying to a peacekeeping operation,
will consider its own security, and that of the population it
is supporting as vital to the whole operation. The mission set
by the UK Division in Bosnia in 1999 to all of its subordinates
was "to maintain a safe and secure environment in order that"
rebuilding of Bosnia could flow from this base of security. For
aid agencies security is viewed as just one of a number of tools
that may be needed on a deployment. The leading expert on security
in the NGO sector, Koenraad Van Brabant, explains in a recent
article in "Forced Migration Review" how these agencies
have previously not considered security as a central issue9:
"On the one hand, security needs to be "mainstreamed".
It becomes part of the budgeting and the fundraising. It becomes
part of general personnel management, and is a consideration in
the recruitment and redeployment of individuals, in the supervision
of and support to staff, and in disciplinary actions."
In his attempt to bring security issues to the fore, Koenraad
Van Brabant has developed the model of security management shown
below that is now widely used by NGOs.
The central triangle of this paradigm illustrates the continuum
which can be employed, simultaneously, but in varying ratios,
to produce the right result. The Acceptance Strategy, or active
security, seeks political and social consent of belligerents through
relationship and trust building to reduce or remove threats. The
Protection Strategy utilises protective procedures and devices
such as fencing and communications to keep threats at a distance,
without addressing the root causes of them. The Deterrence Strategy,
or passive security, aims at deterring threats by legal, economic
or political sanctions or, in extreme circumstances, by the defensive
or offensive use of force that may involve arms. The use of PMCs
by NGOs would be an example of the Protection and Deterrence responses
4.3 THE POTENTIAL
As has been alluded to earlier in this chapter, the use of
PMCs by aid agencies has already and is continuing to happen.
In their Workshop Summary Report at Tufts University in April
2001 on "The Politicisation of Humanitarian Action and Staff
Security," NGO delegates were forced to concede that, "In
places such as Nairobi and Kinshasa it was recognised that there
is no other choice but to use PSCs."10 ArmorGroup, which
has recently taken over DSL, counts among its list of clients
UN Agencies, ECHO and IRC.
Although the chief proponent of security in the UN, UNSECOORD,
has restricted the use of PMCs by UN agencies, UNHCR, so often
the practical implementer of UN action in the field, constantly
needs the services of PMCs and wants the most professional PMCs
to be legitimised and regulated by UNSECOORD.11 This is unlikely
to happen and the breakdown of relations between UNSECOORD and
UNHCR could not be greater. While UNSECOORD develops ever-increasing
security policy rules and required responses in New York, their
knowledge of what is happening on UN operations around the world
is often not complete. Their prescriptive "Phase Levels"
of risk are unresponsive, inflexible and remove responsibility
from UNHCR operatives at the periphery. Janet Lim, Head of UNHCR
Security, has identified that PMCs can be an invaluable asset
as they screen for the best employees, maintain high standards,
are responsive and can be contracted as and when required. The
cumbersome UNSECOORD method of contracting for new security staff
rarely takes less than six months. Clearly the UN has as many
problems over security as the NGO fraternity, and the pragmatism
strived for by UNHCR is not matched by the over-regulative behaviour
The unwillingness of NGOs and UNSECOORD to admit to their
use of PMCs and the possible benefits PMCs may bring has similarities
to the NGO unwillingness to establish a rapport with NATO military
forces in the Balkans 10 years ago. Seeing all military forces,
whether indigenous, UN or NATO as belligerents when Yugoslavia
first broke up, made much of the NGO work in the early days much
harder than it need have been. Throughout the nineties NATO troops
proved to be the friends and supporters of the aid agencies thus
building a mutually beneficial relationship which today provides
the cornerstone of co-ordination and targeting of relief throughout
the Balkans using the Five Pillars system.12 Thus when NATO entered
Kosovo in 1999, many of the key relationships between NGOs and
NATO were already established and aid agency work in Kosovo has
thus worked much better. There will always be detractors. MSF
still refuse, even in the Balkans to engage with NATO troops tasked
with providing their security.13 At the opposite end of the spectrum
DFID, recognising the military's engagement with all the local
population has been known to offer the UK military an amount of
money to go toward aid projects which the military viewed as being
of a high priority.14 Some degree of NGO reluctance to side fully
with international peacekeeping forces is understandable because
although national military contingents themselves are rarely aware
of it, there is always a political, diplomatic and commercial
agenda which contributing nations are keen to push through their
commitment of troops. Too close a co-operation would be viewed
by many NGOs as the politicisation of aid.15
Most heads of security of leading NGOs approached for this
study had a clear idea of how they would approach the employment
of security in an operation if it were necessary16. All actions
would be taken on the basis of finding which solution least jeopardises
their neutrality and impartiality. It was a staged response which
could be increased as the situation worsened. The levels, not
always in this order, could be:
Self-management. The first answer for NGOs would
always be to manage their own security without any outside assistance,
which means largely following the "Acceptance" and "Protection"
approach to risk. They saw the need for overt, contracted security
as a last resort.
Indigenous PMC. In aggravated circumstances the
next step would be to hire their own indigenous security in country,
in preference to bringing security with them. This was seen to
be a way of not drawing attention to themselves or making themselves
a target. Also the hiring of local guards would be understood
by the community who were benefiting from their aid, and by paying
locals the NGO was contributing to the local economy.
Indigenous Police or Military. The next escalation
could be use of local security forces, but this was unpopular
because the government employing these security forces could often
be a protagonist in the conflict and by employing state forces,
some degree of neutrality could be lost.
Single Country Contributing Forces. Most NGOs
have had to endure the inconsistency of capability, equipment
and mandate of multinational UN Forces. All would prefer to work
if necessary with a neutral, highly trained single nationality
force with a robust mandate.
Ethical PMC. Although this is likely to be their
last option, NGOs could be pushed more and more into this course
of action as will be discussed below. A study by Martin Read has
concluded that security is an issue that crops up in 60 per cent
of NGO deployments. PMCs are already used for security training
prior to deployment, but only a few tentative security contracts
for fieldwork have so far gone to western PMCs.
4.4 THE FUTURE
"The international market for private security is expected
to grow from an estimated revenue of $55.6 billion in 1990 to
$202 billion by the year 2010," concluded the trend analysis
section of the Tufts University Seminar last year.17 Indeed while
interviewing Lt Col Spicer, erstwhile director of Sandline, now
running SCI, he estimated that the current annual revenue of PMCs
in the UK alone to be tens of millions of pounds.18 The reasons
for this projected increase in the market are not just the pessimistic
forecast of the instability of the world in 2010. The main reason
is the continued reluctance of developed countries to intervene
with their own sovereign forces in conflicts that have no clear
strategic value to them. In the days of the Cold War, intervention
was the norm but this situation no longer applies; this despite
the penalty of not intervening in these disputes being to have
to watch anarchy and genocide, especially in Africa. Even where
there has been clear strategic interest or colonial responsibility
for the UK, the FCO has consistently blocked deployment of British
forces until the security situation has dramatically deteriorated.
Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone all exemplify the failure not
only of the international community in committing force early,
but more especially of the FCO whose policy of delay has allowed
security vacuums to develop. These vacuums of security provision
by the developed world are being filled by the private sector
in the form of PMCs.
The rise of the private sector in this market is not just
associated with security. Official development assistance accounted
for three-quarters of the resource transfers from OECD countries
to the developing world in 1990. Ten years later, foreign direct
investment alone, that is private sector money, has become a multiple
of official development finance to developing economies, $240
billion and 84.9 billion respectively.19 These companies who are
investing heavily in developing countries are not like the old
Dutch West India Company or British East India Company licensed
to raise their own armies, thus to protect and secure their investment
and assets they must hire PMCs.
The debate of the fundamentals discussed above raises three
NGOs and PMCs usually have the same workplaces
and NGOs have often contracted elements of their security to PMCs.
NGOs do not have a good record on their understanding
or provision of security, or in facing up to the issues of hiring
PMCs are expected to expand and take on more responsibility
and market share for the provision of security than national forces
over the next ten years.
4.5 LEGISLATION THAT
4.5.1 INTERNATIONAL LEGISLATION
With the NGOs global mandate, they would prefer legislation
that bound the activities of PMCs on an international treaty basis.
The best forum for this would be the UN. However, as discussed
earlier, the UN is an imperfect institution which has too many
insurmountable problems on the route to legislate on this issue.
In the view of Alexandre Faite, an ICRC lawyer, it would take
a minimum of five years for the UN to draft an international treaty,
the highest form of law, dealing with the issue of PMCs, and then
it would need ratification by all the member states.20 To appreciate
how futile action taken by the UN is likely to be, one needs to
look at the 1989 International Convention against the Recruitment,
Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries adopted by the UN.
Ostensibly it was an uncontentious act which sought to protect
the independence of states from the sharper end of the PMC market,
specifically drafted in response to African lobbying because of
the problems Africa had had in the 1960s and 1970s with European
mercenaries. Currently it is the only international legislation
dealing with PMCs PMCs but so far has only been ratified by 19
UN Member States and signed by nine others. An international treaty
supporting the regulation, and thus by extension the legitimisation
of some PMCs, is unlikely to receive many signatories in the current
climate. The ICRC also point out that the time is not ripe for
legislation on PMCs by the UN. The UN has other issues of greater
import which it is struggling to address.
Even though the international treaty route may fail, there
are other ways for the UN to move the debate forward. Currently
the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human
Rights is gathering information on worthwhile legislation with
a view to producing a "Code of Conduct" or "Best
Practice" for the use of PMCs by Member States.21 If drafted
well, this could form the basis of the next stage of international
ratification, where it will come before the Third Commission,
which is political, for examination, comment and amendment. Once
the redraft is agreed, it will be sent to the Sixth Commission,
which is the legal department who will ensure it is in keeping
with international law, after which it may be taken up by the
General Assembly and made the subject of a resolution. This will
take time and the key point about UN legislation is that this
delay means that UK regulation is necessary, and the UK debate
may even help to inform the way forward for the UN.
Before leaving the question over international legislation,
the issue of global coverage is a major feature that must be carried
through into the UK draft. Worries over PMCs moving offshore if
over-regulated, and the inability to prosecute extra-territorially
for war crimes under current UK law must stimulate the Green Paper
debate. Included in the UK White Paper must be extra-territorial
jurisdiction to limit the freedom of action of UK PMC employees
or assets in a third country. This would be similar to the South
African legislation, the "Regulation of Foreign Military
Assistance Act" of 1998, widely thought to have been a laudable
attempt to regulate with some problems over its definitions of
mercenaries and PMCs.
The US legislation, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations,
also of 1998 regulates not so much the PMC itself, but the services
they are exporting abroad. The Act says that anyone "who
engages in the business of brokering activities with respect to
the manufacture, export, import, or transfer of any defence article
or defence services" is bound to declare it. From small arms
to tactical training packages, jet simulators to logistic support,
all come under the scrutiny of the Department of State's Office
of Defence Trade Controls. This draconian law may seem superficially
to give the NGOs the confidence they seek in hiring PMCs because
all companies allowed to operate abroad would come with the endorsement
of the US government. However this misses one of the fundamental
concerns of NGOs, that they have little faith for the propriety
and ulterior motives of any national government, therefore national
approval does not equate to transparency, neutrality and sound
ethical practices. Argued in the chapter on PMCs in this dissertation
is the premise that US endorsed PMCs like MPRI are merely an extension
of US government foreign policy, which would work against this
type of legislation being acceptable to NGOs and therefore benefiting
non-lethal PMCs in this country. NGOs are less likely to hire
an arm of the state than a company which they view as neutral
and independent of the state.
There are a number of key characteristics, many of which
reflect NGO organisational best practice, which NGOs would wish
to see in a PMC to give them the confidence to hire them:
Transparency throughout the organisation. NGOs
will want to know that the PMC has an unimpeachable reputation
both in the quality of its staff and in its previous contracts.
NGOs do not want to employ a company with a slick marketing procedure
to find that the PMC has then sub-let parts of their contract
to another PMC with a dubious record. If they felt it necessary,
NGOs would wish to be able to question a PMC about its previous
record to satisfy the NGOs strict criteria for preserving its
own image intact.
Ethical behaviour. In the same way that the Stock
Exchange saw a growing trend in the 1990s by investors buying
into ethical investment and only backing those firms who could
prove their ethical and moral credentials, so in this decade will
PMCs have to prove the same. ArmorGroup have realised this trend
and already have made clear that they will not hire ex-employees
of Sandline and EO. In their examination of suitable candidates
to use as PMCs, NGOs would want to check a company's lineage,
including subsidiaries, parent companies and backers. They will
want to know where else the PMC is operating. This will not suit
many of the PMCs.
Clear stance in favour of Human Rights. NGOs will
want a PMC to abide by in-country human rights legislation or
the Geneva Conventions; whichever provides the most protection
to the vulnerable. Extra-territorial legislation will also be
seen as advantageous to the NGOs.
Impartiality will be a requirement of the NGOs,
but the concept may initially confuse PMCs, used to clearly identifying
with one side in a conflict. Essentially the NGO will wish to
hire a PMC which will not antagonise any of the protagonists,
does not have a history of working with any of the combatants,
and can maintain the security and reputation of the NGO in troubled
Lack of client confidentiality. Faced with the
awkward question of whether they would mind their own client confidentiality
being broken by a PMC if they themselves wish for full transparency
of a PMC's history, some NGOs were happy that this could be acceptable.
There is no such PMC in the market place today who would contemplate
this, but it may be popular if one were to be set up.
Vetting of personnel. Although this seems to be
an aid to making PMCs more acceptable and transparent to NGOs,
and Lt Col Spicer from SCI thinks the industry is ready for it,
oddly NGOs do not appear to be to be taken by the idea. Vetting
is not a process with which the NGO sector is familiar, and they
feel it has little to add to a reputable company.
Omitted from the FCO's Green Paper as a possible way forward
for legislation is any discussion of the "Voluntary Principles
on Security and Human Rights." This was a Code of Conduct
drawn up by the US and the UK in December 2000 to ensure propriety
and ethical behaviour by multinationals, mostly in the extractive
and energy sector, in far-flung corners of the developing world.22
This ready-made framework, negotiated by Governments, NGOs and
the private sector, has much of value that could be read across
to the Green Paper debate. The signatories of these principles,
we are told, "all with an interest in human rights and corporate
social responsibility, have engaged in a dialogue on security
and human rights...The participants have developed the following
set of voluntary principles to guide companies in maintaining
the safety and security of their business within an operating
framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms." The principles fall into the three categories
of risk assessment, relations with public security and lastly
relations with private security. This code of conduct is commendably
wide-ranging. In section two even the security equipment provided
by companies to maintain their public security must be assessed
for any "foreseeable negative consequences, including human
It is the third section dealing with private security which
is of particular relevance to this paper. In essence private security
companies are to:
Observe ethical conduct and human rights and promote
the observance of international humanitarian law.
Act in a lawful manner and exercise restraint
and caution regarding the local use of force, including using
rules of engagement.
Practice in a way that should be capable of being
monitored by independent third parties.
Allegations of human rights abuses by private
security should be recorded and investigated.
Not employ individuals implicated in human rights
abuses, not violate the rights of individuals.
Investigate properly when physical force has been
These are far from all the stipulations, indeed they are
less than half, but they would sit well as the basis for regulating
PMCs. As a current voluntary tool providing the framework for
the interaction between governmental legislation, company freedom
to operate and NGOs desire for more demonstrable ethics, this
working model must be an invaluable start point. If signing this
code of conduct formed part of the mandatory licensing system
for PMCs, the code's independence of the government combined with
extra-territorial legislation would give confidence to the NGOs
hiring PMCs that their behaviour would be exemplary and subject
to legal enforcement.
1 Vaux, Seiple, Nakano, Van Brabant, Humanitarian
Action and Private Security Companies: Opening the Debate,
International Alert, London.
2 Interview with Alexandre Faite, ICRC, Geneva by the
author 29 May 2002.
3 Randolph Martin, NGO Field Security, Forced
Migration Review, April 1999, page 4.
4 International Summary Workshop Report, Tufts University,
Boston, Massachusetts, 23/24 April 2001, Page 1 and http://www.reliefweb.int/symposium/NewChron1997-2001.html.
5 Elements of this list are drawn from Vaux, Seiple,
Nakano, Van Brabant, Humanitarian Action and Private Security
Companies: Opening the Debate, International Alert, London.
6 Interview with Andy Andrea, CHD, Geneva, by the author
30 May 2002.
7 Interview with Security Consultants used by NGOs, June
8 Koenraad Van Brabant, Security training: where are
we now? Forced Migration Review, April 1999, page 7.
9 Ibidem, page 10.
10 International Summary Workshop Report, Tufts University,
Boston, Massachusetts, 23-24 April 2001, Page 3.
11 Interview with senior source in UNHCR, by the author,
12 MOD Doctrine for G5 (Civil/Military Affairs) Operations.
13 Author's own experience in Kosovo, March-July 2001.
15 International Summary Workshop Report, Tufts University,
Boston, Massachusetts, 23/24 April 2001, Page 1.
16 Based on interviews conducted by the author with Red
R, Tear Fund, Martin Read and Barney Mayhew, June 2002.
17 International Summary Workshop Report, Tufts University,
Boston, Massachusetts, 23/24 April 2001, Page 2.
18 Interview by the authors with Lt Col Spicer, May 2002.
19 Gilles Carbonnier, Corporate Responsibility and
Humanitarian Action, Vol 83, No 844, IRRC, December 2001,
20 Interview with Alexandre Faite, ICRC, Geneva by the
author 29 May 2002.
21 E/CN.4/2003 of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion
and Protection of Human Rights.
22 Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, US Department
of State, Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights,
December 20, 2000, and http://www.state.gov/www/global/humanrights/001220fsdrlprinciples.html.