UN experts call for stronger regulation of private security companies

The United Nations group of independent experts on the use of mercenaries says it will present a proposal for a possible international convention to regulate activities of private military and security firms during its five-day meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York this week.

The UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries will brief permanent missions at the UN, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academics on the content and scope of its proposal aimed at closing the legal gap covering such activities at the international level. The independent experts are calling for more stringent regulations, oversight and monitoring of mercenaries and PMSC at both national and international levels.

The Working Group has, since its creation in 2005, been monitoring the impact on human rights of the activities of mercenaries and private military and security companies (PMSC), and in particular their lack of accountability.

Earlier this month, CRS released a report entitled “Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis”. Here’s the summary:

The Department of Defense (DOD) increasingly relies upon contractors to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has resulted in a DOD workforce that has 19% more contractor personnel (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000). Contractors make up 54% of DOD’s workforce in Iraq and Afghanistan. The critical role contractors play in supporting such military operations and the billions of dollars spent by DOD on these services requires operational forces to effectively manage contractors during contingency operations.

Lack of sufficient contract management can delay or even prevent troops from receiving needed support and can also result in wasteful spending. Some analysts believe that poor contract management has also played a role in abuses and crimes committed by certain contractors against local nationals, which may have undermined U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. DOD officials have stated that the military’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with congressional attention and legislation, has focused DOD’s attention on the importance of contractors to operational success.

DOD has taken steps to improve how it manages and oversees contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. These steps include tracking contracting data, implementing contracting training for uniformed personnel, increasing the size of the acquisition workforce in Iraq and Afghanistan, and updating DOD doctrine to incorporate the role of contractors. However, these efforts are still in progress and could take three years or more to effectively implement.

The use of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan has raised a number of issues for Congress, including (1) what role contractors should play in contingency operations, (2) whether DOD is gathering and analyzing the right data on the use of contractors, (3) what steps DOD is taking to improve contract management and oversight, and (4) the extent to which contractors are being effectively included into military doctrine and strategy.

This report examines current contractor trends in Iraq and Afghanistan, the steps DOD has taken to improve contractor oversight and management, and the extent to which DOD has incorporated the role of contractors into its doctrine and strategy. The report also reviews steps Congress has taken to exercise oversight over DOD contracting, including contracting issues that have been the focus of hearings and legislation.

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