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'New Wars': the Sierra Leone Case
Unformatted Document Text:  countries like the United States, the political risk involved with using privately hired contractors is much lower than with using volunteer forces. In light of a reduced political will on the part of powerful states to commit troops abroad, the use of private military forces allows those governments to still have the option of force to obtain their military goals. Could the United Nations use a private security force? Many believe one of the main constraints on United Nations action and effectiveness is its lack of a standing army or peacekeeping force. Thus, the option of hiring a private military force to achieve UN goals would seem like a reasonable idea. In the past, the UN has been resistant to this idea and the contemporary UN position is somewhat contradictory. In 1989, the General Assembly (GA) passed the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. As recently as 2006, the official UN position was that the organization is against the use of private military forces. 16 Yet, “Every multi-lateral peace operation conducted by the UN since 1990 included the presence of PSCs [private security companies]” (Avant 2005, 7). The UN also has contracts with companies that provide security for its embassies (Avant 2005). In a 2003 report submitted to the general assembly, “Special Rapporteur On The Question Of The Use Of Mercenaries,” private military corporations are described as modern companies that should not be banned, but should be subjected to domestic and international oversight. 17 The UN is clearly in a difficult position: it is faced with the choice of condoning the use of private security or condoning mass human rights atrocities. If private security forces are used questions about UN neutrality and about accountability will no doubt be raised. Can private contractors be held accountable? Most governments regulate security contractors. In the United States, the Federal Acquisition Regulations and additional Department of Defense rules govern contracts with private security firms. Contractors can also be fired, imposing at least some degree of accountability. Avant (2004) writes that contractors are also accountable to market incentives, “When deciding how to respond to a request, for example, contractors consider how that request might affect their other customers, broader market reputation, and, ultimately, their earnings.” It is difficult to judge the degree of self-regulation that may be taking place. There are, of course, avenues for security firms to avoid regulation. The most effective way for a company to do this is by moving to a new location (country) (Avant 2005). There is also the possibility that the hiring party does not actually want the company it hires to adhere to strict regulations; using a private firm enables foreign policy to be carried out at a distance which allows for plausible deniability (Avant 2004). An important contemporary issue in the international community focuses on the creation of an international regulatory regime to deal with question of accountability. 16 See: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/04/23/peace_corp/?page=4 17 See: http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G02/100/72/PDF/G0210072.pdf?OpenElement 17

Authors: Parker, Sara.
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countries like the United States, the political risk involved with using privately hired
contractors is much lower than with using volunteer forces. In light of a reduced political
will on the part of powerful states to commit troops abroad, the use of private military
forces allows those governments to still have the option of force to obtain their military
goals.
Could the United Nations use a private security force?
Many believe one of the main constraints on United Nations action and effectiveness is
its lack of a standing army or peacekeeping force. Thus, the option of hiring a private
military force to achieve UN goals would seem like a reasonable idea. In the past, the
UN has been resistant to this idea and the contemporary UN position is somewhat
contradictory. In 1989, the General Assembly (GA) passed the International Convention
against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. As recently as
2006, the official UN position was that the organization is against the use of private
military forces.
Yet, “Every multi-lateral peace operation conducted by the UN since
1990 included the presence of PSCs [private security companies]” (Avant 2005, 7). The
UN also has contracts with companies that provide security for its embassies (Avant
2005). In a 2003 report submitted to the general assembly, “Special Rapporteur On The
Question Of The Use Of Mercenaries,” private military corporations are described as
modern companies that should not be banned, but should be subjected to domestic and
international oversight.
The UN is clearly in a difficult position: it is faced with the
choice of condoning the use of private security or condoning mass human rights
atrocities. If private security forces are used questions about UN neutrality and about
accountability will no doubt be raised.
Can private contractors be held accountable?
Most governments regulate security contractors. In the United States, the Federal
Acquisition Regulations and additional Department of Defense rules govern contracts
with private security firms. Contractors can also be fired, imposing at least some degree
of accountability. Avant (2004) writes that contractors are also accountable to market
incentives, “When deciding how to respond to a request, for example, contractors
consider how that request might affect their other customers, broader market reputation,
and, ultimately, their earnings.” It is difficult to judge the degree of self-regulation that
may be taking place.
There are, of course, avenues for security firms to avoid regulation. The most
effective way for a company to do this is by moving to a new location (country) (Avant
2005). There is also the possibility that the hiring party does not actually want the
company it hires to adhere to strict regulations; using a private firm enables foreign
policy to be carried out at a distance which allows for plausible deniability (Avant 2004).
An important contemporary issue in the international community focuses on the creation
of an international regulatory regime to deal with question of accountability.
16
See:
17
See:
17


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