Home / Events / ISS Conference, Nairobi Office: The Involvement of the Private Security Sector in Peacekeeping Missions
ISS Conference, Nairobi Office: The Involvement of the Private Security Sector in Peacekeeping Missions
Date: 21 - 22 July 2010
Venue: ISS Nairobi Office, Kenya, Breaside Gardens, Off Muthangari Road, Lavington

Hosted by the Security Sector Governance Programme (SSGP), ISS Pretoria Office and the Peace Missions Programme (PMP), ISS Pretoria and Nairobi Office.

The various conflicts, which have plagued the African continent for the past decades, have been characterized in most instances by the involvement of non-state actors, such as mercenaries and recently, private military/security companies (PMSCs). The use of PMSCs has extended to peacekeeping missions, where they are contracted to carry out non-core (military) functions. The burgeoning private security industry`s involvement in peacekeeping missions presents a critical point of departure from the past for enhanced peacekeeping operations through non-state actors. There have been tentative attempts to control and regulate the services offered by PMSCs, due to double-edged-sword scenario presented by their presence especially in volatile situations. On the one hand they are criticized due to the lack of any effective oversight, regulatory or accountability mechanisms to monitor their services, while on the other hand they are seemingly indispensable, as their expertise and efficiency creates great demand for their use.

The business of the private security industry is particularly controversial due to arguably close resemblance of some PMSCs to mercenaries, which are out rightly outlawed. This has been cultivated as the major bone of contention, and exacerbated by the lack of a regulatory framework let alone internationally accepted definitions of mercenaries and PMSCs. The challenges posed by mercenaries have in the past prompted various regional and international bodies to draft legal instruments in order to address their challenges. As a matter of fact, these undertakings have not enabled the implementation of appropriate norms and standards to deal with issue of outsourcing security (as provided by PMSCs), whether in conflict or post-conflict situations.

With the growing concern regarding the involvement of the PMSCs, especially in conflict situations, in 2005 the Commission on Human Rights through Resolution 2005/2 established the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (Working Group). The Working Group was established inter alia “to monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human rights, particularly the right of peoples to self-determination, and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities”. The process of preparing draft international principles is still ongoing.

The Nairobi conference shall bring together scholars from various disciplines in Africa and beyond to interrogate the implications for the use of PMSCs, particularly with their increased involvement in non-core military functions in peacekeeping missions. Through the conference, it is hoped that the following objectives would be accomplished: -

  • An enhanced broad understanding of Africa-specific issues related to the use of PMSCs in peacekeeping missions and the challenges linked to their involvement in mercenary activities;
  • An exploration of the trends in the outsourcing of non-core military/security functions to PMSCs as a supply side factor and the increased role of the private sector in UN and AU peacekeeping missions;
  • An identification of distinct challenges and gaps especially with regards to the regulatory regimes at national, regional and international levels including a discussion on the developments at the United Nations level;
  • Engendering an enriched discourse on how best to address the use of PMSCs at national, regional and international levels (with particular emphasis at the African Union and United Nations).


ISS Nairobi Office, Kenya, Breaside Gardens, Off Muthangari Road, Lavington
Samira YUSUF
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