Background

Following the UN Secretariat’s Policy Committee meeting in May 2011, the IASMN developed a draft policy and guidelines for the use of armed private security companies in the UN system. 

Discussion

The USG informed the meeting that the UN is currently using private security companies in certain situations but that there is no common approach concerning the use of such companies, nor any special contractual modality in place for doing so. A Policy Committee meeting in May 2011 recognized that the use of armed private security companies comes with reputational risk to the UN and should be used as a last resort, after first looking at what support may be provided by the host country, Member States, and by the UN staff. Only if any of those options was not feasible would the UN consider using private security companies. Subsequently, the Policy Committee tasked the IASMN to put together a clear policy and guidelines for the use of private security companies.

The USG acknowledged that this has and continues to be a very controversial issue, with certain organizations absolutely opposing their use and the Staff Federations expressing real concern. Despite sharing such concerns, he recognized that if there is a need to resort to private security companies, then there is a need to ensure they are used properly. There was consensus within the UNSMS that the use of private security companies should be the last possible resort. If organizations feel that they have no other choice, it is important that their use falls under clear policies and guidelines, which makes the ongoing work to codify the use of such companies critical.

HLCM was further informed that an IASMN working group, that also included the staff federations, had drafted a policy, as well as guidelines on the use of armed PSCs. OCHCR had been asked to address issues in the draft policy with human rights implications A model contract had also been produced and, in addition, the UNSMS already has in place a universal Use of Force policy for civilian personnel in the UN, as well as provisions for guard training. The industry itself was working on self-policing regulations, e.g. a code of conduct for PSCs.

At its 16th session, the IASMN had extensively discussed all the work produced so far and had been asked to consult within their organizations to provide further comments on the policy and guidelines by 15 March. It was the intention over the next two months to have an agreed upon package to submit to the Secretary-General, with a view to bringing this to the HLCM and the CEB at their Fall 2012 sessions. While emphasizing that even if one organization uses private security companies, this poses reputational risks to the UN at large, the USG strongly urged the organizations to consult widely within and provide their comments, noting that there is a need to have an agreed upon and strict policy in place, no less so because private security companies were already being used within the UN system.

The Staff Federations, while appreciating the openness of DSS in the discussions that have taken place so far and their participation in the IASMN working group on this issue, noted that they oppose the use of private security companies. The Federations’ view is that if they are needed, then that raises the question about whether staff should be present at all. In this context, the Federations also re-iterated their concern with the concept of “how to stay” as opposed to when to leave. A concern was also expressed that the use of private security firms could lead to the inadvertent use of mercenaries or individuals who have participated in crimes against humanity. The UN system cannot be associated with such individuals, even through outsourcing mechanisms.

Recognizing the sensitivity and complexity of the issues at hand, the Committee underlined the importance of continued and detailed consultations, looking carefully at issues, such as thorough screening of private security companies to be engaged in cases when all other options have been exhausted, as the system moves forward.

Action

The Committee took note of the update on Private Security Companies, noting the progress achieved and the importance of on-going considerations and consultations as we move forward on this issue. The Committee further expressed its appreciation of the timeliness of the update received and urged organizations to provide input on the proposed policy and guidelines.