A Brief Explanation of the Private Security Regulatory Initiatives and The Swiss Processes

Since 2006 the world has not only seen a continued proliferation of private security, including armed security, but also of regulatory initiatives aimed at developing accountability across the industry.  As the number of documents, codes, standards and mechanisms increase, making sense of what’s what is becoming increasingly difficult.  Equally, not understanding the relationship or lack of relationship between the different initiatives could confuse the issue.  Previous posts have mentioned some of the key instruments, but the next set of Dextra Fortis posts will focus on briefly explaining the major instruments and the relationships between them.

First up will be the Swiss Processes which are at the core of the ongoing efforts to develop regulation, governance and oversight of the private security industry.

The International Law Division of the Swiss Foreign Ministry and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were responsible for launching the first serious wave of measures aimed at developing accountability for the private security industry.  When they teamed up to start the Montreux Process in 2006, the private security industry was still relatively unknown to the world.  The various incidents since then and the various initiatives that have come online have served to greatly raise the profile of the industry.  While neither the International Law Division of the Swiss Government nor the ICRC were directly involved in the initiatives following Montreux, the Swiss continued to spearhead the follow-on efforts.

The Montreux Document

The Montreux Document on Pertinent International Legal Obligations and Good Practices for States related to Operations of Private Military and Security Companies during Armed Conflict of 17 September 2008 provides contracting states, home states, and territorial states, with a restatement of their international legal obligations and a series of ‘good practices’ to use in interacting with the industry.  Several provisions also provide legal obligations incumbent on private security companies themselves.  Importantly, the focus of the document is primarily on times of armed conflict – but the principles are expressly relevant to non-armed conflict situations as well.  It is a non-binding, non-legal document in that it neither creates nor alters legal obligations, but merely articulates existing requirements pertinent to private security operations.  A list of the 49 states and 3 international organisations that are considered to be ‘participating’ in the Montreux Document can be found here.

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC) is the end result of a process launched by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs following the adoption of the Montreux Document.  Recognising the need to do more to address the responsibilities of private security companies directly, the multi stakeholder initiative involving the US, UK and Swiss Governments, a large number of private security companies, a considerable number of civil society organisations, a smattering of non-state clients of the industry, and a handful of independent experts, lawyers, and academics, sought to set forth the principles by which the industry should operate in accordance with human rights norms and international laws.  The ICoC was signed by an initial 58 companies on 9 November 2010 and now has over 700 signatories.

The ICoC Association

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers Association (ICoC Association) is a Swiss-based entity that is now the custodian of the ICoC.  Established on 19 September 2013, The ICoC Association’s Board of Directors will oversee an Executive Director and Secretariat to fulfil several requirements originally mentioned in the ICoC itself: certification of companies under the ICoC; monitoring of ICoC compliance; and responding to grievances concerning violations of the ICoC.  The Board is comprised of 4 representatives each from governments, private security companies and civil society organisations.  Non-state clients, which account for 80% of the industry’s global business, as well as independent experts, lawyers and academics are not formally part of the Association’s mechanisms.

Up Next

The next post will explore the existing private security standards – both those that arose out of the ICoC and those that did not.



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