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Private Military and Security Companies: What Accountability?

10 March 2014

This past Wednesday WILPF attended a panel organised by the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, focusing on the use of private military and security companies (PMSCs) by the United Nations.

The Working Group is aiming to create higher standards of accountability for this industry, in recognition of the increasing role these companies play in issues of international peace and security. The goal is to create a General Assembly Resolution to be adopted this year, creating a set of guidelines for the UN in hiring these companies, which it has been doing increasingly in recent years.

Paths To Justice
First part of the Paths to Justice infographic explaining the process victims of abuse by peacekeeping operators and private military and security companies need to go through to obtain justice.
Paths to Justice infographic. To see it in full click on the image.

WILPF is very much engaged in the issue of UN accountability through our ‘Paths To Justice’ project, which focuses on improving peacekeeping accountabilities for sexual violence and abuse against local civilian populations through advocacy.

Right now, victims of these horrific abuses have close to no access to justice, as we have made clear in our infographic. Have a look and see just how difficult the path to justice is for victims right now!

Therefore, with this work in mind, we were quite disappointed to see the panel focus on the risks unregulated PMSCs pose to ‘UN staff, its operations, and its image’, rather than the greater risks a culture of impunity poses to the civilian, often vulnerable populations peacekeepers are actually supposed to protect.

More broadly, the panel seemed stuck in the old-fashioned, militaristic and patriarchal way of thinking about the role these private contractors play, invoking concepts like the ‘loyalties’ of PMSC staff multiple times.

Instead, the Working Group and the UN in general, should rather approach these issues from a human rights perspective, making sure peace-building through the protection of human rights is the primary focus of all peacekeepers, whether privately contracted or otherwise.

Only when peace-building is integrated with human rights in this way can UN peacekeeping operations be truly successful.

Hope for the Future?

On the bright side, a number of people at the event, including State representatives and members of the Working Group, seemed very interested and open to our message.

Further, although the panel did not address the security of civilians in depth, this preoccupation was indeed underlined by the Chair of the Working Group on the use of Mercenaries which indeed reminded that the final stakeholders of the work being done by the UN are the civilians and that their security is often threatened by the uncontrolled and unregulated use of PMSCs.

Now that this initial contact has been made, we will try to meet with the Working Group and have our perspectives included in the GA Resolution, as one small step in the right direction.

To learn more about these issues take a look at our Paths to Justice Project.

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WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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