Let me start by thanking our hosts and acknowledging the critical role that the Swiss Government has played in this initiative since its inception. As most of you know, together with the ICRC, the Swiss co-facilitated the process that led to the development of the Montreux Document on private military and security companies in 2008. And when private security companies expressed an interest in developing sector-specific guidance based on the Montreux Document, the Swiss agreed to sponsor the process that eventually resulted in 2010 in the ICoC. Since then, the Swiss have facilitated the work of the multistakeholder Temporary Steering Committee (TSC), including through the support of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). Most recently, the Swiss government generously committed to providing over one million dollars of in-kind assistance to the Association over the next two years. Without their consistent and far-sighted support, this initiative would not be where it is today.
It is also important to note the important contributions – both political and programmatic – that our Australian and U.K. colleagues have provided to this process. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the role played by David Dutton, the former Political Counselor at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC, whose leadership on the TSC was truly invaluable. And we are very excited to welcome the Government of Sweden as the newest state-member of this initiative. We look forward to continuing to work with all of the government members, as well as those states that are participating in the Advisory Forum of Montreux Document participants, to continue to build on the successes we have achieved to-date.
In addition to the countless hours that our team of experts from the Departments of State and Defense has already dedicated to this initiative, today I am pleased to announce that the United States looks forward to providing, subject to the availability of funds, a package of in-kind and financial support for the initiative along the lines of that provided by other governments. Beginning next year, the U.S. government intends to provide staff support for the certification function of the Association. In addition, we intend to provide grant funds for the Association to use in carrying out its monitoring function. This is in addition to the time, energy, and funding that our colleagues in the Defense Department have invested over the last few years in fostering the development, under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute, of the PSC 1 and 2 management and conformity assessment standards, which are based on the Code. Finally, aware of the influence we have and the role we play as a client and regulator in this sector, we have committed to using our contracting processes to support this process. For instance, the Defense Department currently requires conformance with the PSC 1 standard for its private security contracts and the Department of State has committed to requiring conformance with the same, as well as membership in the ICoC Association, as a condition for bidding on its next Worldwide Protective Services contract.
We support this initiative because we recognize the important role that private security providers play in complex environments. While it is undeniably the role of governments to provide security within their jurisdictions, private security providers support those efforts in contexts where state capacity is limited. It is precisely in these complex environments – areas of weak or non-existent state capacity – that private security providers can facilitate vital efforts that are central to our foreign policy and security objectives. Although private security companies help safeguard U.S. government facilities and personnel, the bulk of their work is devoted to the critical tasks of protecting humanitarian organizations delivering essential food, water, and medicine; development organizations providing support for strategic sectors; and critical private sector investments. However, it is in these same complex environments that private security company activity, if not properly managed, can most easily contribute to further destabilization and adverse human rights impacts.
We have supported this initiative and will continue to do so because we believe it can play an important role in improving the standards for, and conduct of, private security companies operating in complex environments. This is imperative because, while we do our best to ensure responsible conduct by those PSCs which we contract and supervise, misconduct by other PSCs can sour public perceptions and undermine the positive impact of all PSCs. The United States believes that the principle method for regulating this sector must be through responsible, domestic legislation and regulation. That said, we also believe that multistakeholder initiatives like the ICoC, can and do play an important role in raising industry standards and encouraging the development of effective regulations by facilitating shared learning, monitoring performance, identifying best practices, and facilitating the resolution of complaints.
This association, together with the ongoing development of international standards, will breathe life into the Code by creating an effective and independent governance mechanism that will promote respect for and adherence to the human rights principles and the law of armed conflict set forth in the Code. We see this as an important sector-specific development in-line and consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Through the adoption and implementation of standards based on the Code, companies are required to develop systems and policies to ensure proper due diligence, impact assessment, and grievance mechanisms. That is the starting point. Beyond that, the companies that become members of this Association are also committing to on-going reporting to, and monitoring by, the Association, as well as its facilitation of the resolution of complaints. These are meaningful commitments that can produce real results, and the companies that join this Association – especially those that have been involved in its development and committed to joining it from the start – should be commended for their leadership. The civil society organizations that have become founding members also deserve recognition for their willingness to participate in and lend their expertise to a process designed to build trust and constructive engagement among stakeholders that don’t always see eye-to-eye.
In closing, the United States is honored to be a founding member of this initiative. There is much that remains to be done, and the soon-to-be introduced individuals who will make up the first Board of Directors all deserve our support… and probably our prayers! Though the challenges may be daunting, we should be proud of and motivated by the fantastic work that has been done to date. The United States will continue to work constructively to build on that success and ensure that this initiative demonstrates the potential of dedicated, well-intentioned companies, states, and non-governmental organizations to work together to effect meaningful change on the ground.
- Cross posted at U.S. Mission Geneva