Tools for Effective and Responsible Contracting of Private Security Services

Private security companies provide services to a range of clients operating in complex and high risk environments. Increasingly state actors, to include international organizations, as well as private actors, such as companies and humanitarian assistance and human rights organizations, utilize private security providers to manage risks to their people, projects, and assets. However, if the wrong private security provider is hired, this could pose its own risks. Fortunately for clients of the private security industry, a number of tools are being developed under the leadership of the Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces’ Public Private Partnership Division (DCAF) that can assist with procuring private security providers that not only effectively provide quality services, but also respect human rights throughout their operations.

As noted in a previous blog post, this past July DCAF released a study detailing good practices related to States’ and international organizations’ procurement and contracting of private security services entitled Putting Private Security Regulation Into Practice: Sharing Good Practices on Procurement and Contracting 2015-2016. The study breaks down the five stages of the procurement process and provides examples of best practices for each based on the experience of a number of the Montreux Document supporting states and international organizations. The Montreux Document is the first international declaration to detail international human rights and humanitarian law obligations and good practices for states contracting security services during armed conflict and beyond. (The declaration also addresses home and territorial states as well.) DCAF serves as the Secretariat of the Montreux Document Forum and supports efforts to foster implementation of Montreux Document commitments.

Now DCAF is broadening its efforts and developing contracting guidance for private sector clients of the security industry. Earlier this month DCAF, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, SociosPeru, and Peace Nexus, released Recommendations for Hiring Private Security Providers. Based on a pilot project with extractive companies and other stakeholders in Peru to support implementation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, the Recommendations detail how a company can carry out due diligence in its engagement with a private security provider from the solicitation, notice, and bidding process through to monitoring, enforcement, and accountability of the provider. The Recommendations offer detailed bullet points on the types of information Requests for Proposal should solicit in bid submissions, such as information about employees, training, equipment, and performance track records. The Recommendations also include suggested criteria for excluding or granting an award, contract provisions, and key performance indicators that can be used to monitor security providers, although these could have been more productively captured as positive goals rather than a list of violations for security providers to avoid. Interestingly, although the Recommendations state that companies should undertake a thorough risk assessment and develop a security plan prior to the bidding process, a similar recommendation is not made to private security providers suggesting that they undertake a human rights impact assessment and develop plans to manage and prevent risks. That being said, one can infer that would occur should a company limit itself to contracting with private security providers certified to security operations management system standards (ANSI/ASIS PSC.1 or ISO 18788) or by the International Code of Conduct Association, all of which require human rights risk assessment.

A second DCAF initiative currently under development is a Contract Guidance Tool which aims to support humanitarian non-governmental organizations, as well as states, international organizations, and other clients with incorporating human rights requirements into their contracts with private security providers. A recent blog post on the European Interagency Security Forum’s website announced the launch of a consultative process to solicit input from clients about their current contracting practices. Humanitarian organizations in particular are requested to fill out a questionnaire on their general contracting frameworks, contract award processes, contractual terms, and contract monitoring and accountability in order to facilitate the creation of the Contract Guidance Tool. This will be an important effort to support since, as of yet, no detailed contracting recommendations for humanitarian organizations exist. Furthermore, it is in the vested interest of the humanitarian community, which increasingly relies on security providers, to ensure that those providers align with their humanitarian missions and respect human rights in their security operations.

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