Private Military Contractors: a human rights dilemma

By Janie Whitlock

The use of Private Military Contractors (PMC) in war efforts around the world has increased, especially by the United States since 9/11. The US Department of Defense reported spending 388 billion dollars on military contracting companies in 2008 alone, and over 40% of the work of the Department of Defense, is now contracted out to these companies. One of such companies, Blackwater, drew attention through the criminal activity, human rights abuses and lack of accountability that has been prevalent within the industry at large. The debate entitled “Market Forces: Private Firms for Public Wars” focused on the extent to which these problems within the industry can be avoided with increased regulation.

This debate was part of a three-day symposium called “A World of War: Dynamics of Conflict in the 21st Century” – the 47th Annual International Affairs Symposium, held at Lewis and Clark College on April 6-8, 2009. The two speakers on this topic were: Erica Razook, the Policy Director of Economic Relations at Amnesty International USA, and Andy Bearpark, the Director of the British Association of Private Security Companies.

The changing face of war

Mr. Bearpark explains that the use of these companies is essential to the changing face of war. The end of the Cold War has led to governments reducing their military forces, while at the same time, increasing the responsibilities required of them. Essentially, Bearpark holds that the responsibilities delegated to these private companies are tasks that military personnel cannot afford to spend their time on, with reduced resources and increased responsibility.

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