Private Security Companies and the State Monopoly on Violence : A Case of Norm Change?

Krahmann, Elke


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 88
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2009
Publikationsdatum: 02.02.2011
Originalveröffentlichung: (2009)
SWD-Schlagwörter: Gewaltmonopol , Privates Militärunternehmen
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.40 (Innere Beziehungen des Staates: Allgemeines), 89.90 (Außenpolitik, Internationale Politik), 89.76 (Friedensforschung, Konfliktforschung), 83.68 (Dienstleistungen: Allgemeines)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

The proliferation of private security companies has received increasing public and academic attention in recent years. From the involvement of private security firms in Sierra Leone and Angola to the capture and killing of Blackwater security contractors in Iraq, the emergence of an international private security industry raises new questions with regard to the legitimacy of the private use of armed force. One aspect often missed in the public debate has been the pervasiveness of private security contractors. While most reports focus on the controversial actions of private security firms in international interventions, most notably Afghanistan and Iraq, domestic private security sectors in Europe and North America have been expanding since the 1970s. The emergence of a global private security industry thus appears to be part of a broader trend that suggests the growing acceptance and use of commercial security firms at the national and international levels. The recent signing of 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 has been a further expression of the increased legitimacy of private security contractors. In the document, seventeen states - Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iraq, Poland, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States - have resisted pressures to strengthen the international regulation of private security firms by reiterating the applicability of existing international humanitarian and human rights law and by recommending that firms adopt a voluntary code of good practice. In response to these developments, this report raises the question of whether the growing recognition of private security companies marks a fundamental shift in the norm of the state monopoly on violence in Western democracies. Arguing that this ideal has shaped the provision of security in Europe and North America for much of the past century, this report investigates in how far the proliferation of private security contractors and the responses of governments and the public indicate the emergence of a new normative order. To do so, the report is structured into five parts. The first part discusses the conceptual origins of the norm of the state monopoly on violence. It argues that at the centre of this norm is the notion that the prohibition of the private use of armed force by individual citizens forms the condition for the establishment of domestic zones of peace. Expectations of non-violence which allow for the conduct of social relations and commerce can only emerge under these conditions. Thus the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of armed force does not only entail ensuring the control of armed force, but serves primarily to prevent violence among its citizens. Although there have always been limitations to the practical implementation of this norm, the centralization of armed force within domestic police and national armed forces became a key feature in Europe and North America during the twentieth century. The second part of the report turns to the question of how norm change can be observed in order to measure its potential transformation. It outlines two main strategies. One strategy examines to what extent a norm has been implemented in national and international practice, institutions and laws. II The other investigates whether actors have challenged or accepted a norm by analyzing public discourses and government responses. The third part of the report employs both strategies to examine to what degree the use of armed force by private security contractors has become recognized and legitimized at the national and international levels, suggesting a transformation of the norm of the state monopoly on violence. While this transformation appears to be most advanced in the United States and the United Kingdom, this part of the report illustrates that the proliferation and acceptance of private security firms is a general phenomenon throughout most of Europe and North America. It notes that in particular countries such as Poland, Turkey, Germany, France and Spain have sizeable and growing private security sectors. Moreover, many Western countries are host to international private security firms and use private security contractors in international interventions. Part four discusses the implications of the changing norm of the state monopoly on violence. It contends that these implications differ at the national and international levels. At the national level, the proliferation of private security guards appears to have no consistent negative or positive impact on public security or fear of crime across Europe and North America. However, considerable consequences can be observed regarding the control and accountability of security providers. To be specific, the proliferation of private security has meant that, in a growing number of instances, private rather than collective decisions form the basis for the use of violence; legal rather than political considerations define their legitimacy; and accountability is shifted from parliaments and publics to private clients who buy between 70 and 80 percent of commercial security services. At the international level, the transformation of the norm of the state monopoly on violence has both positive and negative consequences. A positive effect has been that global security firms can contribute to ending conflicts, protecting humanitarian aid operations and securing international business investments. Negative consequences have included the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, the exacerbation of conflicts and the undermining of public security. The most important challenge, however, has been to the laws of war, which have largely been based on the presumption of the state monopoly on armed force. Thus, the report notes that private security firms typically operate outside the remit of existing international humanitarian law because they work in areas where there is no declared war, are often employed by private actors, and do not engage in offensive military action, making it difficult to decide whether they are ‘combatants’. In addition, like at the national level, there is the question of the political accountability of private security contractors. The report draws two main conclusions and recommendations from these observations. First, it argues that countries in Europe and North America need to recognize that the proliferation of private security firms is transforming the normative foundations and practices of the provision of security, requiring a reconsideration of existing national and international laws. Second, the report concludes that there is a need for a public debate on the political desirability and legitimacy of the private use of armed force.

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