Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2009

Private Military and Security Companies: A Framework for Regulation

James Cockayne, Emily Speers Mears

March 2009

International Peace Institute


In late 2008, seventeen states, including the US, UK, China, Iraq, and Afghanistan, endorsed 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. This provides important guidance to states in regulating Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs). But there is a need to do more, to provide increased guidance to industry and ensure standards are enforced. The arrival of a new administration in the United States offers a unique opportunity for rethinking the global regulation and accountability of private military and security companies. There are positive signs that the Obama administration will step up efforts to improve regulation, both domestically and internationally. And there are signs that other states, such as Switzerland, the UK, and Canada, are willing to do more. Yet domestic regulation is not enough, because the industry is increasingly global. Even many of the PMSCs employed by the US government are incorporated offshore, and recruit third-country nationals that they then deploy overseas without their ever having entered US jurisdiction.