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Private Military and Security Companies (Standards of Conduct)

Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

On 24 April 2009, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) launched a 12-week public consultation on the Government’s proposed policy to promote high standards of conduct in the Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) industry internationally.

Our overarching aims are to (a) promote high standards of conduct by PMSCs internationally; and (b) reduce the risk that PMSC activities might give rise to human rights or international humanitarian law concerns, assist internal repression, or provoke or prolong internal or regional tensions.

Our preferred option involves promoting high standards of behaviour by the industry in the UK through a code of conduct, agreed with and monitored by the Government, using our leverage as a key buyer to raise standards, together with an international agreement on standards covering all aspects of PMSC operation and organisation worldwide.

We received 25 responses to the consultation. The FCO is today publishing on its website a summary of responses to the consultation, including a Government response to the contributions. We will be able to integrate many of the suggestions into our follow-up work.

The following key findings emerged: (a) there was no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that the Government’s preferred option of promoting high standards of conduct internationally was not the best way of meeting achieving our aims and (b) the appropriateness and capacity of a trade association to combine the compliance auditing and monitoring of a code of conduct with trade promotion activities would require careful consideration.

The Government remain convinced that their preferred approach is the most viable option, but accept that further work remains to be done in certain respects. Specifically, we will now take forward work in consultation with the industry, non-governmental organisations and others to determine detailed arrangements for the effective monitoring/auditing of compliance with a code of conduct. We will aim to publish our thinking on the way ahead, taking into account this work and the key findings of the consultation, by March 2010.

In parallel, my officials will continue to work with partners for an effective international standard supported by an accountability mechanism. We aim to agree these within the next two years.