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'Dangerous Partnership': The UN's Increasing Use of Mercenary Firms

- Common Dreams staff

The United Nations is increasingly hiring private military contractors for protecting its staff and operations, threat assessments, and a wide array of security services.

According to a new report by the independent policy watchdog Global Policy Forum, the increased used of mercenary-style groups by the world body is both troubling and dangerous. Citing various reports from governments, NGOs and media outlets, the GPF says such firms have a history of committing serious human rights abuses, killing or injuring innocent civilians, engaging in financial malfeasance and other breaches of national and international laws.

Between 2009 and 2010 alone, the US increased its use of private security services by 73 percent (from 44 million to 76 million dollars), according to the report.

“When you look at 2006 to 2011, use of PMSCs in field missions have increased by 250 percent,” Lou Pingeot, program coordinator at GPF and lead author of the report, told Inter Press Service in an interview.

"In the absence of guidelines and clear responsibility for security outsourcing," says the report, "the UN has hired companies well-known for their misconduct, violence and financial irregularities – and hired them repeatedly."

The report, titled Dangerous Partnership: Private Military & Security Companies at the UN, specifically cites the UN's contracts with DynCorp International, infamous for its role in a prostitution scandal involving the UN in Bosnia in the 1990s and, more recently, its participation in the US government’s “rendition” program. It also notes that G4S -- one of the world's largest private military firms -- is known for its violent methods against detainees and points to a US Senate report that singles out ArmorGroup, a G4S subsidiary, for its ties to Afghan warlords.

“For me, the most astounding aspect of the report is how the U.N. has over 20 years avoided discussion on the topic,” James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum, told IPS.

“How can you year after year bring out reports and talk about the security of U.N. staff and not mention this? The emperor has no clothes.”

In his discussion with IPS, Paul says that the US and UK are the driving force behind the increased use of military contractors at the UN. 

The cozy relationship between member states and private contractors also fuels “bunkerizations”, the report finds, as the increased use of PMSCs and their involvement in determining U.N. and national policy means that countries end up with an increasing “need” for security.

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