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Opening address by Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the open-ended intergovernmental working group to consider the possibility of elaborating an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies

Geneva, 23 May 2011

Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you today as you start the first session of this Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group.

This intergovernmental working group was established by the Human Rights Council pursuant to its resolution 15/26, adopted last October. The mandate of this working group, as set out in this resolution, is “to consider the possibility of elaborating an international regulatory framework, including, inter alia, the option of elaborating a legally binding instrument on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies, including their accountability, taking into consideration the principles, main elements and draft text as proposed by the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination”. The intergovernmental working group is to present its recommendations to the Council at its twenty-first session, in September 2012.

Over the past two decades, we have witnessed a significant increase in the number of private military and security companies around the world. These companies provide services to governments, national and transnational corporations, non-governmental organisations, the media and international organisations. Private military and security companies engage in a broad range of different services in a wide variety of contexts. While initially the majority of these services related to logistical and administrative support and certain guard functions, over the past years, there has been a growing involvement of private companies in functions traditionally performed by the military and other state security institutions, including in conflict and post-conflict situations.

There is no doubt that the increase in outsourcing of security-related state functions to private companies has brought about human rights challenges and has helped fuel the important discussion on the extent to which private actors can be held accountable for human rights violations, and in what way.

Let me emphasize that, from a human rights perspective, it is important that there is no protection gap that allows for impunity. We need to ensure that the rights of individuals are not negatively impacted upon by the activities carried out by such private military and security companies. States are duty-bound to protect individuals against human rights abuses by third parties, including private military and security companies. The companies themselves also have a responsibility to respect human rights. Where violations occur, victims must have the right to an effective remedy, including the right to appropriate reparation for the harm suffered.

In the past years, concentrated efforts have been made by several actors to address the significant human rights challenges that arise with the intensifying privatization of security.

One of these actors is the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination. The Working Group has carefully studied the impact the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market have on the enjoyment of human rights. Based on this analysis and several years of broad consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, the Working Group concluded that action is required at the level of the international community to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework for private military and security companies. Following further consultations with governments, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private military and security industry and experts, the Working Group prepared a Draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies. This Draft Convention was presented to the Human Rights Council for its consideration and action last September and the Council asked you to take the Working Group’s draft into consideration, as you embark on the important task of addressing one of the pressing human rights issues of our time.

Let me conclude by thanking you all for your participation and active engagement in this process.

I wish you a productive first session.