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call for input | Special Procedures

Call for inputs for thematic report on Arms transfer and Mercenarism

Issued by

Working Group on the use of mercenaries


15 March 2024

Purpose: To inform the WG’s 2024 thematic report


Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 51/13, 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) monitors the use of mercenaries, mercenary related activities, and the activities of private military and security in all their forms and manifestations. The Working Group is mandated to study and identify sources and causes, emerging issues, manifestations and trends with regard to mercenaries and mercenary-related activities and private military and security companies and their impact on human rights, particularly on the right of peoples to self-determination.

Twice a year, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries issues calls for inputs to inform its thematic studies to be presented at the Human Rights Council in its September session and at the UN General Assembly in October.

The Working Group intends to dedicate its next thematic report to arms trafficking and mercenaries and mercenary related actors.


The last two decades have marked a shift in the dynamics of warfare, characterized by an upsurge in available weaponry and a diversification of actors engaged in conflicts. A prominent aspect of this evolving conflict landscape has been the sustained, if not escalating, involvement of mercenaries and the proliferation of private military security companies.

The report will look into the potential contributions of mercenaries and private military and security companies to the proliferation and inappropriate use of small arms. It will also examine measures that the international community can adopt to effectively address mercenarism and establish or further strengthen regulations governing the operations of private military and security companies. The influence exerted by these companies extends beyond the clauses outlined in their contracts, detailing the provision of substantial quantities of weaponry to clients. It encompasses the role their military and security services and training play in fueling the demand for weapons within the regions of their deployment.

Overall, the relationship between arms transfers and mercenarism underscores the importance of responsible arms trade practices, strong regulations, and international cooperation in preventing the proliferation of weapons to unauthorized or illicit actors. This is essential for promoting sustainable peace, stability, and the protection of human rights in conflict-affected regions.Top of Form

Scope of study and key questions

The Working Group welcomes submissions from States, civil society organizations, academics, international and inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, private companies, individuals, and any other concerned actors.

The Working Group welcomes any information deemed pertinent to the topic and is particularly interested in the issues mentioned below. In addressing the indicated thematic issues, please provide to the extent available, examples, good or bad practices, and recommendations that you consider important in the context of this call for inputs, as well as any analysis on future developments in this area.

While all submissions are welcome and the questions below are not meant to be exhaustive, the Working Group would be grateful for comments that address topics, including:

Background and context
  1. Overview of the contexts in which arms trafficking takes place including arms transfer during conflict or post-conflict situations;
  2. potential contributions of mercenaries and private military and security companies to the proliferation and inappropriate use of arms;
  3. Modalities of arms trafficking and primary actors involved in the proliferation of small arms and light weapons;
  4. Impact of arms trafficking on mercenaries and mercenary-related actors, and human rights violations perpetrated in this context;

Overall regulatory framework (international, regional, national) on arms transfer; accountability of actors and access to justice of victims

  1. Existing international regulations that govern arms transfer and the limitations encountered when dealing with arms transfer to non-state actors;
  2. How can we better ensure that arms are not diverted to mercenaries or unauthorized users?
  3. Impact and limitations of UN arms embargoes and sanctions, which include in their scope military and security services?
  4. Role and impact of arms transfer agreements (end-user certificates, arms embargoes, effective monitoring and prevention of arms diversion) in preventing arms reaching unauthorised users.
  5. What are the appropriate approaches to seek accountability of those involved in illegal arms transfer and for human rights violations perpetrated by unauthorized users?

How inputs will be used

Inputs will be used to inform the report’s findings and recommendations.

Next Steps

Inputs may be sent via e-mail to [email protected], and must be received by 15 March 2024. When submitting your reply, kindly indicate if you have any objections with regard to your reply being posted on this website.

File formats:
Word, PDF

Accepted languages:
English, Spanish, French

Postal address:
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva, CH 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland