United Nations’ use of mercenaries ‘out of control,’ warns watchdog

Watchdog Global Policy Forum warned on Tuesday that the United Nations is using too many private military and security companies.

The forum said that the increasing UN use of these companies is “dangerous,” may increase rather than reduce threats and attacks on UN buildings and personnel and suggests the system is “unaccountable and out of control.”

Even incomplete UN data shows a steady rise in the number of security contracts, with the value increasing from $44 million (£28.8m) in 2009 to $76m (£48.8m) in 2010, the latest data available.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky claimed that it is appropriate to use armed private security contractors if the organisation ensures “due diligence” in its operations.

“UN contracting policies have improved and we need to continue to improve them,” he said.

Nesirky said the UN has been working on a system-wide policy for the use of armed private security companies and a draft policy was approved by security chiefs from all UN bodies at a meeting last month.

The draft policy states that “such companies may only be used in circumstances where the provision of armed security by the host country, another member state or UN resources are not possible or appropriate.”

It also “emphasises the need for strict protocols concerning the use of force,” outlines UN management and oversight responsibilities and sets guidelines for UN personnel on when to use contractors, he said.

But the forum insisted that, “in the absence of guidelines and clear responsibility for security outsourcing, the UN has hired companies well-known for their misconduct, violence and financial irregularities – and hired them repeatedly.”

The forum said that the UN insists that most companies are used for unarmed security services, but warned that contractors are increasingly being used for risk assessment, security training and logistical support.

This effectively allows the companies to define the UN security strategy “and even its broader posture and reputation.”

It also urged a UN reassessment of its dealings with such firms to assess whose interests contractors serve and if they help the UN promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

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