Monday, June 2, 2008

PSCs and NGOs

Here is an account of a forum held between humanitarian NGOs and Private Security Contractors, on the deepening relationships between the two, posted on the blog of the Lancet Student.

The author of the post had some interesting comments of his own:

". . .

The Blackwater incident in Nisoor Square is no isolated example. Anecdotal reports of the atrocities carried out by PSC employees and their fatal mistakes abound, to which I’ll add my own. In my last operational tour with the British Army in Iraq the first person killed was not at the hands of a British soldier or his enemy but was shot by a PSC operative spooked by a small group of unarmed protesters at the gates of the Coalition Provisional Authority. PSC employees have infamously posted footage of their wayward actions, firing on the move into civilian vehicles, on the internet.

From Tuesday’s discussion it was clear that not only are PSCs taking a role in providing security for humanitarian organisations they are also being paid to provide the aid work themselves. To take matters further they are also passing themselves off as charities to raise money for projects as a force protection measure for their own operations. Whilst those present on the occasion did not take issue with this I find it significantly disturbing.

When the ‘humanitarian’ money for services required goes out to tender, the PSCs will have a strong case to put. They will be able to deliver a service swiftly and efficiently in areas where NGOs cannot or will not operate and it is worth noting that these areas, including Iraq and Afghanistan are the areas where big international donors, the US, the UK and the EU desperately want the services delivered. What is more, they will do those without insisting on difficult clauses concerning their neutrality or impartiality. The Private Security Company is a smart re-branding of an age-old concept - they are mercenaries. They will deliver a service and they will kill people in doing so. . . "

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Kelly said...

This is disturbing I agree. Back when I did my postgrad, in my humanitarian assistance course, we were always taught that aid envoys should be unarmed. Because an armed envoy is much more dangerous to everyone involved. Things are changing rapidly in the relief sector. Although maybe this is where "relief" and "humanitarian assistance" differ in their definitions?

The Proud Islamist said...

What it means is that humanitarianism again becomes a cover for the imposition of another agenda - now by force.

It's one thing to believe that you are doing good, and be unmindful of the unintended consequences. It's quite another to be running around like Cecil Rhodes, armed to the teeth to ensure that the savages do as you say.

I'm not sure if workers in the field always have to be unarmed, but as soon as the use of force becomes directly linked to a profit motive, that's trouble.