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Privatization of international security

Privatization of security had a great impact in the international arena. The growing role of non-state actors in variables of international security like terrorism, energy security, organised crime and state failure is conceived as a reflection of privatization of international security. The shifting function of control and authority of force/violence from the state (public sector) to business (private sector) had developed a growing market for force where private military and security companies (PMSCs) became the main good of consumption. PMSCs are those companies selling and buying military and security services such as logistics, intelligence, consultancy, training, and protection – locally, regionally, or internationally. As other market-oriented services, the market of the use of force is differentiated by different demands, different clients with different rules. The global private military sector and market tremendously grew throughout the 90s, and its size is projected to reach US$ 252.070 million by 2026.

Neo-liberal world is characterised by the increasing commodification and privatisation of public goods through a decentralization of state functions; the same has occurred also over monopoly of force. The state is no more the only legitimate security provider due to the growing role of a legitimised private security industry, becoming a competitor and acquiring a de facto legitimacy to intervene in security related areas and state-related tasks. Ontologically, the market challenges the notion of ‘Weberian state’ with its monopoly of physical force in the enforcement of its order within a given territory’’. The raison d’etre of modern states is commodified and security shifted from being a public good, and therefore accountable, legitimate, and supervised, to a private good.

Modern security providers are profit-oriented corporate entities organised along corporate lines, operating within business guidelines, are registered for tax purposes, sign legally binding contracts and operate on the open global market. Their functions, on one hand, is to protect private property, assets or individuals and to complement traditional military forces in high-risk locations; on the other hand, as domestic forces to ensure law and order in services like airports, land borders, ports, financial institutions, governmental institutions, industry, sanctions implementations, prisons and social media platforms. The main driving factors are: efficiency of the private sector in managing different sectors due to their organizational structure and exiting expertise and the enlargement of critical infrastructures (agriculture and food systems, energy systems, health care facilities, financial institutions and shipping services). There is a strong dependency of state on private capabilities.

According to the American researcher P.W. Singer, privatisation of security was influenced by three main factors: the security vacuum created after the disappearance of the bipolar world, the changing nature of war and the revolution in the field of privatisation. Privatisation of international security poses different inquiries on conceptualisation, organization, and distribution of states’ monopoly over the legitimate use of force in favour of ‘market-oriented’ solutions. Private alternatives emerged in providing security for individuals, companies, NGOs and public institutions operating in fragile lands. Political purposes often demand the use of private military industry for several reasons: to have a military impact on the other state, to avoid parliamentary approval, to offer resources to fight opposition, rebels or terrorists, to protect state’s own economic interests globally and take military actions out of public opinion.
Hence, spill overs may emerge leading to moral dilemmas like protection delivered only to the one possessing financial means, militarization of social relations and a further “deterioration of public security, rather than restoration.’’ The market does not define new threats but may re-shape conceptualisation of security from an ethical dimension since private business is subject only to provisions included in the contracts. On the matter, regulation and international standards governing private international security have developed rapidly through national and international regulations like the adoption of the ICRC Montreux Document, changes occurring in the UN working group on mercenaries and codes of conducted delivered by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, International Peace Operations Association and the Business Alliance for Secure Commerce.

Francesco Pagano

[1] Ibid.
[1] Piątek Jarosław. Privatisation of Security: Private Military Contractors Serving Governments, Polish Political Science Yearbook vol. 46, 2017, p. 129
[1] Leander Anna. The privatization of international security. In: The Routledge Handbook of Security Studies. edited by Myriam Dunn Cavelty and Victor Mauer, 2010, p. 204
[1] Ibid.
[1] Piątek, op. cit., p. 127
[1] Anna. op. cit., p. 205
[1] Leander Anna. The privatization of international security. In: The Routledge Handbook of Security Studies. edited by Myriam Dunn Cavelty and Victor Mauer, 2010, p. 200
[1] Absolute Reports Global Private Military Services Market Report, History And Forecast 2015-2026, Breakdown
[1] Weber. Politics as a Vocation, p. 77 [1] Ibid.
[1] Bures Oldrich and Helena Carrapico. Security Privatization: How non-security related private businesses shape security governance, Springer, 2018, p. 1
[1] Ibid.
[1] Ibid.