Industry Initiatives toward Self-Regulation

Since there lacks a legally-binding international framework to regulate Private and Military Security Companies (PMSCs), there have been self-regulation initiatives made at the industry-level to compensate for this gap. Evidence of enforced self-regulation is displayed in the outlined standards and established mechanisms to carry out monitoring, reporting, sanctions, and rewards in PMSCs frameworks. However, self-regulation in the security industry also includes voluntary self-regulation initiatives established by public-private collaborations, such as in the Montreux Document[1].

International Documents Promoting Self-Regulation Responsibilities

The Montreux Document and other international legal standard documents were drafted through a multi-stakeholder process, which included collaboration from state governments, non-governmental organizations, and PMSCs officials[2]. This created a shared collective responsibility among states and individual PMSCs alike to adhere to the outlined good practices and uphold international law in their contracting operations. In fact, some states have adopted self-regulation measures through a collaboration between state governmental entities and individual PMSCs. For example, in 2011, the UK government appointed the Security in Complex Environments Group to help its private security industry develop and facilitate the accreditation of its standards[3]. The UK’s coordinated self-regulation, which functions as a partnership between corporations and public sector regulators, reflects the approach adopted by most European countries[4]. In contrast, the United States’ approach to PMSC self-regulation is more reactive and takes the form of formal sanctioning and lawsuits[5].


Industry-level Self-Regulation Standards

The emergence of industry-level associations has also been pertinent to advancing self-regulation methods. For example, the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) has established a code of conduct that all of its PMSC members must adhere by, including relevant international law[6]. The ISOA’s code of conduct also calls on its members to report any violations by an ISOA member and undergo official investigations. It is important to note that the sanction for a violation is limited to a dismissal from the ISOA. However, membership in the ISOA is favorable to PMSCs, since it is viewed as the most influential association in shaping industry standards. In fact, the ISOA helped draft the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC)[7]. Multiple PMSCs, such as Triple Canopy, have completely reformed its code of conduct to reflect the standards established by the ICoC and comply with ISOA membership requirements[8].

Establishing codes of conduct at an international level has encouraged individual PMSCs to begin outsourcing certain auditing measures to maintain their implied responsibility. For example, Aegis, Dyncorp International, and other PMSCs have entered into contracts with EthicsPoint to ensure their compliance with the ICoC[9]. Similarly, VT Group contracts the Global Reporting Initiative to conduct independent external audits on its implementation and monitoring mechanism[10]. Thus, any violations of the PMSCs code of conduct can be reported anonymously and directly to these external parties. Then, reports are sent back to the PMSCs themselves for review and if necessary, corrective action[11]. This method of self-regulation uses an external service to provide for an internal assessment of accountability and compliance.

Self-regulation can create widespread industry-level standards and procedures, but it is also an effective tool to defensively preempt against government regulation and create a positive reputation. While it is commendable that PMSCs have taken self-regulation initiatives to reflect internationally-agreed upon standards, most accountability responses remain solely at the industry-level. If PMSCs want to continue ameliorating its global reputation, they need to consider normalizing the standard of establishing a truly independent and public accountability mechanism. More importantly, PMSCs should continue collaboratively working with states and non-governmental organizations to establish a comprehensive and legally-binding international framework. This international framework and independent accountability mechanism will further accomplish the security industry’s intention of adhering to international law and maintaining a good reputation.

By Nina Mangiola

[1] All sources were consulted between June 21st and June 25th, 2020.

Richemond-Barak, Daphné, “Can Self-Regulation Work? Lessons from the Private Security and Military Industry”, Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 35, No. 7, 2014, p. 778:

[2] Cameron, Lindsey and Vinet Chetail, “Privatizing War: Private Military and Security Companies Under Public International Law, Chapter 5: The Implementation of responsibility arising from violations of international law by PMSCs”, Cambridge University Press, 07/03/2013, p. 574:

[3] White, Nigel, “From Sandline to Bottom Line: The Regulation of PMSCs in the UK”, Oxford Research Group, 05/06/2017:

[4] De Nevers, Renée, “The Effectiveness of Self-Regulation by the Private Military and Security Industry”, Journal of Public Policy, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2010, p. 225:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Richemond-Barak, Daphné, “Can Self-Regulation Work? Lessons from the Private Security and Military Industry”, Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 35, No. 7, 2014, p. 786:

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 789.

[10] Rosemann, Nils, “Code of Conduct: Tool for Self-Regulation for Private Military and Security Companies”, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Occasional Paper: No. 15, 2008, p. 23:

[11] “DynCorp International Hotline for online reporting”, DynCorp International: Ethics Connection, 2020: