State of Power 2021

Coercive World

Key bodies and legislation shaping our coercive world.

Private military and security companies

Industry lobby

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) is the trade association for the professional security industry in the UK. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has lobbied to recognize private security contractors as “key workers”.

The Security in Complex Environments Group (SCEG) is a trade association group of security and risk companies working on international standards for the private security and crisis management sector. It participates in UN sessions on the regulation of PMSC, advocating for non-binding instruments and third-party accreditations

The Confederation of European Security Services (COESS) represent local private security companies and is sponsored by G4S. It is shaping European policies related to private security.

The International Stability Operation Association (ISOA) is the lobbying association for the private security industry in the US. Its members include Blackwater USA, MPRI, Erinys, Armor Group, and other companies.

Industry standard-setting

ASIS is an industry-led standard setting body for the security sector. With funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, t works with national and international standards-setting organizations and industry representatives to develop voluntary standards and guidelines for security professionals.

Voluntary principles on Security and Human Rights is a soft-law mechanism originally created for the mining industry, but applied to industries in the security sector.

UN regulations

This position was created by the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly and ran until 2005

The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries (2005-Present) was created by the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly to examine the use of mercenaries and its impacts on human rights and the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.

The International Maritime Organization created the Intersessional Maritime Security and Piracy Working Group of the Maritime Safety Committee, which has approved Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) circulars on the use of private security personnel on board ships.

Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group to Consider an International Regulatory Framework for PMSC(2010-Present) drafted a Convention in 2011 but Member states didn’t agree on the content. The main PMSC’s exporters refused a binding instrument (US, Europe, etc). In September 2017 the Human Rights Council created a new Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working group to elaborate the content of an international regulatory framework relating to the activities of PMSCs.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime created in 2009 an open-ended intergovernmental expert group to study civilian private security services

Voluntary multistakeholder regulations

The Montreaux Document on international legal obligations and good practices for States related to operations of private military and security companies during armed conflict (2008) is a non-binding international regulatory framework that assigns responsibilities to governments based on International Humanitarian Law (IHL). It was the result of a joint initiative between Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and included representatives from governments, industry, and civil society. Currently, 57 State and 3 international organizations support this framework. In 2004 members of Montreux Document created the Montreux Document Forum (MDF) to advance its implementation.

ICoC is a multi-stakeholder initiative promoting human rights responsibilities of private security companies, particularly when operating in complex environments. It is currently supported by 7 States, 95 PMSC and 42 NGOs.


DCAF is a think tank based in Geneva that aims to promote good governance and reform of the security sector.

Source: Based on interviews with researchers at