Humanitarian Assistance and the Private Security Debate: An International Humanitarian Law Perspective
ON THE EDGES OF CONFLICT, Ottawa: Canadian Red Cross, March 2008
33 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2008 Last revised: 17 Dec 2009
Date Written: December 11, 2008
The changing nature of armed conflict has had a dramatic impact on the security risks facing humanitarian personnel. Historically, the safety of humanitarian aid delivery was secured through the consent of the relevant Parties to the conflict. However, non-international ethnically-motivated armed conflicts, failed and failing states, and insurgency-based warfare have fundamentally challenged the viability of this traditional security paradigm. In confronting today's complex security climate, humanitarian organizations are faced with a diverse menu of alternatives to enhance their security. The debate over armed protection that has sharply divided the humanitarian community is explored in this paper, including a critique of specific armed protection options. Tensions between the safe and efficient delivery of aid, and principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence are discussed. The implications of humanitarian organizations using private security companies for defensive armed protection have been relatively unexplored, particularly with respect to international humanitarian law. This paper aims to address this shortcoming by considering two threshold questions: is the protected status of humanitarian personnel under international humanitarian law suspended or lost if they use armed private security contractors; and, is humanitarian access to provide relief legally affected by the decision to hire a private security company for armed protection of relief consignments?
Keywords: International humanitarian law, private military contractors, private security contractors, humanitarian organizations
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation