Public Law Values in a Privatized World
89 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2006
Although domestic administrative law scholars have long debated privatization within the US, this debate has not confronted the growing phenomenon of privatization in the international realm or its impact on the values embodied in public international law. Yet, with both nation-states and international organizations increasingly privatizing foreign affairs functions, privatization is now as significant a phenomenon internationally as it is domestically. For example, states are turning to private actors to perform core military, foreign aid, and diplomatic functions. Military privatization entered the popular consciousness in 2004, when private contractors working for the US government abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The US is increasingly using private actors for logistical support to combat troops and to provide strategic planning and tactical advice. Other states, such as Sierra Leone, have used private contractors to engage in direct combat, and international organizations have weighed the possibilities of using private contractors to perform peacekeeping. In the foreign aid context, states and international organizations are entering into agreements with private non-profit and for-profit entities to deliver all forms of aid, including humanitarian relief, development assistance, and post-conflict reconstruction. Even diplomatic tasks such as peacekeeping negotiations are being undertaken by private actors.
In this Essay I suggest that the domestic U.S. administrative law literature may provide a useful set of responses to privatization that has been largely overlooked by international law scholars, policy-makers, and activists. In particular, I argue that possibilities for extending public law values inhere in the privatized relationship itself, particularly in the government contracts that are the very engine of privatization. Thus, the contracts governments enter into with non-state actors can include many provisions that would help to create both standards of behavior, performance benchmarks, and a means of providing some measure of public accountability. In this Essay, I outline nine such contractual provisions. Specifically, I suggest that contracts be drafted to: (1) explicitly extend relevant norms of public international law to private contractors, (2) specify training requirements, (3) provide for enhanced monitoring both within the government and by independent third-party monitors, (4) require accreditation, (5) establish clear performance benchmarks, (6) mandate self-evaluation by the contractors, (7) provide for governmental takeovers of failing contracts, (8) include opportunities for public participation in the contract negotiation process, and (9) enhance whistleblower protections and rights of third-party beneficiaries to enforce contractual terms. And while these provisions are not a panacea, they may be at least as effective as the relatively weak enforcement regime of public international law. At the same time, by considering the field of international privatization, I seek to open what I believe could be a fruitful dialogue between domestic administrative law scholars and international law scholars about possible responses.
Keywords: Privatization, Government Contracts, International Law
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation