In recent weeks, Maritime Security Review has heard from a number of our readers who are confused about what legislation they have to comply with, what licences they need and where to go for accreditation
It has long since been maligned by many in shipping that the international nature of the industry, coupled with a lack of harmonisation or unification of different Nations requirements, makes it a confusing sphere.
It seems that this may have finally been simplified for all by a team at the University of Denver. The Sié Center at the University of Denver and Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces recently released the Private Security Monitor web portal, psm.du.edu.
The Sié Center advances scholarship on emerging issues in international affairs. Through its research and activities, the Center aims to promote understanding of the world’s most serious challenges and support efforts to manage them. The Private Security Monitor is part of its program on Security Governance.
The Private Security Monitor was designed to gather all of the publicly available regulation, data, reports and analysis of private military and security services. Although it covers the whole spectrum of security, there is Maritime Security content and plans to expand on it if the interest and funding is there to support it.
Maritime Security Review interviewed the Sié Center Director, Deborah Avant, for some insight into what this portal could mean for Maritime Security Professionals.
1) What was the driving force for developing the Private Security Monitor web portal and what are the Centre’s principal objectives?
The idea for the Private Security Monitor grew out of a 2011 workshop I hosted at University of California Irvine, part of an on-going collaboration with the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). At this workshop, participants from governments, international organizations, civil society groups, and industry focused enhancing transparency around private military and security services. Participants seized upon the idea of building a centralized, online information portal specific to these services and agreed that academic institutions were well-poised to undertake this project. When I was offered a position directing the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at University of Denver’s Korbel School, this became our first major project.
We launched the “Private Security Monitor” publicly in August. The web portal, located at psm.du.edu, provides an annotated guide to regulation, data and analysis of private military and security services. It is a one-stop source for public information on the worldwide use of these services and thus a resource for governments, policy-makers, activists, journalists, and researchers.
2) How has the portal been received so far and what plans do you have for future developments?
The Private Security Monitor has been well-received, with 8,000 visitors just after the site launched. The Private Security Monitor has also been listed on other important resources sites, including the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and website of the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries.
Our current focus is further developing the National Regulations pages of the web portal. Together with DCAF and the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, the Sié Center is conducting a survey of national legislation relevant to private military and security services. The results of this comprehensive study and analysis of national legislation will be made publically available on the Private Security Monitor website. The results of the survey will also inform the report of the Working Group to the 25th session of the Human Rights Council in 2013.
In the future, we may expand the site to include a dedicated maritime security section. At this time and for the first iteration of the site, we placed maritime laws, regulations and reports under the country that issued the law or entity that wrote the report.
We may also create a section with information about judicial proceedings in U.S. courts – and eventually other courts as well – that involve private security companies and personnel. In response to the oft-repeated criticism that private security providers operate outside the law, there is a need for public and transparent tracking of legal action taken vis-à-vis private security companies and personnel.
3) Who accesses the portal and what forms of interaction and feedback do you have from users?
The primary users of the Private Security Monitor are researchers, regulators, and members of the private military and security industry. The Private Security Monitor is meant to encourage discussion among those interested in the private military and security services and transparency in how these companies operate. We hope that those who use the site send us comments and documents so that our online collection can improve and expand. We have already received documents from some users, including additions to our National Regulations section. Oceans Beyond Piracy, a non-profit organization operating in the Denver-metro area, has also shared with us documents concerning the use of private, armed guards to deter and defend against pirate attacks.
Anyone can send comments and documents to us using the online feedback form or via email to email@example.com. In addition to feedback, we also welcome collaboration with other groups interested in particular projects that will enhance transparency surrounding private military and security services.
4) Is there a charge for using the portal?
The portal is free of charge and will remain that way. We want to make it easier for people to access information about the industry and charging a fee would subvert this aim.
5) What sources of funding have you tapped into for this project?
The Private Security Monitor has been developed with the generous support of the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. The continued support of the Sié Center (along with the energy of MA and PhD students at the Korbel School) will keep the Private Security Monitor continually updated and maintained.
DCAF has contributed its expertise to the development of the site and DCAF will continue to be an active partner and contributor to the Private Security Monitor. DCAF will also continue to partner with the Sié Chéou-Kang Center to hold annual workshops exploring developments in governance of the private security sector.
We hope to tap into additional funding from a range of governmental, foundation, and other sources for particular projects in the future.
6) What are the principal benefits for MSR readers and how would you suggest that they use the portal?
There are many useful documents for maritime security providers on the Private Security Monitor site. There is a dedicated IMO section with links to all IMO guidance; a list of leading industry associations and links to industry association reports on the use of privately armed guards aboard ships; organized by country, regulations relevant to the use of private armed guards and carriage of armaments aboard ships; and standards related to the hiring, vetting and training of private security service providers.
Users can scroll through the site to learn about the variety of regulations and regulatory efforts contained therein. They could also search documents according to issue area, document type, geographical area, year or keyword. There is a quick search tab on each substantive page and a more comprehensive search page that can be accessed from the top navigation bar.
We suggest that people visit the site often because it is constantly updated, with new information added daily. Again, it is located at psm.du.edu, and we can be reached with questions about the site at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maritime Security Review would like to thank Deborah for answering our questions, and all at The University of Denver for all their hard work in developing and maintaining the portal.
Image copyright of The University of Denver.