The world’s private security industry is likely to double in
size over the next five years, a leading European research group said Sept.
13, and called for rules to be rapidly put in place to regulate it.
Supporting claims that industry revenues will hit $200 billion (163
billion euros) in 2010, a member of the Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute (SIPRI) said the world had been taken largely unaware by the sector’s
As we’re now 2005 at $100 billion, I think this looks like a credible
if not a conservative estimate of the industry’s size and scope,”
said the researcher, Caroline Holmqvist.
She said that in the 1991 Gulf War, soldiers outnumbered security personnel
by 50 to one but that this ratio had dropped to 10 to one by 2004, a year after
the start of the war to oust former dictator Saddam Hussein.
”While it’s true the industry has grown tremendously with the war
and the occupation of Iraq, events there have also served to make visible a
global trend that was already underway,” Holmqvist said.
Private security firms have come under increasing criticism for human
rights abuses, like torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, destabilizing
weak states and emptying armies by offering soldiers lucrative contracts.
In the latest example of their influence, Baghdad’s airport,
the only viable way to travel in and out of Iraq, was closed for a day last
week over a pay dispute between a British security firm and the Iraqi government.
SIPRI director Alyson Bailes said that the role of the corporate sector in
war was growing and companies were now not only providing weapons but also “active
services” to forces on the front line as well as in peacetime.”
The business of defense, of war is big business,” she told European parliamentarians
and reporters, adding that these companies could affect the outcomes of conflicts.
Their current role, Bailes said, is “only the tip of an iceberg -- the
sharp and pointed bit.”
Holmqvist, author of a study on the sector entitled: “Private Security
Companies -- the Case for Regulation”, urged the European Union to use
its influence as an “international lawbuilder” to push for legislation.
She said the companies should be pushed to respect international law
and human rights, to be held accountable for their actions, and have their contracts
made more transparent.
”It’s an issue that is not likely to go away,” she said.
Holmqvist called on the EU, the United Nations and the African Union to act
quickly because “there’s a gap at present. There’s a kind
of window of opportunity.”
”There is insufficient regulation in many countries,” she went
on. “It’s a chance to actually look at the harmonization of new
laws rather than struggling to harmonize laws after they are in existence.”