The standards, therefore, will create enforcement and oversight mechanisms to do just that. The first standard will be a management system to help companies organize their house in a way to achieve the goals of the code of conduct. The second part is a conformity assessment and auditing standard that supports companies in validating that they are fulfilling the code’s purpose.
As ASIS International develops the standards, it will invite all the countries represented at the Geneva signing to participate in creating the American standard. “It will not simply be an American-centric document,” Siegel said. “The idea is that the standard, from its very beginning, will be a standard that is useable in any country, anywhere in the world.”
Siegel said he expects the standards to be finished by the end of next year. “The Department of Defense really wants this done quickly,” he said. “They’re looking within a year to start holding people’s feet to the fire on this.” Within five years, ASIS International hopes to have the American standard accepted by the International Organization of Standardization, making it a truly international standard.
The code will probably operate along a carrot-and-stick approach, believes McNulty. Companies that sign up will be eligible to receive government contracts but will probably lose their ability to compete for contracts if they violate the code.
“I believe it will improve the quality and deliverance of services,” he said. “It’s a good initiative and it will deliver change.”
A human rights activist at the signing was optimistic about the code’s influence on private security companies. "This Code is a strong document and an important step in building an effective scheme for improving this industry's human rights performance," said Human Rights First's Devon Chaffee in a statement.
But the proof of the companies’ intent will be proven after the participants erect an enforcement mechanism to hold human rights violators accountable. "Its true value will depend on how it's enforced,” she said. “The Code's credibility will rest upon the ability of that mechanism to hold signatory companies to account."
Not all human rights advocates are convinced of the code’s worth.
"The international code of conduct is a good document, but it's just window dressing," José Luis Gómez del Prado, who heads the United Nations’ Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, told The Wall Street Journal in late October
. "We need a legally binding instrument. Because what is happening is very serious—it's the privatization of war."
The member who did not want to be named disagreed with the notion that private security industry as a whole is to blame for abuses that occurred in the past. Not all PSCs are the same, according to the member, who identified the differing operational records of companies working in the field, which reflect the differing professional standards they apply to their work.
PSC clients also have their own end of the bargain to uphold.
“I cannot emphasize enough the leverage that clients—many of whom are, directly or indirectly, government— already hold,” the member said. “They can have a huge impact on industry standards in this area by only contracting with quality companies.”
Picture by the U.S. Marine Corps/WikiMediaCommons