Transnational Business Governance through Standards and Codes of Conduct

Authored by: Rebecca De Winter-Schmitt

Routledge Handbook of Private Security Studies

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415729352
eBook ISBN: 9781315850986
Adobe ISBN:


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As the private security industry (PSI) experienced unprecedented growth with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a number of incidents implicating private military and security contractors in human rights violations revealed lacunae in the existing hard and soft law governance regimes. The abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison facility and the killing and wounding of civilians at Nisour Square were among the most tragic and iconic incidents of this period, and helped generate discussions at both the national and international levels about how best to regulate the PSI. When it came to addressing the human rights impacts of private security companies (PSCs), the new forms of business governance that emerged and gained relative momentum involved private actors, rather than the promulgation of hard law by states, namely an international code of conduct and management standards. The corporate social responsibility literature (e.g. Scherer and Palazzo 2011) attributes the preference for such (semi)privatized forms of governance to states being ‘unable or unwilling to regulate’. However, as this chapter argues in the PSI such initiatives were the result of deliberate decisions by key contracting and home states. This is not to imply that contracting, home, and territorial states did not promulgate new national laws and regulations during this period. They did, although to varying degrees. 1 Yet the majority of regulatory efforts of key contracting and home states, including the US, UK, Switzerland, Australia and Canada, centred on voluntary initiatives that involved businesses and other stakeholders.

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