September 16, 2019
 In Articles

Topic: Private Military Contractors

Country: Japan

Committee: Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC)


Private Military Contractors are valuable tools of any nation’s defense for a multitude of reasons. Most notably, PMCs are often much more skilled and capable of completing missions than average soldiers. At the same time, contractors gain significant efficiency because many of the bureaucratic restraints and mandates placed on conventional military operations can be avoided by private entities. However, PMCs have a poor reputation for their behavior; Japan recalls the Nisour Square Massacre in 2007, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed without provocation by the US based PMC, Blackwater. Many PMC officers have been accused of making unseemly decisions, and even worse, it is increasingly difficult to hold them accountable. Without very much oversight, a government that employs a PMC may not even know much about the operation beyond its objectives. Furthermore, PMCs may not even be legal in many circumstances; a 2007 UN report stated that many PMCs are contracted as “security guards”, yet they conduct military like operations that are illegal under international law. The growing concern over the use of these private contractors deserves the full attention of the Disarmament and International Security Committee. The delegation of Japan hopes that we all can work both respectfully and cooperatively to resolve this issue.

Although there is some international regulation on the use of PMCs, it is outdated and very much in need of reform. Work on this issue largely began at the end of the second world war, when the International Convention on the Use of Mercenaries was ratified as a part of the Geneva Conventions. However, the convention fails to tackle the issue of PMCs because its definition of a “mercenary” is futile, especially considering the many developments in the field since that time. A UN convention on the topic in 1989 ran into the same problem- the lack of an adequate definition. In fact, under Article I, Subsection C of the 1989 convention, a mercenary is defined as “neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict,” which opens up countless numbers of loopholes for nations that desire to use PMCs. In 2008 though, the Montreux Document was created and has been signed by 56 countries since. The document highlights over seventy recommendations to states that hire PMCs and can serve as a framework for our work in DISEC. While the Montreux Document does provide some optimism, it is still non-binding and provides very little incentive for nations to follow its guidelines. 

The single largest issue with private military contractors is that there is a lack of definition for their role in conflicts. As an international community, the first thing we must do is return to square one and clearly define the circumstances under which PMCs can operate and the means by which they are allowed to do so. Due to the nature of how contractors operate, many of the solutions will involve the actual content of the contracts. Thus, we must also set guidelines for how contracts are delegated out by governments. Japan believes that companies who win military contracts should have to disclose previous missions, clients they have worked for, and background checks on their personnel and management. We encourage nations to seek references from previous clients that have contracted that specific PMC. Any PMC that has even one record of involvement in aca serious crime or has been rejected from a prior contract for poor behavior should not be permitted any further contracts. With this comes that countries should consider more than just price when choosing contractors. A sense of transparency is also indispensable in this process; there ought to be public disclosure of which companies are receiving these contracts and applicable reasons why. On the actual content of the contracts, PMCs should be contractually obliged to adhere to national and international law concerning their work. In addition, contracts should include standards of training, licensing, and use of equipment. They should also include a clause that requires contractors to cooperate with investigations in the case that an operation errs or violates the terms of contract. To monitor compliance with contractual agreements, DISEC should assemble a committee that can oversee certain aspects of PMCs’ operations. Although this committee could not punishment contractors in bad standing, it would have the power to make appropriate suggestions to contracting states as to how to deal with companies that do not adhere to their contract. These suggestions would likely include financial or criminal penalties, termination of contract, or a ban from receiving future contracts.

Bearing in mind the tragedies of Blackwater and other similar incidents, Japan is favorable to solutions that will prevent further unnecessary bloodshed. While we do not seek to end the use of PMCs, Japan hopes that we can create effective reform moving forward. In correcting the faults of our predecessors, it seems that are first task must be to create a comprehensive definition, and then see that are policy is implemented in a meaningful way.


  • Francis Allen