Chicago Journal of International Law


In June 2015, the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations established by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and chaired by former East Timor President José Ramos-Horta, published its comprehensive review of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations. The Panel observed that it takes an average of six months from when a peacekeeping mission is authorized by the U.N. Security Council to when the mission is deployed. The Panel further explained that although rapid and effective deployment comes at a cost, responding more quickly saves lives and can avoid a larger, more costly response later. In its request for the Secretary-General to develop options for a new rapid-reaction capability, the Panel suggested evaluating the merits of having a small, standing U.N. force, transferring personnel and assets from other U.N. missions, and instituting national and regional standby arrangements. Each of these options, however, has been available for years, relies heavily on the political will of countries and regional organizations, and has not previously been sufficient to address the requirements of rapid deployment to new missions or crisis situations. This Article suggests that the U.N. also evaluate the potential use of private military and security companies (PMSCs) to serve as a U.N. rapid-reaction force. In short, the U.N. already relies heavily on PMSCs, it is legally permissible for PMSCs to be engaged in peacekeeping operations, PMSCs are well trained and equipped, and the U.N. could contract with PMSCs to hold a PMSC corporate entity and its employees to higher standards of conduct than country-supplied peacekeepers, who benefit from the privileges and immunities of the U.N. There have been numerous legal, moral, and practical objections raised to the potential use of PMSCs, which are considered in detail. The Article concludes, however, that given the U.N.’s urgent need for a reliable and sustainable rapid-reaction capability, this option could be considered alongside other proposals for reform.