The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), in partnership with the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) organized a regional seminar entitled “The Use of the Force in Private Security Companies” on May 17, 2017 in Lima. This activity was carried out within the framework of the project entitled ‘Strengthening capacities for the effective and transparent management of small arms and ammunition in the private security sector’, which is funded by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The seminar was attended by representatives from various sectors in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru, such as governmental entities in charge of regulating private security, entrepreneurs within the sector, civil society and academia. The objective of this meeting was to present concepts and tools to enrich the debate and provide inputs to establish norms and policies in the field of the use of force in the provision of private security services. UNLIREC and DCAF held this event with a view to discussing this issue given the recurring news on the use of force and, in particular, the use of firearms by private security agents during and after working hours in the countries of the region, which pose challenges to citizen security.

Throughout the various working sessions, several aspects were discussed such as the international normative framework for the use of force and its flaws vis-à-vis private security, the limitations that private security companies are mandated to have on the use of force, the challenges and opportunities posed by the use of alternative devices such as the least lethal weapons used by security agents while on duty, as well as the various roles and responsibilities of governments and the private sector in regulating the use of force in this field.

During the seminar, the participants exchanged views and detailed their national experiences. There was consensus that aspects such as incident investigation, the continuous selection and evaluation of staff, training (theoretical and practical), working conditions, operational planning, equipment, supervision and monitoring during operations were some of the fundamental elements that must be taken into account to prevent the excess use of force by private security agents.

Since 2015, UNLIREC and DCAF have provided technical assistance to national authorities and security companies in these four countries of the region in order to support both the regulation of private security and the control of weapons in this sector by promoting standards, good practices and globally recognised initiatives such as the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC), the International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) and the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATGs).

UNLIREC supports States in strengthening public security and in implementing the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UN PoA 2001).