This exploratory study begins to describe the decentralized, ad hoc use of commercial security in these settings, in an attempt to provoke the further research and discussion needed before these questions can be adequately answered. Senior managers of organizations operating in humanitarian and postconflict settings currently lack understanding of the legal, reputational, operational and strategic risks associated with using commercial security. Analysis of these risks has been hindered by user embarrassment and sensitivity to negative publicity, concerns over proprietary information, users’ preference for focusing attention on state incapacity rather than private capacity, and users’ reticence to comment on peer groups.
The study involved forty-four interviews with senior officials, describing their organizations’ relations with commercial security providers. It deals with a wide variety of users and providers, while highlighting common themes and previously obscured fault lines.