Given that the security situation in Iraq had been deteriorating until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, ICoCA convened a panel of expert practitioners on March 3, 2020, to discuss ‘Ensuring Responsible Security Amidst Insecurity in Iraq’. The panel was comprised of Drew Weir, Managing Director of Erinys Iraq, an ICoCA Certified Member Company, Laith Shaanah, Regional Security Director, Iraq & Levant of General Electric International Inc. and Hasan Wahhab, Iraqi Human Rights Defenders and Activist Forum, Iraqi Al Amal Association, an ICoCA CSO Member organisation. A brief summary of the conversation is provided below, watch the full recording above.
The regulatory environment
Regulatory oversight of the private security sector is provided by the 2017 Private Security Companies Law, which includes several clauses referencing human rights. As Hasan Wahhab noted, however, human rights are not a high priority for the Iraqi government, which is starved of resources. Private security is also not currently high on the agenda of the international donor community, making funding for supporting sector oversight efforts hard to come by. Compounding these resource challenges, the political situation and recent violence against human rights defenders has deflected attention away from the private security sector, resulting in a monitoring gap.
The changing and challenging security landscape
Erinys Iraq have been operating in the country since 2003, back when the sector was essentially self-regulated. Drew Weir noted that there have been incredible developments to raise standards in the country since then, notably through the International Standard setting that ICoCA has provided followed by national legislation. The security situation, itself, has seen much change during this time, with periods of conflict and peace. The current situation is best characterised by heightened political insecurity compounded by civil discontent and anti-US sentiment. This insecurity effects operations, but Erinys as an ICoCA certified company puts respect for human rights and maintaining high international standards at the heart of their operations, which includes turning down business from clients who don’t.
Clients driving blind
GE similarly takes human rights seriously. As Laith Shanaah says, ‘It’s the right thing to do’. This ethos of doing the right thing percolates right through the company. GE requires all the companies that it does business with to be similarly driven to do the right thing. That’s why GE in Iraq only contracts ICoCA Members for its security provision. GE is not typical, however. It’s one of only a few multinational companies operating in the country that require high standards of their security providers. Drew commented that some clients simply don’t understand the implications of making decisions based on cost alone, equating security providers with a taxi service. And according to Laith, there are multinationals operating in the country who decide to turn a blind eye and look the other way when contracting security companies that conduct illegal practices such as not providing employment contracts, not paying social security payments and withholding salaries for up to a month. As Laith reflected, these multinationals wouldn’t allow these kinds of practices in their own company.
It’s incumbent on ICoCA, its Members and others to put the spotlight on these issues and encourage other multinational companies with operations in Iraq to only contract responsible security providers. At the end of the day, it’s their reputation and their share-price at risk.
Watch a recording of the webinar above.