Conference on Private Military Contractors in Latin America

The A.E. Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change

The Privatization of Security and Human Rights in The Americas: Perspectives from the Global South

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., Madison, Wisconsin
January 31-February 2, 2008

Listen to audio recordings here

Co-Sponsored by: Politics and Society, the NAVE fund, Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies (LACIS), Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy (WAGE), Global Studies, the Global Legal Studies Center, Wisconsin International Law Society (WILS), the Wisconsin Human Rights Initiative, and Community Action on Latin America (CALA).


Madison Group Research Network on PMSCs Statement of Purpose

Red Investigativa Madison sobre EPMs Declaración de Objetivos

Amada Benavides (español)

Amada Benavides (English)

James Cockayne (English)

José Gómez del Prado

Dan Kenney

Anna Kucia

Mauricio Lazala

Diana Murcia (español)

Antoine Perret (español)

Gualdemar Jiménez (powerpoint)

Lee Mira (powerpoint)



The conference is free and open to the public. Registration is requested (though not required), which can be done by sending an email to with your name and affiliation (optional) or call Kate McCoy at 608-262-1420.


  1. Background
  2. Guiding Questions
  3. Conference Format and Outcome
  4. Schedule
  5. Participant Bios

I. Background

In recent years, states around the world have loosened their claim to a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence, instead ceding increasing numbers of military, police, and security duties to the private sector. This global privatization of security has coincided with a marked rise in the number of companies stepping forward to fill the vacuum. Private military and security corporations (PMSCs) offer armed and unarmed services not only to transnational corporations seeking protection in unstable regions, but also to governments engaged in war or low level conflict, including extensive participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While most of the world’s leading PMSCs are based in the Global North, much of the work they are hired to do—either on the battlefield or the oilfield—takes place in the Global South. Increasingly, that work is also being carried out by recruits from Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

This expansion of private military and security companies raises a host of questions about what the privatization of security means for real people in terms of human security, human rights, and the democratic oversight of coercive forces. The concern that PMSCs are dangerously unregulated has started to become a matter of international public debate, as was echoed recently in the press when the PMSC Blackwater was expelled from Iraq for killing several civilians. While scholars have begun to address these issues (e.g. Avant 2005, Singer 2004), many basic questions remain regarding what types of PMSCs pose the most direct challenges to human rights and human security, how these challenges play out differently in different contexts, and how such issues could be most effectively addressed.

Scholars are not the only constituencies who have actively investigated these questions in recent years. Journalists, lawyers, NGO workers and public officials in countries where PMSCs operate have often raised the same questions from the grassroots. Some of these representatives of civil society have proposed systems of reform or oversight for countering the potentially negative effects of PMSCs. From 2006-2007, the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Rights of People to Self-Determination (Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights) conducted exploratory missions to different countries to evaluate whether the use of PMSCs in those countries posed threats to human rights, human security, and democratic governance. Of the five countries, four of them were Latin American: Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Honduras. Through these missions, the Working Group discovered that there were scholars throughout the region who expressed interest in forming a regional research network on security privatization. At the same time, in each of those countries there encountered non-academic experts on PMSCs whose experiences stand to greatly enrich academic debates.

This conference will bring together academics, civil society members and UN investigators to examine the consequences of security privatization and the possibilities for effective regulation of PMSCs. The conference will launch the creation of an international research network on PMSCs and Human Security, with a regional focus on the Western Hemisphere. A second conference is being planned for October 2008, to take place in Bogota, Colombia. It will be jointly hosted by the Javeriana University and the Externado University. Subsequent meetings will take place on an annual basis in different countries throughout the Americas.

This conference, and the network it aims to launch, are unique for several reasons. Given the relative newness of this topic, there is an urgent need to bring scholars together to define and formalize a research agenda on PMSCs. There is also clear interest among scholars throughout the region, as members of the UN Working Group discovered through their delegations. While a few academic institutions have begun to focus specifically on PMSCs (such as New York University’s Institute for International Law and Justice), this is only effort we know of to bring together academics, nationally based civil society representatives from a single region, and members of international governance organizations (UN) to examine the impact of security privatization on human rights, human security, and democratic governance. This combination of participants brings together national, regional, and transnational perspectives on PMSCs, all of which are necessary for understanding the different impacts of the industry and the potential for regulation. More specifically, this conference is a conscientious effort to bring together scholars and other informed parties from both the North and the South to discuss the varying effects of PMSCs in each of these contexts. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first conscious attempt to build a North-South research network on PMSCs. In addition to bringing together different geographic experiences, the combination of academic and non-academic participants draws upon empirical, theoretical, and applied perspectives. This will help to create a research network that is both scholarly, and grounded in current public debates.

II. Guiding Questions

The purpose of this conference is to bring together both scholarly and non-scholarly experts on PMSCs from throughout the Western Hemisphere in order to develop a research network on PMSCs and their implications for human rights and human security. To that end, three sets of questions will guide the conference: 1) identifying the implications of PMSCs for human rights and human security; 2) examining the different approaches to regulating or monitoring PMSCs; 3) setting a research agenda for the network. The first is aimed at identifying the ways in which PMSCs are problematic for human rights and human security, and the second focuses on potential solutions to these problems. Both of these will inform the subsequent discussion of the role of an international research network on PMSCs.

National and Regional Implications of Security Privatization for Human Rights, Human Security, and Democratic Governance.
i. What are the different national experiences of security privatization?
ii. How do these experiences affect human rights, human security, or democratic governance?
iii. What are the relevant differences between types of security privatization with regard to human rights, human security, and democratic governance on the ground in the Americas? (For example, are certain types of security privatization more in line with human rights than others? )
iv. Building on the above, is there a distinct regional experience of PMSCs?
v. What might these experiences imply for current and future scholarly research on PMSCs?

Regulation, Monitoring and other Approaches to PMSC Oversight
vi. What responses to PMSCs have emerged in different national contexts? How successful have they been? Who promoted these efforts? Have they had any unanticipated outcomes? What explains their success, failure, and/or unanticipated outcomes?
vii. What transnational efforts at PMSC oversight have emerged? How do proposals from different sectors (ie, the UN vs. industry advocacy organizations) address human rights and human security? What challenges do these transnational efforts face? How desirable are transnational efforts to establish oversight? What potential is there for successful transnational oversight, and what conditions would need to be in place to make it effective?
viii. Are there any implications of security privatization that have not yet been addressed at either the national or transnational level? If so, would such concerns lend themselves to some form of oversight? What type?
ix. What are the various social, political, legal, and economic implications of PMSC monitoring and/or regulation?
x. What are the implications of national and transnational attempts at regulation and oversight for current and future scholarly research on PMSCs?

Setting an Agenda for the Research Network
xi. What themes of scholarly interest emerge from the above questions?
xii. What gaps in our current understanding of PMSCs appear from the above questions?
xiii. Which of these gaps and themes might be fruitfully incorporated into the agenda of the research network?
xiv. How might non-academic experts inform the work of the research network in the future?
xv. How might the work produced by the research network be used to inform the decisions made by governments, NGOs, and the UN?

III. Conference Format and Outcome

The conference will begin on Thursday evening with a keynote panel posing the reasons why an international research network on this issue is needed at this point in time. The panel will be composed of a mix of academic and non-academic experts with an extensive background in this area. Among those we intend to invite for this panel are U.S. journalist Jeremy Scahill, Chairperson José Luís Gómez and Amada Benavides de Pérez of the UN Working Group on Mercenaries, Chilean Senator Alejandro Navarro, U.S. Political Scientist Deborah Avant, and Colombian Human Rights Lawyer Diana Murcia.

The remainder of the conference will consist of two parts. The first part will be open to the public and will consist of panels with question and answer sessions. The second part will be a workshop among participants to determine the future trajectory of the research network.

The first part will last from Friday morning until Saturday early afternoon. It will begin with a short panel on the current state of scholarly research of PMSCs. This is intended to both give some background to those in attendance, and raise questions early on about what direction the research network might take. The rest of Friday and Saturday morning will be devoted to exploring different national experiences of PMSCs, as well as efforts at regulation and oversight (see the section on “Guiding Questions”). Saturday afternoon will be an open discussion among participants on the ways in which the international research network could address some of the questions raised by the papers. Sunday morning will involve a workshop of the academic participants to formalize the agenda and future trajectory of the research network.

Prior to the conference, all academic participants will be commissioned to write papers on the implications of security privatization for human rights, human security, and democratic governance. These papers will provide a picture of the state of academic research in this area, which, in combination with the presentations of civil society representatives, will lay the groundwork for determining the future trajectory of the research network. In addition, compilations of these papers will be published in both English and Spanish. Papers presented in English will be compiled for a special plenary issue of Politics and Society, whereas Spanish-language papers will be compiled and published through the Externado University (Colombia).

The conference will also encourage public participation from both the University of Wisconsin and the broader public. Due to the heavy participation of PMSCs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is mounting public interest in this topic. We anticipate significant interest from both members of the general public, and from students and faculty interested in international law, international politics, Latin America, human rights, globalization, and war. On campus, we will publicize the conference through the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program, the Law School, the Global Studies Program, World Affairs and the Global Economy (WAGE), and relevant student groups. In the larger community, we will publicize the event through Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative, WORT community radio, and the various peace groups and Latin American solidarity organizations.



Thursday, January 31

6:30-8:00 pm—PMSCs and the work of the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and the Right to Self-Determination
José Luís Gómez del Prado—Private Military and Security Companies and Challenges to the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries
Amada Benavides—Examples and Trends of PMSC Activities in Latin America

Friday, February 1

8:30-9:00—Arrival and Welcome

Major Trends and Themes in Military and Security Privatization

9:00-9:45 Michael Likosky—Companies and Foreign Affairs

9:45-10:30 Patricia Arias—PMSCs and “Global Threats” post-9/11: The Puzzle of National vs. International Regulation

10:30-10:50 Break

Security Privatization Outside of War

10:50-11:35 Jorge Lee Mira—Modeling the Private Security System in Chile

11:35-12:20 Mauricio Lazala—PMSCs and their Impact on Human Rights Outside of War

12:20-1:05 Gualdemar Jimenez—Private Security vs. Citizen Security

1:05-2:20 Lunch

Military and Security Privatization in War and Conflict

2:20-3:05 Katherine McCoy—The Political Role of PMSCs in Different Armed Contexts

3:05-3:50 Antoine Perret—PMSCs and Plan Colombia

3:50-4:35 Anna Kucia—The Complex Relationship between PMSCs and Citizen Security: Some Insights from Colombia

4:35-5:00 Break

Case Studies of Local Challenges and Responses, Part I

5:00-5:45 Gabriel Prado—Private Security in Peru: The Case of Peruvian Security Contractors in Iraq

Saturday, February 2

Case Studies of Local Challenges and Responses, Part II

9:00-9:45 Diana Murcia—Multinational Private Security Companies in Colombia: The Case of Plan Colombia

9:45-10:30 Dan Kenney—US Grassroots Activism and PMSCs

10:30-10:45 Break

Approaches to Regulation and Oversight

10:45-11:30 James Cockayne—Taming the Dogs of War: The Strategic Logic of the Professionalization of PMSCs

11:30-12:15 Angelina Fisher—Private military and security contractors: moving towards a framework of governance

12:15-2:00 Lunch

2:00-5:00—Workshop for Participants

This session is dedicated to an intensive workshop among participants, and does not involve public presentations or question and answer periods. Attendees who have participated in the entire conference, and who have read the available conference materials, are invited to attend. However, their participation will be limited to listening, rather than actively participating in the workshop.



Participant Bios

Patricia Arias B.
is Assistant Director of the Security and Citizenship Program at the Latin American Social Science Center (FLACSO)-Chile. Degrees in Criminology from the Catholic University of Lovaine, Belgium and in Law from the University of Chile. Ms. Arias has held several government positions, including advisor to the Undersecretary of the Interior, the Ministry for National Women’s Service (SERNAM), and the Chilean National Police (carabineros). Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit for the Chilean National Police (2000-2005), head of the Research and Training Department of SERNAM, and analyst for the Public Security and Investigations Unit, among other posts. Researcher for the University of Chile’s Law School Foundation (1999-2001). Ms. Arias has participated in numerous empirical research projects on security, including: youth and the law, women in prison, sexual violence, and reform of the criminal justice system and its impact on imprisonment, among others. Ms. Arias has published in numerous books and journals, including: “The Construction of a Fearful Society: Crime and Punishment in Chile” in On the Margins of the Law: Insecurity and Violence in the Southern Cone (Buenos Aires: editorial Paidós, 2007); “The Challenge of Delinquency in Latin America: Diagnosis and Political Response” in Insecurity and Violence: Challenges for the Citizenry (Santiago: ed. FLACSO – URB-AL, 2007). “Citizen Security and Democracy: A Humanist Perspectiva” Special Publication for the Bicentenary, Nº 12. 2001, CED, Santiago. Editor of the Chilean Journal of Prison and Criminal Studies (la Revista de Estudios Criminológicos y Penitenciarios de Gendarmería de Chile), 2000-2004. (All titles translated here from the original Spanish.)

Amada Benavides de Pérez
is one of five members of the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination. President and Founder of the Schools for Peace Foundation (Colombia). National and international consultant in border affairs, border integration and development, human rights, peace culture, peaceful transformation of conflicts and youth leadership organization. Member of the Advisory Board of the Global Campaign for Peace Education, Hague Appeal for Peace.

James Cockayne
is an Associate at the International Peace Academy, where he co-manages the Coping with Crisis research and policy-development program. Involved in external research and policy development initiatives on the private security sector for the last 5 years, including the nascent Group on the Regulation of International Private Security (GRIPS), he has appeared on national broadcasters in the US and UK, and has published widely. Educated in Sydney, Oxford, Beijing and New York, James has extensive experience in international humanitarian and criminal law: he was Director of the Transnational Crime and Extradition Units in the Australian Attorney-General’s
Department, worked in war crimes trials at the ICTR and in Sierra Leone, and is Chair of the Editorial Committee of the Journal of International Criminal Justice. He has worked in private legal practice in Sydney and Paris. He was a Hauser Scholar at New York University School of Law, where he also won the Jerome Lipper Prize in International Legal Studies; and a University Medallist at the University of Sydney (LL.B. (Hons.), B.A. (Hons.).

Angelina Fisher
is the Program Director for the Institute for International Law and Justice (IILJ). She received her LL.M. in International Legal Studies from New York University School of Law in 2004 and her LL.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada in 2000. Prior to joining the IILJ, Angelina was a Helton Fellow at Human Rights First, focusing on U.S. and international law related to counterterrorism operations and national security policy and practice. In 2004-2005, Angelina was a Research Scholar at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law, where she was one of the primary researchers and authors of the reports, Torture by Proxy: International and Domestic Law Applicable to "Extraordinary Renditions," issued jointly by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York CHRGJ, and Beyond Guantanamo: Transfers to Torture One Year After Rasul v. Bush, issued by the CHRGJ. Angelina is also a co-author of Tortured Logic
Renditions to Justice, Extraordinary Rendition, and Human Rights Law. Before embarking on her human rights career, Angelina was an attorney at the New York law firm Shearman & Sterling, LLP.

José Luís Gómez del Prado is Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries. Former Senior Official of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), with over twenty years of experience in the UNHCHR.. Member of the U.N. Advisory Group of the Voluntary Fund for the I International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Collaborates as independent expert with the European Commission and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE). Has coordinated several UN investigation missions of gross human rights violations, such as the UN Commission of Experts of the Security Council on the Rwanda genocide, which laid the basis for the creation of the International Penal Tribunal on Rwanda (Arusha); the Mission of the UN Secretary-General’s Team and the Joint Mission of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire). Organizer and innovator of the UN Human Rights Advisory and Technical Cooperation Program, establishing field offices and elaborating cooperation programs in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Cambodia, Mongolia, Palestine, the Region of the Great Lakes of Africa, Romania and Georgia.

Dan Kenney is a founding member of the citizens’ group and of the Clearwater Project To Stop Blackwater. I am also co-coordinator of both organizations. Also co-coordinator of the DeKalb Interfaith Network for peace and Justice, and our sister organization the Central American Fund For Human Development that partners with NGOs in Nicaragua. I am also a fourth grade teacher. I was a founding member of the Illinois Coalition for Peace and Justice, a statewide network of over 100 Illinois peace and social justice groups. I am also a free-lance investigative journalist. I live and teach in DeKalb Illinois.

Anna Kucia
graduated in December 2007 in Political Science and International Public Law at the Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). During her studies she accumulated practical working experience in Ecuador (UNDP; Amnesty International) and Colombia (INDEPAZ). In her graduate thesis she examined the relation between the deployment of PMSCs in the context of “Plan Colombia” and the security of Colombian civilians. Currently she works as a Student Research Assistant at the Collaborative Research Center 700 “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood” at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Mauricio Lazala is currently Head of Latin America & Middle East and Senior Researcher for the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in London, UK. Mr. Lazala is an international lawyer with human rights experience in Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. He was previously a law clerk at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he worked at the Investigation Division of the Office of Chief Prosecutor. During 2002-3 Mauricio worked in Mexico for NGOs including the Mexican Commission for the Protection and Defence of Human Rights, and Espacios Alternativos, working on a microcredit program for low-income women in Oaxaca. He also lectured in a course on international human rights and humanitarian law at Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights. Previously in Israel, Mauricio was Outreach Coordinator at B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and worked as a researcher at the Public Committee against Torture in Israel. Mauricio was educated at Cambridge University (Law degree, Honours), where he was president of the Students’ Law Society of Wolfson College. He obtained his BA in Political Science and History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he co-founded the first human rights student organization in Israel. In 2001 he participated in the International Human Rights Exchange course at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is a scholar of the Cambridge Overseas Trust. His publications include "Solutions for the Israel-Palestine Conflict", published in Per Incuriam – Magazine of Cambridge University Law Society (2004). He is fluent in Spanish, English and Hebrew.

Jorge Lee Mira-Vice-President of the Security and Anti-delinquency Commission for the Chilean Chamber of Commerce. Security consultant for numerous corporations. Degrees in International Security from the National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies (2004) and in Disaster Control and Planning from the Army War Academy (2004) and in Citizen Security and Crime Policy from the University of the Republic (2002), and Public Policy Design in Security from the University of Chile. Received specialized business and security training in Spain and Switzerland. Professor of Risk Management at the Bernardo O’Higgins University from 1993-2007, teaching a course on Private Security and Risk Management. Speaker at numerous security-related conferences in Chile, Mexico, and Colombia.

Michael Likosky is a visiting law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches international law and international trade law. He is also a law professor on faculty at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Prof. Likosky holds a Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil.) degree in law from Oxford University and is an expert on security and public-private partnerships. He has published extensively. His most recent book is Law, Infrastructure and Human Rights, published by Cambridge University Press. Prior to coming to Wisconsin, Prof. Likosky was the Global Crystal Eastman Research Fellow at New York University.

Katherine McCoy is the conference organizer and a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. Winner of the 2005 Elise M. Boulding award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Peace, War, and Social Conflict. Ms. McCoy’s research interests include human rights, civil-military relations, globalization and social movements. She is the author of the article “Trained to Torture? The Human Rights Effects of Military Training at the U.S. Army School of the Americas” (Latin American Perspectives, 2005). She has lived and traveled throughout Latin America. In 2006 and 2007 she conducted extensive interviews in Colombia for her dissertation, which examines the role of Private Military and Security Corporations in the Americas. She is very pleased to help bring together such a diverse and fascinating group of speakers for this conference, and grateful to all the individuals and organizations that helped make this event possible.

Diana Milena Murcia– Human rights lawyer with degrees from the Nacional University of Colombia (2002 and 2005). Specialization in Criminal Legal Institutions. Currently Works as a a lawyer for the "José Alvear Restrepo" lawyers’ collective, a non-governmental human rights group based in Colombia. Since 2003, Ms. Murcia has investigated the implementation of US foreign policy toward Colombia, which relies significantly on private security companies. In February 2007, the Lawyers’ Collective launched a formal accusation against the PMC Dyncorp, through the framework of the People’s Permanent Tribunal-Colombia section. Ms. Murcia has been a core member of the Colombian working group on the use of mercenaries, which was formed in conjunction with the UN Working Group.

Antoine Perret -Currently I’m working with the University Externado de Colombia in Bogotá as junior professor and researcher. I have a licence (master’s equivalent) from the Graduate Institute of international Studies in Geneva, Switzerland where I specialized in the study of the United Nation Peace Operations. I recently completed a masters degree in International Affairs in the University Externado de Colombia. This masters is developed in collaboration with Columbia University, the School of International and Public Affairs of New York, the Science Politics Institute of Paris and the Center for International Studies and Research where I studied the phenomenon of mercenaries in Colombia.

Gabriel Prado is the head of Security and Citizenship (Seguridad y Convivencia Ciudadana) at the Institute for Legal Defense in Lima, Peru and author of numerous reports on citizen safety, crime, and violence in Peru. (Further information forthcoming.)

Victor Toledo is an historian and Director of the Center for Public Policy and Indigenous Rights in Santiago, Chile. He is also the co-coordinator of the Working Group on Latin American Indigenous Movements for CLACSO. Author of numerous reports on indigenous rights in the Americas, including “Prima Ratio: Mapuche Mobilization and Crime Policy: A Framework for Indigenous Politics in Chile, 1990-2007” (title translated from the original Spanish) in Revista Observatorio Social de America Latina- HYPERLINK "" t "_blank" OSAL N 22,CLACSO, Buenos Aires, September 2007.