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Stabilization in Turbulent Times

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Stabilization in Turbulent Times
Photo by Scott Fisher.

ISOA’s 2019 Summit followed a theme of advancing stabilization in turbulent times. Expert speakers and professional development sessions gave attendees valuable opportunities to engage issues in the field. The last day featured several panels connecting defense and foreign policy with Stability Operations.

ISOA boasts an array of member companies providing services and products including security contractors. Ray Randall, Director of Strategy at Mosaic Solutions and MSS Global, Kate Gorove, a Legal Advisor at State Department and Board Member for ICOCA, and Jim Lariviere, Senior Vice President for GardaWorld Federal Services, and Former President of ISOA, spoke on the need for Private Military Security Companies (PMSC) to sustain the highest standards of best practice in the field. The speakers highlighted the importance of credible certification as a PMSC. Certification from groups like the International Code of Conduct Association (ICOCA) ensures groups meet current best practice standards. Having the stamp of approval form ICOCA gives companies a significant advantage in competing for contracts.

It was noted that the ICOCA, led by governments, non-governmental and humanitarian organizations and the industry, provides oversight where there may be little or no direct state involvement. ICOCA certification shows prospective clients that your company is not operating in a legal and regulatory vacuum. Complaints filed by NGOs and other groups can lead to actual consequences that give its certification weight. The panel also discussed the problems of fraudulent or under credited certification. The time and money it takes to become a respected accreditation body gives associations such as ICOCA their legitimacy.

A later panel included Jeff Green, President of J.A. Green & Co., Defense Policy Consulting, Porter DeLaney, Founder of Kyle House Group, Development and State Department Consulting, and Daniel Runde, Senior Vice President and Director, Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The panel reviewed America’s foreign and defense policy in conjunction with stability operations and brought the discussion of PMSC’s and oversight full circle.

The second panel emphasized U.S. government funding as a looming concern. At the time of the ISOA 2019 Summit, the 2020 U.S. government appropriations process had ground to halt raising the possibility of a government shutdown after the new year. Later developments since our meeting, however, make that unlikely. One panelist urged that the United States must be prepared to compete with great power competitors such as China. Another stressed the need to direct more funding towards fragile states. Extreme poverty has fallen, but dangers remain in conflicted regions. Allocating additional funds towards Stability Operations will give these countries assistance to climb out of instability that poverty creates and reduce the need for expensive international responses to future conflict.

Finally, a panelist raised the issue of realities on the ground. Drawing on a long background with the developing world, the panelist argued that 70 out of 100 countries will show improvement leaving 30 fragile states to manage in the foreseeable future. Twenty of those countries are in Africa and run by small exploitive elites that make them especially volatile. At the same time, rapid population growth over the coming decade will stress governmental capacity and infrastructures in these states, creating new risks and conflicts. The panel emphasized that the aid community and Stability Operators need to work together to address these longer term problems.

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