The Observatory

An unregulated private security sector that develops under the radar screen of democratic oversight is a major challenge to security, development, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. Often the only source of information on the role and impacts of the private security industry comes from civil society organisations (CSOs). To fulfil this monitoring role more effectively, CSOs can benefit from cooperation, networking among each other, and sharing of information relating to private security regulation. In this way, efforts can be made more efficient and good practices can be shared. The development of an innovative platform which is aimed at enhancing CSO engagement in this field will promote more effective regulation of the private security industry. 


About the Private Security Governance Observatory


The Private Security Governance Observatory is a web based platform that seeks to support and enhance the organisational capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) in effective oversight of the private security industry. The Observatory assembles tools tailored to support CSOs’ role in the good governance of the private security sector.  Through promoting awareness raising, capacity building and sharing of information, the Private Security Governance Observatory aims to cultivate the exchange of ideas and reinforce CSO capacity in this field. Specifically this platform aims: 


  • To provide capacity building support for civil society and offer practical ways to increase engagement between CSOs;
  • Build a strong network and reinforce dialogue between CSOs so as to identify practical ways to improve and strengthen monitoring of the private security sectors in specific national contexts;
  • To provide a repository of knowledge on national, regional and international regulatory mechanisms; 
  • To increase awareness on the nature and challenges of private security regulation, as well as to promote security and human rights;
  • To encourage multi-stakeholder dialogue between governments, industry and CSOs.


The Private Security Governance Observatory has been developed in collaboration with various civil society organisations that share a concern for security and human rights, and are interested in promoting oversight and accountability of private security providers. 


Thematic Priorities


  • Private Security – nature of the industry in different national contexts;
  • Private security regulation;
  • Private security oversight and accountability;
  • Extractive industries;
  • Security & Human Rights.


The current CSO Network contains CSOs from Francophone West Africa. We intend to increase this network to include CSOs from Anglophone Africa countries. The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed forces (DCAF) is committed to supporting the key role of CSOs in providing oversight and accountability of the private security sector. As part of this effort, DCAF in partnership with a growing network of West-African based CSOs initiated this online Private Security Governance Observatory. The Private Security Governance Observatory will serve as a catalyst and tool that promotes good governance of the private security sector.

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at: info@private-security-observatory.org 
If you would like to join the CSO Network,




Terminology regarding Private Security Companies (PSCs)

A distinction can be drawn between private security companies (PSCs), largely responsible for the protection of goods and persons, and private military companies (PMCs) with a focus on tasks such as material and technical support to armed and security forces, strategic planning or training of those forces. However, this distinction is not always helpful due to the necessarily demand-driven nature of the industry which sees companies evolve in response to changing threats (such as piracy) or business opportunities such as increasing demand from specific clients (e.g. the extractives sector).  

It is important to recognise the definitional fluidity when defining PMCs and PSCs. The Private Security Governance Observatory’s main focus is on the regulation of private security companies (PSCs).