The use of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) in conflict zones worldwide increased significantly in the past two decades. Some estimates suggest that the global market for mercenaries and PMCs is around $100 billion and is set to rise in the future. Most private military companies are from the US, UK, and Russia. The use of private military companies attracted global attention during the Iraq war and Russia's use of little green man during the Crimea annexation in 2014. In recent years, their services sort extensively by many African nations. Some of the well-known private military companies are Wagner group (Russia), Academy (Previously Blackwater, USA), Define Internacional (Peru), Aegis Defense Services (UK), etc.,
Countries are increasingly seeking private military companies' services to reach their military objectives in conflicts zones in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan. Using private military companies gives leverage for countries to avoid the democratic institutions' scrutiny of states' actions, the international backlash against operations in other sovereign nations, deny states involvement, and cut down the military expenses in the long run. Some African countries with low-skilled and equipped militaries are hiring private military companies to fight insurgency and, in some cases, overthrow the governments. Private Military Companies' services are not limited to fighting; they support intelligence gathering, training security forces, providing logistical support to militaries in conflict zones, aiding security for UN development work, and others.
PMCs and Mercenaries are mostly former elite military personnel with years or decades of battlefield experience. The difference is that mercenaries are individuals open for hiring by any entity seeking their services, and PMCs work for a registered company that acts as intermediaries between PMCs and the entities seeking their services. Mercenaries were deemed illegal under the 1989 "International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries." But Private Military Companies are legal and operate under the state laws where they are registered.
Most Private Military Companies' are operating in a legal grey area. In the last two decades, there have been several instances where PMCs were involved in killing innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. There were no explicit laws framed in private military companies registered countries to address the battlefield crimes conducted by PMCs in foreign countries. So far, the US, UK, and Russia, with most PMCs, were not interested in addressing the issue. The lack of repercussions for PMCs' extrajudicial killings would set a dangerous precedent for the future. With PMCs' increasing role in conflict zones worldwide, it is high time for the international community, especially PMCs registered countries, to support the UN code of conduct and operating framework for private military companies. Without a globally agreed framework for PMCs, the global community falls short of addressing scenarios such as what will happen when countries designate PMCs and companies as terrorist organizations; who is accountable for PMCs' war crimes; who will pay reparations to PMCs victims; the role of PMCs registered countries, etc.,