This article offers an analysis of the influence of the anti-mercenary norm on the United Nations’ use of services provided by private military and security companies (PMSCs). It follows a constructivist approach which focuses on violations of the anti-mercenary norm within the UN system and on the justifications and condemnations of these violations in official UN documents. The findings suggest that while the anti-mercenary norm is no longer puritanical, two key aspects of the norm—the lack of a proper cause and the lack of control—remain influential within the UN system. Although all parts of the UN system nowadays routinely use a wide variety of services of PMSCs and the UN Secretary-General officially sanctioned security outsourcing in 2011, the UN continues to insist that it is only using PMSCs as a last resort, when no other options are available. The continuing need to justify the use of PMSCs’ services suggests that this practice challenges both the long-established identity of the UN as a key anti-mercenary norm entrepreneur and its ontological security.
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