Sorcha MacLeod

Sorcha MacLeod

Marie Curie Fellow

  • JUR- CEPRI - Centre for Private Governance

    Karen Blixens Plads 16, 2300 København S, Søndre Campus, Building: 6B.3.37

    Phone: +45 35 33 47 98

Dr Sorcha MacLeod is an Associate Professor and Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellow in the Centre for Private Governance (CEPRI) in the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen. She specialises in business, human rights and security, in particular the human rights impacts and regulation of Private Military and Security Companies. She holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow, UK, and an LLM in International Natural Resources Law and LLB (Hons) in Scots Law from the University of Dundee, UK.

Sorcha is an experienced teacher and postgraduate supervisor in international human rights law, business and human rights, private military and security companies, mercenaries and the privatisation of war. She joined CEPRI in October 2019 from Berlin, Germany where she taught at the Hertie School of Governance and Free University Berlin, including courses in: International Human Rights Law; Human Rights, Business and Gender; and Privatisation of War. Prior to that, she was a lecturer in international human rights law, public international law and international legal theory at the School of Law, University of Sheffield, UK. 

In July 2018 she was appointed for six years as an independent human rights expert to the United Nations Working Group on the use of Mercenaries under the Human Rights Council's Special Procedures. She is a Guest Lecturer at the Centre for Fundamental Rights, Hertie School of Governance and at the US-German Summer Law School in International and Comparative Law of the Justus Liebig University Giessen.

She is an invited expert to the UN Open-ended Inter-governmental Working Group on private military and security companies and participated in the drafting of the Montreux Document on private military and security companies and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers. She has Observer Status at the International Code of Conduct Association. She advises governments, industry and civil society organisations on business, human rights and security issues.

Current research

Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (3 years)

'RESpECT - Public Actions, Private Rules at the Margins: Ensuring Respect for Human Rights by Private Security Companies'

Research Objective

RESpECT is a three-year research project funded by the European Commission. The key research objective of RESpECT is to assess the effectiveness of current international and national regulatory and policy frameworks that deal with PSC-related human rights violations against marginalised groups, which could include women, children, LGBTI and migrants. RESpECT involves analysis of international and national regulatory frameworks as well as qualitative research.

Project description

Private Security Companies (PSCs) have a bad reputation, with well-known allegations of human rights abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other conflict zones. The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers, created to deal with these problems, merges public and private governance by using auditing to measure human rights compliance by PSCs. Nationally, States responded via public and private legislative and policy options to regulate PSCs operating in conflict zones including licensing, authorisation and contracts. However, there is a major problem with these regulatory regimes. The international market for security is expanding due to increased privatisation and outsourcing of public functions and services. PSCs are now offering international security services that are: (a) often in non-conflict zones; and (b) in areas that have been traditionally within the sole domain of the State e.g. prisons, immigration detention centres. Thus the current regulatory regime does not fit current needs.

It is not known or understood how effective these private governance approaches can be in ensuring public roles, in this case, safeguarding human rights for marginalised groups, in particular women, children and migrants. The objective of RESpECT is to assess the perceptions, understanding and effectiveness of current international and national regulatory and policy frameworks that deal with PSC-related human rights violations against marginalised groups, using desk-top normative analysis and social research methods to gather empirical data to provide new insights into the area. These insights in turn will generate outputs and alternative regulatory models to help policymakers, governments, PSCs, auditors, and civil society actors to understand and improve public and private regulatory frameworks for international PSCs with the aim of securing tangible benefits for those vulnerable and marginalised groups worst affected – women, children and migrants.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No.844999.

Primary fields of research

  • Private military and security companies
  • Privatisation of war
  • Mercenaries
  • Business and human rights
  • International human rights law
  • Human rights and gender

Selected publications

  1. Published

    Certifying Private Security Companies: Effectively Ensuring the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights?

    MacLeod, Sorcha & DeWinter-Schmitt, R., 2019, In : Business and Human Rights Journal. 4, 1, p. 55-77

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  2. Published
  3. Published
  4. Published

    Defining private security accountability

    MacLeod, Sorcha, 2017, Whose Responsibility?: Reflections on Accountability in private security governance . Klopfer, F. & Van Amstel, N. (eds.). Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingReport chapterResearch

  5. Published

    Regulating human rights in the context of outsourcing military logistics and armed security

    MacLeod, Sorcha, 2016, The Routledge Companion to Outsourcing Security: The Role of the Market in the 21st Century. Berndtsson, J. & Kinsey, C. (eds.). Routledge, p. 160-170 (Routledge Handbooks).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

  6. Published

    Private Security Companies and Shared Responsibility: The Turn to Multistakeholder Standard-Setting and Monitoring Through Self-Regulation-‘Plus’’

    MacLeod, Sorcha, 2015, In : Netherlands International Law Review. 62, 1

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  7. Published

    The Role of International Regulatory Initiatives on Business and Human Rights for Holding Private Military and Security Companies to Account

    MacLeod, Sorcha, 2011, War by Contract: Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, and Private Contractors . Francioni, F. & Ronzitti, N. (eds.). Oxford University Press, p. 343-361

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

  8. Published

    Stuck In The Middle With You? : Alternative Approaches To Realising Accountability For Human Rights Violations By Business

    MacLeod, Sorcha, 2010, International Law and Dispute Settlement: New Problems and Techniques. French, D., Saul, M. & White, N. (eds.). Hart Publishing, p. 87-107

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

  9. Published

    EU Operations And Private Military Contractors: Issues Of Corporate And Institutional Responsibility

    MacLeod, Sorcha & White, N., 2008, In : European Journal of International Law. 19 , 5, p. 965-988

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  10. Published

    The United Nations and Transnational Corporations: Challenging the International Legal Order

    MacLeod, Sorcha, 2008, The Future of Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives from Law and Regulatory Theory. Boeger, N., Murray, R. & Villiers, C. (eds.). Edward Elgar Publishing, p. 64-84 (Corporate Governance Series).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

  11. Published

    Reconciling Regulatory Approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility: The European Union, OECD and United Nations Compared

    MacLeod, Sorcha, 2007, In : European Public Law. 13, 4, p. 671-702

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  12. Published

    Global Governance and the Quest for Justice: Corporate Governance

    MacLeod, Sorcha (ed.), 2006, Hart Publishing.

    Research output: Book/ReportAnthologyResearchpeer-review

  13. Published

    Corporate Social Responsibility Within the European Union Framework

    MacLeod, Sorcha, 2005, In : Wisconsin International Law Journal. 23, p. 541-552

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  14. Published

    Transnational Corporations: Power, Influence and Responsibility

    MacLeod, Sorcha & Lewis, N. D., 2004, In : Global Social Policy. 4, 1, p. 77-98

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

ID: 227974195