“This regional consultation in Africa is of particular importance given that the region is becoming a key market for the security industry,” said Shaista Shameem, who currently heads the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries. “However, private military and security companies have remained largely unregulated, insufficiently monitored and rarely held accountable for the international crimes and human rights abuses they have committed,” Ms. Shameem added.Representatives of 25 African nations are participating in the meeting, which is the fourth of a series of five regional consultations that will end with the consultation with the Western European and Others Group in Geneva in April 2010. Over the course of two days, participants will share good practices and lessons learned on the monitoring and regulation of the activities of private military and security companies, particularly on the adoption of a possible draft convention regulating their activities. The Working Group “welcomes this opportunity to build on national experience in the continent to discuss general guidelines and principles for national and international regulation and oversight of the activities of private companies with the aim of encouraging the protection of human rights,” it stated.The five-member body, whose full title is the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, was established in 2005 by the now defunct UN Commission on Human Rights. It is composed of the following independent experts who serve in their personal capacities: Ms. Shaista Shameem (Chairperson-Rapporteur, Fiji), Ms. Najat al-Hajjaji (Libya), Ms. Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia), Mr. José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain), and Mr. Alexander Nikitin (Russia). 3 March 2010The United Nations today kicked off a two-day meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to discuss the presence and activities of mercenaries and private military and security companies in Africa.