While the Swiss Processes and the Standards are the key international efforts surrounding the private security industry specifically, there are at least three other human rights initiatives relevant to private security companies.
The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights
Established in 2000, the Voluntary Principles (“VPs”) on Security and Human Rights:
provides [sic.] guidance to extractive companies on maintaining the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
As the name suggests, the VPs are voluntary, non-binding and aspirational. So far, eight governments and nine non-governmental organisations have issued official support of the VPs, and, most importantly, twenty-three companies in the extractive sector have signed on as participants. The principles are focused broadly on a range of issues relating to the operation of the extractive companies, which are often in areas of conflict and instability. They are broken into three general categories relating to “Risk Assessment,” “Interactions: Companies and Public Security,” and “Interactions: Companies and Private Security.” They provide valuable guidance for private security operating in protection of extractive sector clients.
The United Nations Global Compact
The UN Global Compact was launched in a speech by then Secretary-General Kofi Anan in 1999 and formally initiated in 2000. It:
is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.
There are now more than 10,000 participants, including over 7,000 businesses in 145 countries around the world – but very few are private security companies. Of the ten principles, most of which are extremely broad platitudes, only two address human rights in a fashion relevant to the private security industry, leading critics to question its capacity to provide any discernable enhancement to the accountability of private security companies.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are a set of thirty-one principles that the UN stipulates should govern the interplay of businesses with regard to human rights – regardless of whether applicable law actually imposes human rights obligations.
Conceptually, the Guiding Principles sit within a tripartite framework of “Respect, Protect, Remedy”. More specifically, the elements are:
“the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the need for more effective access to remedies.
While non-binding the Guiding Principles are increasingly informing the dialogue surrounding businesses that operate transnationally, including private security companies.
The fourth and final instalment in this series will address efforts to regulate mercenary activity and the (misguided and unsuccessful) attempt to lump private security companies into those efforts.