Skip to main content



Third Edition, Available in English, French, Spanish and Chinese

Click on the tabs below to access the language versions

A compendium of concrete good practices to security and human rights challenges aimed at companies, security providers, civil society, national regulators and other practitioners


1.3. Human rights concerns

a) Companies may find it difficult to address security and human rights related concerns and at the same time maintain their good relations with host government stakeholders.

Good Practices*

Develop a comprehensive human rights policy that is endorsed by senior management

Human rights policies for extractive companies should include as a minimum:

“An explicit commitment to respect all human rights which refers to international human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (OHCHR and UN Global Compact, 2011)

  • “Our commitment to respect human rights includes recognition of all internationally recognised human rights, in particular:  those contained in the International Bill of Human Rights  (which includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,  the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and  the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural  Rights); the International Labour Organisation’s Declaration on  Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work; and international humanitarian law, where applicable” (Anglo American, Human Rights Policy)

Provisions on labour/workplace rights such as:

  • “Barrick does not tolerate the use of child labour, prison labour, forcibly indentured labour, bonded labour, slavery or servitude, and adheres to the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Barrick does not tolerate discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, colour, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality or social origin, or harassment of individuals freely employed. Barrick recognizes and respects their freedom to join or refrain from joining legally authorized associations or organizations.” (Barrick, Human Rights Policy)

Provisions on security procedures such as:

  • “We will implement the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights as the foundation for our security arrangements in each country where we have an established and continuing presence. We will seek to understand the underlying context of potential and actual conflict situations and how we may either ease or exacerbate them through our actions, including our security arrangements. We will seek to ensure that personnel engaged in providing security services to our operations have been vetted against prior involvement in human rights abuses; are appropriately trained; use only proportionate force and work within appropriate rules for the use of force; respect human rights; and are respectful in their interactions with people. We will ensure that timely and accurate details of security related incidents are collected and reported both within Kosmos and to the appropriate authorities.” (Kosmos Energy, Human Rights Policy)

Provisions on community relations, such as:

  • “Repsol commits to respecting all the human rights of the people of the local communities in the areas where it operates and to establish the necessary mechanisms to ensure this, directly consulting them and taking the issue of language into account. If Repsol determines that it has caused or contributed to causing negative consequences for the human rights of local communities, it undertakes to repair them or contribute to their repair by legitimate means. Repsol particularly commits to respecting the human rights of people belonging to groups or populations that may be more vulnerable, such as indigenous people, women, national, ethnic, religious and linguistics minorities, children, disabled people and migrant workers and their families.” (Repsol, Respect for Human Rights Policy)
  • Commitments to indigenous peoples should further take account of and fully respect the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples.

Policy coherence across operations:

  • “We will apply this human rights Policy to our own business and to our relationships, including all Hydro wholly owned companies and our employees worldwide. For legal entities where Hydro holds directly or indirectly less than 100 percent of the voting rights, Hydro representatives in the boards of directors shall act in compliance with this Policy and seek to implement the ambitions of Hydro’s Human Rights Policy in the respective legal entity. The Policy also applies in our dealings with our suppliers, contractors and other business partners; and our interactions with governmental and non-governmental actors.” (Hydro, Human Rights Policy)

Policy coherence in the supply chain:

  • “We are committed to a strong and diverse supplier network which supports our goal of making a positive contribution in the communities where we do business. We expect contractors and suppliers to respect our voluntary commitments, Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, and Environment, Health and Safety, Social Responsibility and related policies.” (Hess, Human Rights Policy)

Policy coherence between the company departments:

  • “Cerrejón’s Human Rights Policy is aligned with the Cerrejón Way, the company’s Vision on Sustainable Development and other company policies, in particular Ethics, Social Labor Responsibility, and Health, Safety, Environment, and Communities. It is part of and contributes to the development of the Community Relations Plan, Cerrejón’s Mission, and the practice of Responsible Mining to which we are committed.” (Cerrejón, Human Rights Policy)

An extensive list of formal company policy statements explicitly referring to human rights can be found here:

Clearly set out the company’s human rights expectations from the start of the engagement with the host government

  • Refer to the host country’s relevant laws, highlighting the links between national legislation and the VPs, and refer to international human rights standards if the government has committed to those standards.
  • Refer to the company’s human rights policy and commitment to the VPs, and explain the need to uphold the group’s reputation. Articulate from a company perspective the relationship between the VPs and the need for effective and accountable national security institutions. Highlight links between the company’s concerns and areas of interest for the host government (e.g. well trained security forces).
  • Advocate for reform of domestic legislation that conflicts with international human rights standards, (IHRB: 42) appealing to the government’s self-interest in making conditions easier for responsible foreign investors.
  • Use language that resonates with host government actors. In certain situations, it may be better not to explicitly mention the VPs or human rights, but to find alternative ways of raising related issues, such as by referring to good policing practices or adherence to professional standards.
  • Acknowledge the government’s positive efforts on human rights, before suggesting improvements.

Incorporate clauses on human rights into investment agreements and commercial contracts with the host government

  • Include references to widely recognized standards such as the UN Guiding Principles, the VPs, the core ILO Conventions and the IFC Performance Standards.
  • “Ensure that agreements with the host government specify that land acquisition and resettlement be conducted in accordance with international standards.” (CSBP, Flashpoint Issue 2: 6)

Work with other stakeholders to raise security and human rights issues with the host government

  • Use stakeholder mapping to identify key interlocutors on security and human rights issues to work with (See Challenge 1.1.a.):
    • Work with other companies to jointly address issues of common concern with the authorities. At times, collaborative action can be more effective than individual companies approaching the government regarding security and human rights.
    • Work with civil society organisations. Civil society organisations can serve as valuable interlocutors or mediators to communicate with security forces, governments or host communities (IGTs: 18).
    • Work with home governments. Home governments can serve as valuable conduits to communicate expectations and to broach challenges with host governments (IGTs: 18). Contacts should be developed with home government departments and agencies with direct knowledge of and responsibility for security sector reform and governance issues (defence, international development, foreign affairs, etc.).
    • Engage with international financial institutions (e.g. World Bank or International Finance Corporation) that provide funding to host state actors in order to jointly promote sustainable investment, including security and human rights issues.
  • Establish or support an existing community security forum to jointly address VPs-related issues. It should include representatives from security stakeholders as well as traditional leaders and representatives from any groups impacted by current or future security arrangements. It could also be an effective venue for raising community security issues.
  • “Consider the formulation of an external stakeholder advisory panel.” This panel could help monitor and engage in dialogue with the government on security and human rights issues and identify good practice and innovative initiatives from other contexts. “The panel should include stakeholders with legitimacy in the eyes of the host government (e.g. former government leader, international statesperson, etc.).” (IGTs: 21) It should also include people that are familiar with the plight of vulnerable groups, such as women and indigenous peoples, when confronted by large business operations in their region.

Strengthen the role of other stakeholders

  • Strengthen the role and capacity of civil society. In particular, focus on strengthening skills that enhance human rights advocacy, data collection, monitoring and evaluation, drafting of policy proposals and reports.
  • Support public dissemination campaigns. Events, seminars, radio and printed media dissemination as well as an informative webpage in the local language can help build bridges between companies and concerned stakeholders at the local level on security and human rights issues linked to company operations. It is important to understand the local context to ascertain the best means of public outreach, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected areas. Different groups in a local community may require different and varied outreach strategies - in particular the most vulnerable and the illiterate. (See Challenge 4.1.b.)
  • Support efforts by other governments, civil society and international organisations to strengthen state institutions. (VPs: 5)
  • Identify ongoing initiatives to support capacity development for oversight mechanisms and independent bodies, including legislatures, judiciaries, ombuds institutions, national human rights institutions, anti-corruption commissions and independent security sector oversight bodies. Seek ways to contribute to these initiatives. (ITGNs: 6)

Marsad Security Sector Observatories

The Marsad security sector observatories are a series of websites that gather and present country specific information about national security sector governance (SSG) dynamics and security sector reform (SSR) initiatives. All websites are available in a national language and English or French and include relevant national and international news items, opinions and analyses, and reports on SSG related issues.

Setting up websites similar to the Marsad observatories can support the coordination of national security actors and could be a good platform to distribute relevant concepts and practices of the VPs. Marsad visitors are able to comment and discuss all published reports and analyses and propose their texts for publication by sending them to the Marsad editorial team.

Established Marsad security sector observatories include:

Marsad Egypt:

Marsad Libya:

Marsad Palestine:

Marsad Tunisia:

b) Companies may lose credibility if they are perceived as using their leverage with the host government more on commercial, taxation or security issues than on human rights concerns.  


Good Practices*

Use existing leverage to address human rights concerns, or seek ways to increase leverage

"'Leverage' over an entity (business, governmental or non-governmental) (...) may reflect one or more factors, such as:

a) Whether there is a degree of direct control by the enterprise over the entity;

b) The terms of contract between the enterprise and the entity;

c) The proportion of business the enterprise represents for the entity;

d) The ability of the enterprise to incentivise the entity to improve human rights performance in terms of future business, reputational advantage, capacity building assistance, etc.;

e) The benefits of working with the enterprise to the entity’s reputation and the harm to its reputation if that relationship is withdrawn;

f) The ability of the enterprise to incentivise other enterprises or organisations to improve their own human rights performance, including through business associations and multi-stakeholder initiatives;

g) The ability of the enterprise to engage local or central government in requiring improved human rights performance by the entity through the implementation of regulations, monitoring, sanctions, etc."

(UNIG: 49)

  • If the company lacks leverage, consider ways for the company to increase it. Leverage on human rights may be increased by, for example, offering capacity-building or other incentives to the relevant government entity, (GPs: 22) or at the time of reaching a new agreement with the host government.
  • Engage with other stakeholders (home governments, other companies, civil society, national human rights institutions and relevant multi-stakeholder initiatives) to raise security and human rights issues with the host government. (See Challenge 1.3.a.)

If it is not possible to effectively use the company’s leverage to mitigate the risk that human rights abuses continue, consider ending the relationship with the relevant entity if feasible, taking into account the potential adverse human rights impacts (GPs: 22)

* These good practices are not meant to be prescriptive. It is up to the user to evaluate whether they could be feasible, useful and appropriate to the local context in a specific situation on the ground.

1. Summary of the Colombia VPs Process Report. The full report is available at :

2. The CME’s recommendations are public and are meant to be used by companies in any sector. For more information on CME’s recommendations, please go to:

3. (Office of the Vice-President, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence of Colombia, National Human Rights and IHL Program, High Command of the Military Forces and Colombian Army, National Police, and Office for the Supervision of Private Security)


5. Business and Armed Non-State Actors – Dilemmas, Challenges and a Way Forward (Ben Miller, Dost Bardouille and Sarah Cechvala, 2014), p. 21.

6. Oil and Gas Sector Guide on Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (IHRB and Shift, 2013), p. 46.

7. Creating Shared Value (Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, 2011). Available online at:

8. Community Development Toolkit (ICMM, 2012), p. 23.