Australia has announced that it is to join Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Colombia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States as a government participant in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

The Voluntary Principles are supported by participating governments, and a number of NGOs with over 20 companies signed on, mainly major oil companies and senior mining companies.

The Voluntary Principles were established by a small, but growing group of governments, companies and NGOs in 2002 to help extractive industries maintain the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that ensures respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and international humanitarian law.

The Voluntary Principles are, not surprisingly, voluntary and nonbinding, providing practical methods to assist oil, gas, and mining companies with:

  • Comprehensive assessment of human rights risks associated with security, with a particular focus on complicity.
  • Plans for engaging appropriately with public and private security in conflict-prone areas.
  • Proactive human rights screenings of and training for public and private security forces.
  • Policies regarding when the use of force is proportional and lawful.
  • Systems for reporting and investigating allegations of human rights abuses.

In 2012, the Government of Canada hosted the Annual Plenary Meeting at which members exchange views and experiences on the issues and promote their aims. The 2012 plenary received reports on Angola, DRC, Ghana, Iraq, Libya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Peru, Tanzania and Yemen. Importantly, the 2012 plenary also approved the creation of a formal not-for-profit administrative organisation, the Voluntary Principles Association, to be based in the Hague, Netherlands.

Recognising that implementation of the Voluntary Principles can be challenging, particularly for those not part of the initiative, the International Finance Corporation, International Council on Mining and Metals, IPIECA (the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues), and the International Committee of the Red Cross have jointly published a set of implementation guidance tools.

View an interactive PDF on the Voluntary Principles of Security and Human Rights: Implementation.