Voluntary Principles Participants Gather for Annual Plenary Meeting

Foley Hoag’s CSR practice serves as the Secretariat for the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (the "Voluntary Principles”).  The Voluntary Principles, a tripartite multi-stakeholder initiative established in 2000, provide guidance to companies in extractive industries on maintaining the safety and security of their operations within a framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Voluntary Principles urge companies to

recognize a commitment to act in a manner consistent with the laws of the countries in which they are present, to be mindful of the highest applicable international standards, and to promote the observance of applicable international law enforcement principles.

This week, Voluntary Principles participants gathered in Washington, D.C., for the two-day Annual Plenary Meeting.  The meeting was hosted by the U.S. State Department, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered remarks to the attendees. 

The press release copied below provides more details on this annual event.   

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Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Focus on Promotion of Human Rights and Increasing Total Number of Participants

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Participants in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (the "Voluntary Principles") have gathered in Washington, D.C., this week for the two-day Annual Plenary Meeting. 

Since their inception, the Voluntary Principles have been used by extractive companies to strengthen their capacity to address complex security and human rights issues in their operations around the world. Members of the Plenary include representatives from three pillars: governments, companies, and NGOs. There are currently seven member governments, eighteen companies, and nine NGOs participating in the initiative. This year, the Voluntary Principles are pleased to welcome Barrick Gold Corporation as a new corporate participant.

At the 2010 Annual Plenary Meeting, participants collectively adopted a vision to:

Strengthen the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights’ significance as a business and human rights best practice framework by: increasing our participants’ base, strengthening accountability, and actively promoting universal respect for human rights.

Consistent with this vision statement, during the past year, participants have focused on initiatives intended to promote the future growth of the framework, including the drafting of new entry criteria for governments, companies, and NGOs, as well as the creation of documents intended to facilitate outreach to potential participants in all three pillars. On March 21, 2011, to promote the Voluntary Principles with potential government participants, the U.S. State Department hosted an open house at which participants spoke with representatives of a number of interested governments regarding the benefits of joining the framework.

Participation in the initiative is voluntary. For questions on how to participate, contact the Secretariat at VoluntaryPrinciples@foleyhoag.com.  For more information about the VPs, visit www.voluntaryprinciples.org.

(Press Release, cont.)

Background on the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

The VPs provide guidance to extractive companies on ensuring the safety of their personnel and the security of their installations in insecure environments while also respecting human rights. The initiative provides practical guidance to companies on how to do this:

  • Conduct a comprehensive assessment of human rights risks associated with security, with a particular focus on complicity.
  • Institute proactive human rights screenings of and trainings for public and private security forces.
  • Ensure that the use of force is proportional and lawful.
  • Develop systems for reporting and investigating allegations of human rights abuses.

By ensuring that human rights are upheld, the VPs aim to mitigate potential tensions between extractive companies and the communities within which they work. They were established in 2000 by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the U.S. Department of State.

The Corporate Social Responsibility practice of Foley Hoag LLP serves as the Secretariat for the Voluntary Principles.  For more information, visit www.voluntaryprinciples.org.

Governments:

Canada

Colombia

The Netherlands

Norway

Switzerland

United Kingdom

United States

Corporations:

Anglo American

AngloGold Ashanti

Barrick Gold Corporation

BG Group

BHP Billiton

BP

Chevron

ConocoPhillips

ExxonMobil

Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold

Hess Corporation

Marathon Oil

Newmont Mining Corporation

Occidental Petroleum Corporation

Rio Tinto

Shell

Statoil

Talisman Energy

NGOs:

Amnesty International

The Fund for Peace

Human Rights First

Human Rights Watch

IKV Pax Christi

International Alert

Oxfam

Pact

Search for Common Ground

Observers:

International Committee of the Red Cross

International Council on Mining & Metals

International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association

 

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