While the VPSHR were initially created to improve the management of the complex subject of safety in extractive business environments, they have proven to also be useful for a broad range of projects (large infrastructure, renewables, etc.). The VPSHR have proven to directly address human rights issues offering a useful tool guiding engagement with local stakeholders. Learn from Ksapa’s implementation of VPSHR to understand how the VPSHR helps to respect human rights in challenging environments.
What are the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPHSR)?
The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) is a set of guidelines aimed at promoting the protection of human rights while maintaining the security of operations in the extractive, energy, and other sectors operating in areas where there is a risk of violence or conflict.
The VPSHR were developed through a collaborative effort involving governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and companies. They were first established in 2000 based on a joint initiative by the United States, the United Kingdom, NGOs, and companies in the extractive industry. The principles are voluntary in nature, meaning that companies and governments are not legally obligated to follow them, but they are encouraged to do so.
The VPSHR provide guidance to companies and governments on how to assess and address the human rights risks associated with their operations. The principles emphasize the importance of conducting risk assessments, engaging with local communities and stakeholders, and providing adequate training and oversight to security personnel. The key principles of the VPSHR include:
- Risk Assessment: Conducting thorough assessments of the human rights risks associated with operations and developing strategies to mitigate those risks.
- Public Security Forces: Working with public security forces to ensure their operations are in line with human rights standards and providing training to improve their understanding of human rights.
- Private Security: Ensuring that private security personnel employed by companies adhere to human rights standards and receive appropriate training.
- Engagement with Stakeholders: Engaging with local communities, governments, and NGOs to understand their concerns, seek their input, and address grievances.
- Disclosure: Providing public information about efforts to implement the VPSHR and the impacts of operations on human rights.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: Regularly monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the principles to identify areas for improvement.
The VPSHR are intended to guide companies and governments in managing the complex challenges that arise in conflict-affected and high-risk areas, where security measures must be balanced with respect for human rights. By adopting and implementing the principles, companies and governments can demonstrate their commitment to upholding human rights and contribute to sustainable development in these regions.
Are VPSHR accessible to non-extractive companies?
The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) are accessible (and very pertinent) to non-extractive companies as well. Although the principles were initially developed in the context of the extractive industry, they are not limited to that sector. The VPSHR can be applied to any industry or sector operating in areas where there is a risk of violence or conflict. At Ksapa, we for instance implemented the VPSHR working on a large dam infrastructure project in Africa.
The principles were designed to address the challenges of maintaining security while upholding human rights in such environments. They provide a framework and best practices that companies can follow to assess risks, engage with stakeholders, and ensure the protection of human rights throughout their operations.
Many non-extractive companies have recognized the relevance and value of the VPSHR in guiding their own security and human rights practices. They have voluntarily adopted and implemented these principles to demonstrate their commitment to respecting human rights and managing security risks responsibly.
Non-extractive companies that operate in conflict-affected or high-risk areas can enhance their understanding of human rights risks, engage with local communities and stakeholders, and establish measures to protect the rights and well-being of individuals impacted by their operations by applying the VPSHR.
It is worth noting that while the VPSHR are voluntary, they represent a widely recognized and respected framework for managing security and human rights challenges. Adhering to these principles can help companies demonstrate good corporate citizenship, build trust with local communities, mitigate risks, and contribute to sustainable development in the regions where they operate.
Principles applying the VPSHR working building a large dam infrastructure project in Africa
Ksapa supported the implementation of the VPHSR to a large dam project in Africa. We applied several key principles to guide the process. This was necessary considering the complex territorial environment. Of course, the construction of a large infrastructure generates a great number of questions and concerns:
- Risk Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify and understand potential human rights risks and impacts associated with the dam project. This assessment should consider factors such as displacement of communities, impacts on livelihoods, access to water, and potential conflicts arising from the project.
- Engagement with Stakeholders: Engage with local communities, indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders who may be affected by the dam project. Seek their input, address their concerns, and involve them in decision-making processes regarding the project’s design, implementation, and mitigation measures.
- Human Rights Training: Provide training to project personnel, including security forces and private security personnel, on human rights standards, community engagement, and conflict resolution. This training should promote the understanding and respect for human rights throughout all stages of the project.
- Security Arrangements: Develop security arrangements that prioritize the protection of human rights and ensure that security personnel employed or contracted by the project adhere to the VPSHR. Security measures should be proportional, respectful, and focused on the safety of individuals while avoiding unnecessary use of force or human rights abuses.
- Grievance Mechanisms: Establish accessible and effective grievance mechanisms to allow affected communities and individuals to raise concerns, provide feedback, and seek redress for any negative impacts resulting from the dam project. Ensure that these mechanisms are culturally appropriate, transparent, and independent.
- Transparency and Disclosure: Provide accurate and timely information about the dam project’s impacts, benefits, and mitigation measures to affected communities, stakeholders, and the public. Foster transparency and accountability through regular reporting on the project’s progress, environmental and social impacts, and adherence to the VPSHR.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: Implement robust monitoring and evaluation processes to assess the effectiveness of measures taken to address human rights risks and impacts. Regularly review and update these measures based on the findings to continuously improve the project’s performance and ensure the protection of human rights.
It was essential to adapt and tailor these principles to the specific context and challenges of the dam project in Africa. Collaboration with local communities, civil society organizations, and relevant authorities is crucial for effective implementation. It ensures the project respects human rights, promotes sustainable development, and contributes positively to the well-being of affected communities. Ksapa stands at the ready to share methodology and expertise to ensure businesses and investors alike respect human rights across their projects and programs.