For decades, countries rich in oil, gas, or minerals have been cursed by conflict surrounding those resources. Companies in the extractive industries are often accused of complicity in violating human rights. For 11 years, the United States government has been part of a collaborative effort that brings governments, companies, and NGOs together to make sure that as companies extract resources in some of the most difficult places on earth, they take tangible steps to minimize the risk of human rights abuses in the surrounding communities.
On September 15-16, 2011 the Government of Canada hosted an extraordinary plenary meeting of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative in Ottawa. The State Department helped negotiate a consensus among 19 oil, gas and mining companies, seven governments, and 10 NGOs on a new core document that outlines the expectations of the initiative’s participants, and lays out a plan to pursue the creation of a legal entity for the initiative. These long overdue moves put the initiative on stable foundations for its second decade. Several participants also announced a pilot project to explore ways of verifying and guiding the ways that companies live up to the commitments they make. This will help companies maintain high standards while they do business in some of the toughest areas in the world.
The developments in the Voluntary Principles initiative are an example of this Administration’s practical approach to working in partnership with corporations, other governments, and civil society groups to start fixing human rights problems that none could solve alone.