Over the last 12 years, governments, major multinational corporations, and non-governmental organizations have worked together to make sure that when 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 March 27-28, 2012, in Ottawa, the Government of Canada hosted the annual meeting of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, an initiative that provides human rights guidance to oil, mining, and gas companies in their engagement with public and private security providers. During the meeting, participants approved the creation of a formal non-profit organization for the initiative, based in The Hague, Netherlands. Along with the approval of governance rules in 2011, this transforms the Voluntary Principles from an ad hoc collaboration to a stable, structured initiative as it starts its second decade. This is a key step in cementing the relationship between governments, industry, and civil society in finding solutions to human rights problems that none could solve alone.
The Voluntary Principles initiative consists of 20 oil, mining, and gas companies; seven governments; and 10 non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In Ottawa, the Voluntary Principles welcomed the French oil and gas giant Total, S.A., as a new participant, and the International Finance Corporation and Democratic Control of Armed Forces, as observers. Participants discussed best practices and challenges on human rights and security issues, and strategies for engaging the governments of other countries where oil, gas, and mining companies are headquartered or operate. During the meeting, 13 participating companies led a conversation on the status of their pilot project to develop key performance indicators, which will guide and validate the ways that companies fulfill the commitments they make under the Voluntary Principles. These companies will integrate the indicators into their systems this year. This important step will help companies maintain high standards while they do business in these difficult areas of the world.