Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights: Implementation Guidance Tools Developed

My friends at Lawyers for Better Business (L4BB) report on the development of new Implementation Guidance Tools (IGT) for the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. 
(From L4BB)

This was a collaborative project of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the oil and gas industry association IPIECA and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  It is  designed to help companies implement the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, issued more than a decade ago. The tools were designed with the extractive sector in mind, but could help companies in other sectors.

 (From Xan Rice, Nigeria begins amnesty for Niger Delta militants, The Guardian UK, Aug. 6, 2009 (Separatist rebels brandish weapons on the Escravros River in the Niger Delta. Photograph: Dave Clark/AFP/Getty Images))

The IGT starts from an acknowledgement that the Voluntary Principles are challenging, "especially when companies are working in areas of conflict or  weak governance. . . .  Implementation is especially challenging for companies looking to apply the VPs who are not part of the initiative, as they have limited opportunities to share in the exchange of experience that is part of participation in the VPs"  (IGT, 3).   The IGT are described as "non-prescriptive" written to provide "a range of different tools on which companies may draw, according to their individual needs and circumstances. (Ibid.).

The IGT is composed of four modules: stakeholder engagement, risk assessment, public security providers and private security providers (IGT, 5). The modules are meant to bridge the VPs to the newly endorsed Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework" proposed by UN Special Representative John Ruggie.  (IGT, 9). The Guiding Principle's provisions on the state duty to protect human rights are contained in the fist module (stakeholder engagement), the Guiding Principle's provisions on the corporate responsibility to respect human rights corresponds to the tools in the second module, and the remedial provisions of the Guiding principles find their tools in the third and fourth modules.  Each module includes its own set of tools, the use of which is guided by a matrix matching common questions and appropriate tools (IGT, 7).  Like the Guiding Principles developed under the Ruggie Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework, human rights are defined by reference to the International Bill of Rights (IGT, 8).
Toolkits like the IGT  have become an important link between the more abstract principles of law and governance principles and the practical needs of governments, business, civil society and individuals to implement these principles appropriately. What makes the new generation of toolkits that much more useful is the growing understanding of the need for coordination and coherence among the different but related overarching principles to  which these toolkits relate.  Markets in toolkits and human rights voluntary principles are useful--both for developing the most useful approaches and for providing product tailored to particular circumstances.  But the proliferation of principles and their related toolkits also suggest the possibility of abuse.  More importantly, they provide the possibility to fracture--that is, to move from a set of presumptions about the universality of underlying human rights norms and their vindication to one where human rights are understood as harmonized at a high level of generality, but become substantially distinct at the level of implementation. One begins to see this already, in the construction of corporate social responsibility with national or religious characteristics. Eventually, however, something more proactive, at least in the form of harmonization and convergence will have to be attempted if the promise of these toolkits as a generally applicable set of methods that can be used throughout a supply chain is to be realized. . 

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