Association for oversight of private security companies holds meeting to share successes and plan the road ahead
The International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA) held its Annual General Assembly meeting in London last week. The ICoCA was established last year to provide oversight and ensure implementation of the human rights and humanitarian law commitments laid out in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Services Providers (ICoC). The gathering brought together members from the multi-stakeholder organization’s three pillars – private security companies, governments, and civil society organizations – as well as independent observers. Human Analytics is a member of the observer pillar. The cross-section of leading security companies and industry stakeholders came together to learn about the ICoCA’s activities in the past year, objectives for the coming year, and progress made in developing key procedures essential for effective oversight and accountability, namely certification, reporting, and monitoring.
Much has been accomplished since the launch of the ICoCA. Executive Director Andy Orsmond recounted the many steps taken to put the ICoCA on a sound organizational footing, such as setting up the Secretariat in Geneva, establishing Board election procedures, which allowed for the election of a new Board chair and two new Board members, the development of membership requirements and an application process, and creating infrastructure and an information security policy. The latter is particularly important to member companies, who must include detailed information about their operations in their applications, and will soon be requested to share additional information as part of the regular reporting requirements, which are still being developed. Those companies want to know that their information is being preserved in a confidential and secure fashion.
Looking to next year, from the basis of a strong financial footing, the ICoCA has laid out ambitious objectives for itself. One of the top priorities is to complete development of the certification process, to include voting on certification procedures and the creation of a framework to assess various national and international standards to which security companies are currently being certified. PSC.1, shorthand for ANSI/ASIS PSC.1-2012: Management System for Quality of Private Security Company Operations, is the first national standard to be evaluated against the requirements of the ICoC. A maritime security standard, ISO/PAS 28007, is next in line. Recognizing that attaining certification is a phased process, the ICoCA will develop a means for companies to transition into full certification.
In addition to tackling certification procedures, the Board has set up a working group that is currently in the process of developing reporting criteria and monitoring protocols. As the ICoCA seeks to grow its membership and the observer pillar in the coming year to include reaching out to other industry stakeholders, including non-state clients, potential new members and supporters will no doubt be interested in understanding what certification, reporting, monitoring, and grievance procedures look like in practice. The intense discussion among attendees about evolving concept papers on these various procedures leaves no doubt that developing these procedures will require extensive negotiations and consultations. However, listening to the Secretariat staff and Board members, it is clear that they are forging common ground. It is to the credit of the ICoCA that it is carrying out these discussions in an open and transparent fashion.
Multi-stakeholder consensus building is never an easy process, but what comes out at the end will likely have greater legitimacy and credibility. As UN Business and Human Rights Working Group member Alexandra Guaqueta said in Geneva at the UN Forum the day before the Annual General Assembly, the ICoCA reflects a “new generation” of multi-stakeholder initiatives. She described it as being exemplary for its consultative nature, the solid technical work it is based on, its strong governance structure with greater accountability mechanisms, its solid membership with willing first movers, the high level of industry participation, and a built in incentive structure, with participating governments building adherence to the ICoC into procurement processes.
However, as other participants remarked, to move forward each pillar must be prepared to give a little and not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. The ICoCA will always be a work in progress.