The International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA) held its Annual General Assembly meeting on October 8 in Geneva. The ICoCA, established in September 2013, governs and oversees implementation of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers and promotes the responsible provision of security services in line with the human rights and humanitarian law commitments laid out in the Code. As was the case at last year’s General Assembly, the Swiss-based multi-stakeholder initiative brought together its members from private security companies (PSCs), civil society organizations, and governments as well as observers to review the achievements of the previous year, discuss remaining challenges, and map next steps. Human Analytics participates as an observer to the ICoCA.
The Secretariat provided an Annual Report for 2014-2015 and addressed progress made to date in key areas. What follows are some highlights from the meeting. With regard to governance, the Secretariat has continued to grow in size and currently has a five person staff. Tasked with, among other things, administering the day to day business operations, overseeing the membership application process, administering the certification procedure, and providing support to the Board as it develops additional procedures, the Secretariat expects to add new staff when the monitoring and complaint procedures are completed. The ICoCA’s twelve member Board has created committees and working groups to assist it with its work, to include growing the size of the Article 12 Development Working Group, which is currently developing the monitoring, reporting and performance assessment procedure.
With the certification procedure recently completed and ANSI/ASIS PSC.1 recognized as the first national standard to serve as a basis for ICoCA certification, the Board is now focusing to monitoring adherence to the Code, one of the core functions of the ICoCA. With financial support from the U.S. government, as a first step the Article 12 Development Working Group is developing performance benchmarks based on the Code. The benchmarks will serve as objective criteria for assessing performance, shape the reporting requirements, and guide the Secretariat and Board’s efforts to monitor member companies remotely and in the field. A few industry members expressed concerns that any requirements under Article 12 must not be duplicative of steps already taken to gain certification to ANSI/ASIS PSC.1. If the time needed to develop the certification procedure is any indication, it will be awhile before stakeholders reach consensus on the procedure for monitoring, reporting, and performance assessment. From the perspective of many civil society organizations, this procedure is core to the ICoCA’s ability to assess the actual impact of security operations on local populations’ human rights. The complaint process will also prove essential to identifying negative human rights impacts, and the Board’s Complaint Process Development Working Group is currently undertaking a comparative study of existing complaints and grievance mechanisms to inform its work.
In addition, the ICoCA is currently piloting ICoCA certification and plans to develop guidelines to assist member PSCs through that process, in particular with regard to the additional human rights related information they must submit. The Board’s Certification Committee, with the new certification procedure and analytical matrix to assess new standards in hand, is completing its review of the maritime security standard ISO 28007-1. This is an important development for maritime security providers, who initially signed on the Code in large numbers. The next standard to be reviewed will be the new ISO 18788. The Secretariat indicated that since ISO 18788 builds on the already recognized ANSI/ASIS PSC.1, there is no reason to believe that the Board would not also recognize ISO 18788 in a time frame that would comport with the first certification bodies becoming accredited to certify to it.
Perhaps somewhat more unexpectedly, a proposal was made by a Swiss company to examine the suitability of the generic ISO 9001 quality management standard for certification to the ICoCA. The request is likely linked to Switzerland’s new law that requires membership in the ICoCA for companies based in Switzerland providing security services overseas or who support the provision of those services, as well as PSCs providing contracted security services to Swiss government agencies overseas and holding companies headquartered in Switzerland with control over PSCs operating overseas. The law’s expansive definition of security services does not match that of the Code which, among other things, has created some implementation challenges. The proposal met opposition, with some fearing that the ubiquitous ISO 9001 certification might result in a watering down of the Code’s requirements, as well as support, with some advocating a pragmatic, stepped entry into the ICoCA for both small and medium sized and non-U.S. and UK PSCs, for whom certification to ANSI/ASIS PSC.1 may not be as readily attainable. The Secretariat committed to examining the factual basis for concerns that certification to PSC.1, and ultimately ICoCA certification, is inaccessible to some PSCs interested in becoming members. The Secretariat stated that it does not want to exclude PSCs committed to the Code based on commercial considerations.
During break-out sessions of the individual pillars and observers, the industry pillar of the ICoCA voted in a new representative, and announced shortly thereafter that Pamela Hosein would join the Board. Ms. Hosein’s company is based in Trinidad & Tobago, and her election to the Board represents an important step in diversifying the Board to reflect the global make-up of member companies. One challenge identified during the meeting was broadening the ICoCA’s membership to include non-U.S. and UK companies. Currently, of the 88 member PSCs, 23 are home in the UK and 15 in the U.S. The remaining 50 PSCs are based in 29 different countries, with the UAE, Pakistan, and Cyprus being the only countries home to 5 or more member PSCs. However, the greatest growth in membership comes from PSCs headquartered outside of the U.S. and UK, and the Secretariat reported that two new applications are pending review and 34 are in process. An uptick in PSC membership should thus occur soon, as the application processing time has been reduced to two weeks.
The civil society pillar has also increased its global diversity, with the 13 civil society organizations at home on four different continents. Unfortunately, the government pillar’s six members (U.S., UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, and Norway) are less geographically diverse. However, there is hope that the recently established Montreux Document Forum, with its 52 governments who have expressed support for the Montreux Document, might serve as a conduit for involving more countries in the ICoCA. The Montreux Document Forum has established an ICoCA Working Group that will liaise with the ICoCA. On a positive note, five of the governments currently participating in the ICoCA recognize in some fashion the importance of adherence to the Code in their regulations and procurement policies. With the Secretariat’s efforts to reach out to other non-state clients of the industry, such as extractive companies via its plans to join the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights as an observer, one can expect continued growing interest among clients of the security industry in the verifiable provision of responsible security services.