Within the context of security and human rights, operating in a complex environment or conflict zone is difficult enough; operating in these same environments without specific technical tools or guidance is even harder for companies. Fortunately, earlier this month the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) took a concrete step to help companies mitigate these challenges with their release of the “Addressing Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments” Toolkit (http://www.securityhumanrightshub.org/sites/default/files/publications/DCAF-ICRC%20Toolkit.pdf ) and the establishment of a related publically-accessible website, The Security and Human Rights Knowledge Hub (http://www.securityhumanrightshub.org).
Though nearly all companies experienced in complex environment operations have pre-existing robust technical SOPs concerning security and safety provisions for their staff in host country programs, the addition of integrated security and human rights considerations and provisions is often absent or conducted on an ad hoc basis at the local level of operations. The ability of companies to draw from established norms and practices associated with security and human rights aligns with a growing corporate need as companies mature and apply their operational practices consistently in complex environments and conflict zones. This is precisely what these products help achieve.
While the Toolkit incorporates a number of key resources available for security and human rights planning and implementation, according to DCAF and the ICRC the intent of the Knowledge Hub online portal is to “bring together a much wider selection of resources related to security and human rights.”
The website contains several sections and is organized to present information in the following areas:
1. General Guidance
2. Stakeholder Engagement (covering engagement with host governments, communities and civil society)
3. Risk Assessment
4. Public Security Forces
5. Private Security Providers
6. Case Studies
7. The Toolkit
The website is publically available and users can sign up for a newsletter, check for updates within each area, or provide comments or input for each section, the latter being clearly encouraged.
Designed to “contribute to improving respect of human rights and international humanitarian law by companies operating in complex environments, while maintaining the safety and security of their operations,” the Toolkit is intentionally practical and geared for use by practitioners. Its substance is conveyed through easily referenced 29 identified security and human rights implementation challenges and correspondent best practices in several issue areas pertaining to host government and public security forces. Users can quickly search and locate relevant challenges through a user-friendly table listing of identified challenges with embedded hyperlinks to the specific section of interest. The Toolkit highlights challenges experienced by companies when engaging with host governments and public security in multiple different scenarios. Specific recommendations on how to address these challenges are based on the provisions of the Voluntary Principles (VPs), the VPs Implementation Guidance Tools, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs).
While the Toolkit’s self-described primary audience are companies facing security and human rights challenges in complex environments, there is also utility for civil society, host governments, and home governments to take under consideration. Though corporate staff and program mangers may find the identified challenges and best practices particularly useful and relevant in helping to guide their approach and coordination with host governments and public security forces at each level of operation, other stakeholders will find the references and guidelines equally valuable as they work with companies and host governments to introduce and/or strengthen the VPs and GPs within the national, regional, and local areas of operations.
Future Toolkit iterations will also benefit from the continued contributory local knowledge provided through civil society and other implementers’ field practices and experiences. In fact, the DFAC and ICRC authors specifically solicit input and feedback for the development of new guidance and tools and comments from practitioners through email at PPPs@dcaf.ch or through the Knowledge Hub’s “Comment” function found in each section of the site.
The Toolkit remains a living document and in 2015 a companion document “Working with private security providers” will be released and in 2016 a separate volume on “Working with communities” is scheduled for release.
Both products provide useful tools, knowledge, and techniques that have been identified and captured from previous security and human rights desk research and fieldwork conducted in Colombia, Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and will cover down upon many of the issues and challenges companies face when operating in like or similar environments.
All of us in the practice space of security and human rights can appreciate and applaud the efforts of the DCAF and ICRC for taking the initiative to provide these products and tools for the public’s use and look forward to their continued development in future iterations.