Multi-stakeholder forum addresses standards for managing human rights risks in complex environments

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Human Analytics 9 APR event

Human Analytics’ Dr. Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt

Over 60 speakers and participants from private industry, the U.S. government, multilateral organizations, international NGO’s, professional associations, and business and human rights groups gathered in Washington, D.C. on April 9th  to attend the Managing Human Rights Risks in Complex Environments forum. The forum, co-sponsored by the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA), an international trade association focused on the stability support sector, and The Fund for Peace, a non-profit research and educational organization that works to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security, was hosted by Foley Hoag LLP and facilitated by Human Analytics LLC.

The purpose of the one-day forum was to provide updates of standard setting initiatives to address human rights risks associated with operating in complex environments. The event initiated with opening remarks from Gare Smith, Partner, Foley Hoag Corporate Social Responsibility Practice and Ado Machida, President, ISOA and the forum’s keynote address provided by James Kunder, Principle, Kunder/Reali Associates and Senior Fellow, German Marshall Fund and former Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Speakers at the forum represented a cross-section of professionals ranging from U.S. government (USG) officials, civil society, industry, humanitarian organizations, law firms, and professional associations, allowing for a multi-stakeholder dialogue reflecting a variety of experiences and perspectives on identifying and addressing risks linked to operations in complex environments.

The first panel, Governments as clients: Key human rights concerns from the perspective of state actors, featured perspectives from USG officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. The panel presented updates on USG efforts related to business and human rights, to include newly developed, or developing, mandated provisions in procurement rules for demonstrating contractor conformance with human rights and security standards. The panel also discussed the USG’s effort to develop a National Action Plan (NAP) on Responsible Business Conduct, to include recent and upcoming stakeholder consultation dialogues. One hoped for outcome of the NAP is greater horizontal policy coherence across USG agencies, i.e. a “whole of government” approach.

The second panel, Recent developments in standards for complex environments, provided background and highlighted updates and developments concerning the Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights (VPs), the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers (ICoC), the ANSI/ASIS PSC.1 Management System for Quality of Private Security Company Operations (PSC.1), and the draft international standard ISO 18788 Management System for Private Security Operations. Additionally, the panel addressed standards in the humanitarian space from the NGO and civil society perspective. Speakers agreed on the largely complementary nature of the respective standards, specifically that compliance with PSC.1 also necessitates conformity with the ICoC.   The speakers also recognized that security specific standards should incorporate the evolving normative consensus in the field of business and human rights, such as reflected in the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights.

The third panel, Ensuring the implementation of standards, featured perspectives from legal, management consulting, and auditing experts on human rights standards compliance. The underlying drivers for the creation of human rights and business standards, such as potential legal liabilities, were explored in detail. Speakers highlighted the necessary steps to prepare for and implement the internal management systems that build on the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle and not only allow for conformity with standards, but also foster continuous improvement. The panel concluded with a detailed review of the process for auditing and certifying private security company conformance to the PSC.1 standard. Speakers reassured the audience that they likely have more of the needed policies and procedures in place than they think, and that certification is a deliberate, but by no means an insurmountable achievement.

The fourth, and final panel, Due diligence in the field: case studies of standards implementation, utilized specific examples of how companies and non-profit humanitarian organizations have tackled challenges and opportunities related to implementing standards. Members of the panel also highlighted specific organizational approaches used to mitigate human rights risk in the field and headquarters. Speakers were in agreement on a number of items, including the value of community outreach and stakeholder engagement and the importance of third-party verification and reporting to – in the language of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights – “know and show” adherence to normative business and human right standards.

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