Civil Society Issues Statement on Charter to Create Oversight Mechanism for PSCs

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image28645854The Initiative for Human Rights in Business was one among a number of civil society groups to sign on to a statement in response to a proposed charter for a multi-stakeholder governance and oversight mechanism to regulate implementation of a code of conduct for private security companies. (Insert link to statement.) The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICOC) is a set of human rights and humanitarian law standards detailing responsible service provision for the private security industry. Finalized in November 2010, currently 592 companies, to include a number of maritime security providers, from over 70 countries have signed the code. The ICOC process is a multi-stakeholder initiative, involving governments, companies, and civil society, convened by the Swiss government and facilitated by DCAF. The code details international human rights and humanitarian law standards for companies with regards to rules for the use of force, prohibitions on torture, human trafficking, forced and child labor, discrimination, and other human rights issues, as well as commitments regarding the management and governance of companies, including how they vet and train personnel and subcontractors, manage weapons, report incidents, and handle grievances.

The ICOC also set out a second phase of the process to establish a governance and oversight mechanism that would ensure implementation of the code standards by signatory companies through effective certification, monitoring, grievance, and reporting mechanisms. To that end a Temporary Steering Committee, with representation from the three stakeholder pillars, was created to draft a charter. The first charter was released in January 2012. Extensive public feedback on the charter resulted in more open and broader consultations, culminating over a year later in the release of a second draft charter, a set of Articles of Association for a multi-stakeholder oversight organization to be headquartered in Geneva. A conference will be held in Montreux, Switzerland from February 19-22 to finalize the Articles of Association. IHRIB will be participating.

In the statement (insert statement) the civil society signatories recognize the Association as a positive step towards increasing transparency and disclosure about the activities of the private security industry, holding security providers accountable for human rights violations, and providing one possible outlet to access remedy for victims of rights abuses. However, a number of concerns are raised that need to be addressed if the Association is going to be viewed as credible and legitimate by civil society. Broadly, civil society organizations want to ensure that voluntary regulation not replace governments’ responsibilities to create national and international regulations that allow for oversight of the industry and criminal and civil accountability for rights abuses,  as well as to provide judicial avenues for remedy for victims of rights violations.

More specifically, the civil society signatories are concerned that much of the language of the charter remains vague and underspecified, leaving much to be determined down the road by the Association’s Board and General Meeting with regards to certification, monitoring, reporting, and complaints mechanisms and the relationship between those mechanisms for purposes of determining company certification to the code. Civil society would like to see a credible third party complaints mechanism that goes beyond a corporate-level grievance mechanism, and that gives the Association the independence to decide on complaints, award reparations, and issue sanctions. Affected communities and civil society organizations in the Global South need to be consulted in the process of creating a grievance mechanism, and they must be brought into the Association more broadly. Civil society groups would like to see participating states commit to only hiring and allowing security companies to operate on their territories that are in compliance with the ICOC. Finally, concern was expressed that the Association maintain a credible level of independent oversight, and that the Secretariat be empowered to conduct field audits to ensure signatory companies’ are implementing the code and to address instances of non-compliance.

About the Author
John Richardson is the Co-Director of the Initiative for Human Rights in Business at the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law.