Physical security is one of the many challenges Australian extractive companies face when operating overseas. It is essential that companies balance their legitimate need to protect their staff and facilities with the safeguarding of human rights in the local communities in which they are operating.
The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (the VPs) guide companies in meeting standards of conduct for the private security services in their employ and for the company’s engagement with public security forces.
The VPs can help a company to:
- maintain a social licence to operate;
- reduce production delays;
- mitigate litigation risk;
- enhance its corporate reputation, and
- access finance.
Not least, they support extractive companies in playing a unique role in the preservation of human rights. Testifying to their value, thirty of the world’s largest global extractive companies have signed up to the VPs, including a number of Australian companies.
DFAT is directly partnering with the Australian business community to implement the VPs. In 2016, the Australian Government joined five Australian companies as members of the Voluntary Principle’s Initiative (VPI) (the VP governance body). The Australian Government will chair the Initiative for one year from March 2020, providing a valuable opportunity to continue to strengthen the body’s relevance and performance.
Since 2018, DFAT has chaired a regular informal VPs working group in Australia with the Australian corporate members of the VPI. Within the Working Group, companies exchange experiences and innovations in implementing the Principles. Australia will host other meetings and events during Australia’s VPI chair year.
Offshore, Australia’s Embassies and High Commissions in Africa are also ready to assist Australian companies in implementing the VPs. Our missions can help source information for human rights risk assessments and provide advice on security conditions. For companies working in West Africa, country-level VP working groups currently operate in Ghana and Nigeria.
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