The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) were drafted in 2000 by leading extractive industry companies, international non-governmental organisations, including International Alert, and the United States and United Kingdom governments. The VPSHR or “VPs” as they are sometimes known is a multi-stakeholder initiative in response to international concern that the security arrangements put in place for major projects and operations were, in some locations, increasing the risk of abuses against the rights of people and communities. While recognising that governments have the primary responsibility for protecting human rights, TAP wishes to advocate for and promote respect for human rights through the implementation of tools like the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. These provide guidance related to three activities: conducting risk assessments, working with public security, and working with private security.
Accordingly, International Alert completed the first phase of VPs training in January 2017. Close to 180 TAP, contractor, and public security officials have attended the training thus far. Nine training sessions were conducted over almost a one-year period. There were three stages of training during phase 1:
- The first stage was establishing further cognisance of the VPSHR among TAP leadership and management,
- The second was achieving the same at country level, and
- The final stage consisted of workshops on de-escalation strategies and train-the-trainer approach for staff and contactors with the most direct interactions with communities.
Training modules included: introduction to the VPs (tailored to the needs and interests of each individual participant group), de-escalation training, managing social protests, and training-of-trainers on the VPs. Functions who participated in training sessions included the extended leadership team, security management, private security contractors and sub-contractors, EPC (engineering procurement and construction) contractors, community liaison officers, stakeholder engagement, land acquisition, grievance officers, social and environmental experts, and public forces officials.
While recognising that TAP is operating in European countries with stronger regulation and rule of law than many environments in which the VPs are considered a valuable tool, VPs-related risks are still present. Through awareness raising activities and a deeper exploration of the economic, social and political dynamics at play, International Alert was able to work with TAP employees, private security and public security to identify where VPs can practically add value to promote respect for human rights and full consideration of any impacts on vulnerable communities.
We look forward to continuing with our programme to promote a peaceful environment for the areas in which TAP works.