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Launch of the Guidance Document – Assurance of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, May 26, 2015, Toronto, Canada

On May 26 2015, the Global Compact Network Canada proudly launched a Guidance Document on the Assurance of the Voluntary Principles (VPs) on Security and Human Rights through an interactive webinar featuring panelists from the Canadian government, public, and private sectors. The Guidance Document includes a foreword by Professor John G. Ruggie, former UN Special Representative for Business & Human Rights who mentions that “if the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights did not already exist, they would need to be invented. They address the hard edge where business and society sometimes meet: the rules governing the use of force and firearms to protect company personnel and assets, especially in situations of conflict.”

Companies operating in complex environments around the world routinely experience significant challenges while trying to balance the protection of corporate assets and also protecting the human rights of its workers and the local communities. The Voluntary Principles (VPs) on Security and Human rights are the most widely adopted and respected set of security and human rights standards in the world. The guidance document, which was developed using the framework, aims to facilitate the better adoption of the voluntary principles and complements the existing implementation tools to help avoid negative human rights impacts. The auditing tool in the document allows companies to assess the degree of implementation of their Security and Human Rights program and will help companies and their stakeholders to assess how well the company is doing and thereby focus on what to improve. Jonathan Drimmer, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Barrick Gold Corporation and the Chair of the Working Group at the Global Compact Network Canada, which has created this Guidance document stated that, “The document works hand in glove with the implementation tools of the VPs, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and tests the effectiveness of the implementation using a set of KPIs associated with an audit protocol, and test factors around the KPIs to help businesses better assess the result of their existing programs.” The benefits of implementation include both tangible benefits in terms of reducing harm as well as business benefits around financing and production. Assurance of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

“The launched guidance document is an extremely valuable tool, not just for Canadian companies but also for global companies and organizations. The document is not only timely and relevant, but it is also a very good example of what Global Compact Network Canada does”, Helle Bank Jorgensen, Head of the Global Compact Network Canada. TheGlobal Compact Network Canada (GCNC) is the local network chapter of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). The GCNC supports companies and organizations in Canada to better implement the UN Global Compact Ten Principles, within the areas of human rights, labor rights, environment and anti-corruption, and provides its participants access to knowledge, tools and experience that helps companies reach their sustainability goals faster, in a more effective manner and with less risk.

The comprehensive document which focuses on the assurance of the VPs is an outcome of one of GCNC’s five working groups comprising of a multi-disciplinary teams on topics relating to areas such as the Environment, Embedding the Ten UNGC Principles into supply chain, Transparency, Long-termism vs Short-termism, and Human Rights. “Each working group at the GCNC concretely works towards delivering tangible outcomes to not only the network, the participating companies, but also aims to add value to the public audience. This document is a brilliant example of how much value collaboration can bring, and we are proud to be the facilitator and catalyzer of the work”, Helle Bank Jorgensen, Head of Global Compact Network Canada.

While there are a lot of tools that focus on the implementation of the voluntary principles, understanding the status of the implementation of these principles remains largely un-answered. According to Mark Wall, VP Asset Protection and Crisis Management, Barrick Gold “the implementation of the Voluntary Principles is a continuum and it is something which is not very well understand. The Working Group focused on looking at the VPs through a lens of a continuum of things that we need to do and continue to be better at, so that we can manage the security and human rights aspects of our program. With this guidance document, we now have something that allows us to over time measure and understand the gaps and improve them.”

Mora Johnson, Senior Advisor from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) highlighted the importance of the document from the Canadian Government’s perspective. With the Government’s Enhanced CSR Strategy now firmly in place, Canadian companies are expected by the government to respect human rights and all applicable laws and to meet or exceed the widely recognized international standards for responsible business conduct. “It is critical for companies to demonstrate to all stakeholders that their operations are aligned with key standards. Tools such as the KPIs in this guidance document are extremely important because they allow companies to assess their own depth of implementation internally, as well as permit external assurance and public reporting”. Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

From a lender’s perspective, the Guidance Document also becomes extremely relevant and valuable. Deborah Berger, Director of Environmental Advisory Services from Export Development Canada (EDC) exclaimed about the usefulness of the document as it contributes to rich examples and provides concrete and practical ways for companies to implement the voluntary principles. As a lender, the EDC expects companies to demonstrate how well prepared they are to manage security risks, which are complex, in flux and do demand a high degree of sophistication. “The guidance document adds further rigour and consistency to the auditing process by providing specific audit tests, which can give a lender a greater confidence about how the audit process was executed”. This is particularly relevant because lenders such as EDC require companies to articulate their level of implementation in order to have confidence in the projects and ensure that there are adequate capabilities to manage security risks. In many cases support has been declined because of the high risks associated with the projects.

Ben Chalmers, Vice President, Sustainable Development, Mining Association of Canada (MAC), indicated that one of the challenges that MAC has seen over the years is related to adopting the different initiatives that are outlined in Canada’s new enhanced CSR strategy and demonstrating adherence to them. “The guidance document will be extremely helpful in not only driving performance and improving security practices, but also in demonstrating that they have done so in a transparent and credible manner”. Kady Seguin, who leads the Publish What You Pay (PWYP)– Canada Capacity Building Project for African civil society PWYP members and PAC’s work on the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights specified that “the application of the new Guidance Document is a necessary step for companies to show their commitment in advancing the VPs. Putting in place an audit assurance processes to assess the level of implementation of the VPs shows a deeper level of commitment to operationalize the VPs at each project and shows that there is a real effort to engrain the VPs at an operational level”

The Guidance Document on Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights will also be launched by Jonathan Drimmer at the Business for Peace event in New York in June. Please contact business4peace@unglobalcompact.org for more information on the event.

You can download a copy of the “Guidance Document – Assurance of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights,” from the “Resources” section of the Global Compact Network Canada website. To stay up to date with all the information about our latest events and news, please subscribe to our mailing list.  Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

For more information about the Global Compact Network Canada and information about how to sign up to our network, please contact Aparna Venkatachalam, Program Manager of Global Compact Network Canada. Assurance of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights