The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights: Interactions between Companies and Private Security

The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights: Interactions between Companies and Private Security

Where host governments are unable or unwilling to provide adequate security to protect a Company’s personnel or assets, it may be necessary to engage private security providers as a complement to public security. In this context, private security may have to coordinate with state forces (law enforcement, in particular), in order to carry weapons and to consider the defensive local use of force. Given the risks associated with such activities, we recognize the following voluntary principles to guide private security conduct:

  • Private security should observe the policies of the contracting Company regarding ethical conduct and human rights; the law and professional standards of the country in which they operate; emerging best practices developed by industry civil society, and governments; and promote the observance of international humanitarian law.
  • Private security should maintain high levels of technical and professional proficiency, particularly with regard to local use of force and firearms.


  • Private security should act in a lawful manner. They should exercise restraint and caution in a manner consistent with applicable international guidelines regarding the local use of force, including UN Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, as well as with emerging best practices developed by Companies, civil society, and governments.


  • Private Security should have policies regarding appropriate conduct and the local use of force (e.g. rules of engagement). Practice under these policies should be capable of being monitored by Companies or, where appropriate, by independent third parties. Such monitoring should encompass detailed investigations into allegations of abusive or unlawful acts; the availability of disciplinary measures sufficient to prevent and deter; and procedures for reporting allegations to relevant local law enforcement authorities when appropriate.


  • All allegations of human rights abuses by private security should be properly investigates. In those cases where allegations against private security providers are forwarded to the relevant law enforcement authorities, Companies should actively monitor the status of investigations and press for their proper resolution.


  • Consistent with their function, private security should provide only preventative and defensive services and should not engage in activities exclusively the responsibility of state military or law enforcement authorities. Companies should designate services, technology and equipment capable of offensive and defensive purposes as being for defensive use only.


  • Private security should (a) not employ individuals credibly implicated in human rights abuses to provide security services; (b) use force only when strictly necessary and to an extent proportional to the threat; and (c) not violate rights of individuals while exercising the right to exercise freedom of association and peaceful assembly, to engage in collective bargaining, or other related rights of Company employees as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at work.


  • In cases where physical force is used, private security should properly investigate and report the incident to the Company. Private security should refer the matter to local authorities and/or take disciplinary action where appropriate. Where force is used, medical aid should be provided to injured persons, including the offenders.


  • Private security should maintain confidentiality of information obtained as a result of its position as security provider, except where to do so would jeopardize the principles contained herein.


To minimize the risk that private security exceeds; their authority as providers of security, and to promote respect for human rights generally, we have developed the following additional voluntary principles and guidelines:

  • Where appropriate, Companies should include the principles outlined above as contractual provisions in agreements with private security personnel are adequately trained to respect the rights of employees and the local community. To the extant practicable, agreements between Companies and private security should require investigation of unlawful or abusive behaviour and appropriate disciplinary action. Agreement should also permit termination of the relationship by Companies where there is credible evidence of unlawful or abusive behaviour by private security personnel.


  • Companies should consult and monitor private security providers to ensure they fulfil their obligations to provide security in a manner consistent with the principles outlined above. Where appropriate, Companies should seek to employ private security providers that are representative of the local population.


  • Companies should review the background of private security they intend to employ, particularly with regards to the use of excessive force. Such reviews should include an assessment of previous services provided to the host government and whether these services raise concern about the private security firm’s dual role as a private security provider and government contractor.


  • Companies should consult with other Companies, home country officials, host country officials, and civil society regarding experiences with private security. Where appropriate and lawful, Companies should facilitate the exchange of information about unlawful activity and abuses committed by private security providers.