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

Although governments have the primary role of maintaining law and order, security and respect for human rights, Companies have an interest in ensuring that actions taken by governments, particularly the actions of public security providers, are consistent with the protection and promotion of human rights. In cases where there is a need to supplement security provided by host governments, Companies may be required or expected to contribute to, or otherwise reimburse, the costs of protecting Company facilities and personnel borne by public security. While public is expected to act in a manner consistent with local and national laws as well as with human rights standards and international humanitarian law, within this context abuses may nevertheless occur.

In an effort to reduce the risk of such abuses and to promote respect for human rights generally, we have identified the following voluntary principles to guide relationships between Companies and public security regarding security provided to Companies:

Security Arrangements

  • Companies should consult regularly with host governments and local communities about the impact of their security arrangements on those communities.
  • Companies should communicate their policies regarding ethical conduct and human rights to public service providers, and express their desire that security be provided in a manner consistent with those policies by personnel with adequate and effective training.


  • Companies should encourage host governments to permit making security arrangements transparent and accessible to the public, subject to any overriding safety and security concerns.


Deployment and Conduct

  • The primary role of public security should be to maintain the rule of law, including safeguarding human rights and deterring acts that threaten Company personnel and facilities. The type and number of public security forces deployed should be competent, appropriate and proportional to the threat.


  • Equipment imports and exports should comply with all the applicable laws and regulations. Companies that provide equipment to public security should take all appropriate and lawful measures to mitigate any foreseeable negative consequences, including human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.


  • Companies should use their influence to promote the following principles with public security: (a) individuals credibly implicates in human rights abuses should not provide security services for Companies; (b) force should be used only when strictly necessary and to an extent proportional to the threat; and (c) the rights of individuals should not be violated while exercising the right to exercise freedom of association and peaceful assembly, the right to engage in recognized bargaining, or other related rights of Company employees as recognized by the Universal declaration of Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.


  • In cases where physical force is used by public security, such incidents should be reported to the appropriate authorities and the Company. Where force is used, medical aid should be provided to injured persons, including to offenders.


Consultation and Advice

  • Companies should hold structured meeting with public security on a regular basis to discuss security, human rights and related workplace safety issues. Companies should also consult regularly with other Companies, host and home governments, and civil society to discuss security and human rights. Where Companies operating in the same region have common concerns, they should consider collectively raising those concerns with the host and home governments.


  • In their consultations with the host governments, Companies should take all appropriate measures to promote observance of applicable international law enforcement principles, particularly those reflected in the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms.


  • Companies should support efforts by governments, civil society and multilateral institutions to provide human rights training and education for public security as well as their efforts to strengthen state institutions to ensure accountability and respect human rights.


Responses to Human Rights Abuses

  • Companies should record and report any credible allegations of human rights abuses by public security in their areas of operation to appropriate host government authorities. Where appropriate, Companies should urge investigation and that action be taken to prevent any recurrence.


  • Companies should actively monitor the status of investigations and press for their proper resolution.


  • Companies should, to the extent reasonable, monitor the use of equipment provided by the company and to investigate properly situations in which such equipment is used in an inappropriate manner.


Every effort should be made to ensure that information used as the basis for allegations of human rights abuses is credible and based on reliable evidence. The security and safety of sources should be protected. Additional or more accurate information that may alter previous allegations should be made available as appropriate to concerned parties.