Voluntary Principles Initiative Launches New Resources to Strengthen Protection of Human Rights Defenders

December 10, 2023 •

With this year’s International Human Rights Day celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI) brings light to the importance of protecting human rights defenders as part of the Initiative’s efforts to promote the implementation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) globally.

The VPI is pleased to launch two impactful publications, one a broader-reaching guidance aimed at advancing the protection of human rights defenders in the context of business security arrangements around the world, and the other a report focused on understanding the situation of human rights defenders in Africa.

The first publication, entitled “Guidance on Respecting the Rights of Human Rights Defenders”, provides an analytical and operational framework to identify and address risks to human rights defenders across key elements of VPSHR implementation, including risk assessment and due diligence, stakeholder and community engagement, and relationships with security forces and host country governments. Authored by Bennett Freeman Associates LLC, the guidance offers a comprehensive roadmap for stakeholders, such as security managers and company officials at the project level and corporate levels, to navigate the complexities of implementing effective security measures while promoting civic space and protecting human rights defenders on the ground.

Complementing this approach is the report entitled “Understanding the Unique Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa” by VPI Member LITE-Africa. It delves into the challenges, threats, and opportunities faced by human rights defenders related to extractives and agriculture businesses in Africa. Going beyond sharing first-hand testimonies and observations, this report also provides practical recommendations to strengthen the protection of human rights defenders. Through addressing the unique situations faced by defenders in Africa, the report serves as a valuable resource for governments, companies, civil society, and communities committed to upholding human rights standards.

“The VPI Secretariat is delighted to launch these two resources, which recognize the manifold challenges and risks faced by human rights defenders and provide tangible guidance on protecting them. We are grateful to the Government of the United States, which is the Chair of the Initiative, for their leadership in promoting the critical role of human rights defenders, as well as Global Affairs Canada for financially supporting the development of the two publications,” said Mora Johnson, Head of the VPI Secretariat.

In addition to the launch, the VPI will host the webinar session “Rights and Realities: Protecting Human Rights Defenders in the Context of Security” on December 14, 2023, 10:00 am EST, presenting the key highlights and findings from these new documents, followed by a discussion and Q&A. More information about the webinar can be found below.

About the Voluntary Principles

The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) are an internationally recognized set of principles that guide companies on how to conduct their security operations while ensuring respect for human rights.

To promote implementation of the Principles, the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI) was created. The Initiative is comprised of over 60 members including companies, governments, and non-governmental organizations that share best practices and mutually support the implementation of the Principles.

Contact the VPI Secretariat at info@voluntaryprinciples.org.

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