Voluntary Principles Training Course is available online

January 21, 2020 •

The training material allows members and non-members to have a baseline education on human rights issues and its application to security operations

A new Voluntary Principles Training Course is available to members and non-members of the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI). Created by a multi-stakeholder Working Group, the course material was designed to provide a baseline education on human rights issues and its implications to public and private security.

The idea behind the tool first emerged during the 2017 strategic planning of the Voluntary Principles Initiative. Jonathan Drimmer, a former representative of Barrick Gold on the VPI Steering Committee, was responsible to lead the working group assigned with the task of developing the first Voluntary Principles training material.

The Working Group incorporated members of the initiative’s three pillars (Corporate, Government, and NGO) and Observers. After agreeing on the scope of the course, the group searched for existing examples and chose to use as a foundation a security and human rights training for private and public security personnel produced by mining company Rio Tinto. According to Almero Retief, Group Security and Business Resilience at Rio Tinto and member of the working group, the original material was developed in 2014 and undergoing the training became mandatory at all the company’s sites.

After the first draft of the Voluntary Principles Training Course was finalized, the material was shared with all the members of the initiative for feedback. The final product encompasses a two-day training course, aid resources, and detailed materials with clear and precise instructions and substance for trainers to use.

According to Mr. Drimmer, the material can be the first step in training security forces on the Voluntary Principles. “It provides a baseline to help public and private security providers understand the expectations around respecting human rights in performing their duties generally, as well as in relation to specific situations. In particular, those involving challenging dilemmas and vulnerable populations.” In his view, it is a valuable tool for members and non-members alike. Mr. Drimmer believes that entities outside of the Voluntary Principles who want to implement a security and human rights program will have a meaningful and substantive place to start since “they don’t have that same level of engagement and resources from peers” as members of the Initiative do.

To Mr. Retief, an important course distinctiveness is that it focuses on the on-the-ground personnel.  “To date, most of the training initiatives around the Voluntary Principles have focussed on what the Voluntary Principles are and what companies, governments, and NGOs are required to do to implement it. This is really the first time that Voluntary Principles stakeholders have worked together to develop a training solution with a frontline security and human rights focus – meaning that the training acknowledges the importance of equipping frontline private and public security personnel with the professional competencies needed to ensure human rights are protected and respected, during the conduct of routine, daily security tasks”, he explains. And because the training is available for free, it provides a meaningful tool accessible to many. “Not all companies and security providers have the time, capacity or resources to develop training of this nature. By making this training available, we are levelling the playing field and we are providing the companies and security providers with a tool that they can use to foster respect for human rights.” 

Fund For Peace’s Executive Director J.J. Messer, who also participated in the working group, also highlights the practical aspects of the new tool. “Having resources like the new training publicly available, to build upon other implementation resources like the Implementation Guidance Tools, provides implementers with a practical set of tools that can contribute to the successful deployment of the VPs within a company’s operations. If the VPs are properly integrated into a company’s training, procedures, operations, and activities, the success of that implementation, and by extension the protection of the safety and security of affected communities, is considerably more likely”.

The working group — formed by Barrick, Rio Tinto, Fund for Peace, Search for Common Ground, DCAF, ICRC, IFC, International Alert, and the Governments of Canada and the United States — expects now that the training will be piloted and improved based on on-the-ground feedback. “My hope is that end-users will make the training their own and that they will take the steps necessary to ensure that it is delivered to the security personnel. A next important step will be to ensure that we train trainers and use the feedback from end-users to drive future review and improvement of the training”, says Mr. Retief.

The Voluntary Principles

Established in 2000, the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights are a set of principles designed to guide companies in maintaining the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that ensures respect for human rights.

Participants in the Voluntary Principles Initiative — including governments, companies, and NGOs — agree to proactively implement or assist in the implementation of the Voluntary Principles.

The training course is available in English and Spanish.

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