On March 13-14, participants in the Voluntary Principles Initiative gathered in The Hague for the 2013 Annual Plenary Meeting. Foley Hoag’s Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) practice has served as the Secretariat for the Voluntary Principles Initiative since June 2010.
Established in 2000, the Voluntary Principles Initiative is a tri-partite multistakeholder initiative that provides guidance to companies in extractive industries on maintaining the safety and security of their operations within a framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Outreach and implementation efforts were the primary focus areas for this year’s discussions. Participants reported on efforts to engage governments around the world in discussions regarding the benefits of Voluntary Principles participation and implementation, including the governments of Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, and Tanzania. Representatives of each of these countries attended the meetings as guests of the Plenary.
Participants also discussed:
initiatives to implement, or promote the implementation of, the Voluntary Principles in countries around the world, with specific presentations on activities in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, and Panama;
the outcomes and lessons learned from a series of workshops held in Indonesia, Peru, and South Africa during 2012 to promote the Implementation Guidance Tools, a practical guidance document first published by ICMM, ICRC, IFC, and IPIECA in 2011; and
the work of a volunteer group of companies and other participants to develop a set of Key Performance Indicators to assess Voluntary Principles implementation.
Finally, participants also welcomed six new participants that had joined the Voluntary Principles Initiative since the 2012 Annual Plenary Meeting: Tullow Oil; Xstrata; the Government of Australia; Global Rights; Partners for Democratic Change International; and the Pearson Centre. A full overview of the proceedings is available here.
Notably, the Annual Plenary Meeting began with opening addresses from Professor John Ruggie, the former U.N. Special Representative on Business and Human Rights and author of the U.N. Guiding Principles, and Dr. Margaret Jungk, from the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
In his remarks, Professor Ruggie, now a Senior Advisor to Foley Hoag’s CSR practice, noted that the U.N. Guiding Principles, which establish the expectation that companies should operate with respect for human rights, “provide high-level guidance, with the expectation that more granular elaboration may be required for specific sectors and operating contexts.” He observed that the Voluntary Principles provide critical guidance to extractive sector companies on how best to operate with respect for human rights.
More information on the Voluntary Principles Initiative is available here.