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Breakthrough in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

For decades, countries rich in oil, gas, or minerals have been cursed by conflict surrounding those resources. Companies in the extractive industries are often accused of complicity in violating human rights. For 11 years, the United States government has been part of a collaborative effort that brings governments, companies, and NGOs together to make sure that as companies extract resources in some of the most difficult places on earth, they take tangible steps to minimize the risk of human rights abuses in the surrounding communities.

On September 15-16, 2011 the Government of Canada hosted an extraordinary plenary meeting of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative in Ottawa. The State Department helped negotiate a consensus among 19 oil, gas and mining companies, seven governments, and 10 NGOs on a new core document that outlines the expectations of the initiative’s participants, and lays out a plan to pursue the creation of a legal entity for the initiative. These long overdue moves put the initiative on stable foundations for its second decade. Several participants also announced a pilot project to explore ways of verifying and guiding the ways that companies live up to the commitments they make. This will help companies maintain high standards while they do business in some of the toughest areas in the world.

The developments in the Voluntary Principles initiative are an example of this Administration’s practical approach to working in partnership with corporations, other governments, and civil society groups to start fixing human rights problems that none could solve alone.


Secretary Clinton to Address the Annual Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Plenary Meeting

On March 23, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver remarks to the annual Voluntary Principles (VPs) on Security and Human Rights Plenary Meeting, a multi-stakeholder forum comprised of companies, governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working to improve respect for human rights in the extractives sector, particularly in areas of conflict and civil strife.

Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner chairs the two-days of meetings on March 22nd and 23rd. This year marks the 11th anniversary of the VPs. The Voluntary Principles meetings are closed to the media.

Since its launch in 2000, the VPs has provided guidance to extractives companies on maintaining the security of their operations in a manner that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms. Currently there are seven member governments, 18 companies, nine NGOs, and three observers.

The United States is a founding member of the VPs and served as Government Chair of the organization this past year. As chair, the United States has worked to strengthen this multi-stakeholder effort, comprised of governments, companies and civil society organizations, and has led efforts to enhance its accountability and effectiveness.

The United States will remain committed to deepening the implementation of the VPs, broadening the participant base, and seeking more opportunities to expand dialogue and exchange implementation experiences among participants.

The United States publishes the Voluntary Principles text on the Department of State’s website at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/lbr/vp/.


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