Challenge Topic

Engagement and Coordination with Host Governments

Print Friendly and PDF


Host government interlocutors: dealing with staff turn-over, decentralization of responsibilities and multiple agencies

Good Practices

Note: These good practices are not meant to be prescriptive. It is up to the user to evaluate whether they could be feasible, useful and appropriate to the local context and specific situation on the ground.

Initiate a stakeholder mapping exercise of key actors working on security and human rights issues in the host government.

  • Note that comprehensive stakeholder mapping is a crucial part of human rights due diligence (see human rights due diligence factsheet), a process for identifying, preventing, mitigating and accounting for human rights impacts. Due diligence is a core responsibility under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and is necessary for their full implementation. Mapping key actors in the host government should be part of wider stakeholder mapping.
  • Collect information across different corporate functions (e.g. security, community relations, governmental or external affairs, environment) to develop a global picture of relevant points of contact. Use an internal data sharing system.
  • Consult existing contacts within the host government, if any (e.g. ministry of trade and investment, ministry of interior, ministry of defence).
  • Consult with other companies and the home State embassy to identify key stakeholders and their respective roles and responsibilities. In particular, seek to identify ‘champions’ (i.e. supporters of key business, security and human rights initiatives) or potential ‘spoilers’ within host governments (i.e. host government contacts who are sceptical to business and human rights initiatives). There will always be differing attitudes within the host government; it is likely that there will be some government actors willing to engage with companies to address challenges.
  • Consult with local experts (e.g. NGOs, academia, media).
  • Conduct a review of different print and online sources to identify key issues and actors.
  • Repeat the stakeholder mapping exercise regularly to ensure that the company’s network does not become outdated or overly biased in favour of particular groups.
  • Identify which relevant host government actors to establish first contact with.

Stakeholder mapping

Stakeholder mapping should seek to answer the following questions:

  • Who are the national stakeholders with a clear role and/or interest in security and human rights issues?
  • What are the economic and social agendas and interests of key actors?Who has the necessary influence to foster change?
  • Which stakeholders can be ‘champions of change’ in support of good security and human rights practices? Which stakeholders represent the interests of particularly vulnerable groups?
  • What is the legal/policy framework for security and human rights issues?
  • Which actors have a formal role/responsibility in this area?

How to engage with stakeholders in a broad and inclusive manner

View Content

Strengthen interpersonal relationships

  • Make relationship-building a priority. Meet regularly with a range of government actors and agencies and establish informal links with different company representatives. In many contexts, it is important to develop a personal rapport before entering into negotiations or difficult discussions. This rapport also helps ensure mutual understanding. Be aware, however, of any negative impacts these relationships may have on how an individual is seen within their institution and/or community and take mitigating actions where necessary.
  • If possible, hire personnel with local language skills. This is an important part of building trust, confidence and understanding of the local context. Hiring local staff who also understand culture, politics and traditions helps with understanding local dynamics and building trust.
  • Build partnerships with honesty, openness, mutual respect, trust and empathy. Be aware that relationships develop over time, and be patient. Networks of personal relationships often provide access to key host government representatives. Be aware, though, that political transitions and staff turnover make it important to establish relations with a range of individuals and departments.

Join and promote the establishment of a broad-based security and human rights working group at the local level.

  • Support local or in-country working groups on security and human rights in order to promote coordinated bottom-up approaches to addressing security and human rights challenges. In-country working groups can also offset the impact that national-level changes in the government have on local-level progress.
  • Invite the police chief, the military commander, the local head of government, one or two local leaders, other companies operating in the area and/or other relevant actors to participate in a working group.
  • Invite representatives of civil society organisations and communities, including representatives of different groups considered vulnerable (e.g. women, children, elderly people, youth, indigenous people, ethnic and religious minorities).
  • Encourage the working group to meet regularly and support the appointment of a neutral facilitator to serve as the Secretariat—a clear focal point responsible for overseeing logistics, setting the agenda and recording key points from meetings.
  • Consider co-chairing meetings (e.g. one company and one civil society representative) to enhance the legitimacy of the group.

Multi-stakeholder in-country working groups (ICWGs)

View Content


Host government and in-country process on business, security and human rights: dealing with limited commitment

Good Practices

Promote good practices and standards on business, security and human rights.

  • Raise good practices like the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights during regular meetings and consultations with government officials.
  • Incorporate these standards and good practices into formal agreements with the government where possible, including in investment agreements, concession contracts (including if shared with other companies) and memoranda of understanding concerning security arrangements (see Memorandum of Understanding within Working with Public Security Forces).
  • Make the case for the implementation of good practices and international standards using arguments tailored to the local context. Demonstrate the benefits that support for initiatives such as the Voluntary Principles can bring, including in terms of security, social and economic development and other payoffs.

Foster commitment to good practices and standards on business, security and human rights within different levels of government.

Be informed of national laws. Establish links with international standards and good practices on business, security and human rights.

  • Map relevant national laws, including laws relating to human rights, labour rights and rights of specific groups (e.g. indigenous peoples, women, migrant workers, children).
  • Take stock of international humanitarian law (including when it is applicable) and international human rights law. Pay particular attention to which international laws and conventions the host State has ratified. 
  • Reference National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights, as well as any specific security elements. 
  • Consider the most effective way to use this information. For example, this legal mapping may provide leverage in discussions with governments on implementing good practices in business and human rights. Such a legal mapping also helps inform a company's wider human rights due diligence process, particularly the analysis of the operational context.

Promote national ownership.  

  • Ensure that implementation of good practices and international standards is an inclusive and consultative process, based on the perspectives, priorities and visions of different national stakeholders (i.e. not only government institutions, but also civil society, media, and informal and traditional justice and security actors). Even if host government actors do not want to engage, progress can still be made by engaging with other national actors.
  • Develop close working relationships with community leaders. Community support can provide a solid base to promote in-country processes on business, security and human rights. Note that in conflict-affected areas, local civil society and community leaders may be reluctant to speak publicly about topics such as human rights or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Companies need to be very aware of this and find ways to engage that do not put communities or individuals at risk.
  • Sensitise stakeholders to the importance of greater coordination and promotion of good practices. In-country workshops may be useful forums in this regard (see in-country working groups).

Work with other stakeholders

(see in-country working groups).

  • Work with other companies, industry associations and local partners in order to raise awareness of good practices and international standards (e.g. the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights) and/or to jointly engage in dialogue with the host government on these topics. 
  • Work with the home government to obtain high-level host government support.
  • Engage with the embassies of members of in-country working groups.
  • Strengthen the knowledge and engagement of civil society organisations and the media on security and human rights issues.
  • Sponsor civil society networks or ‘observatories’ that provide a repository for knowledge of national-level security and human rights. These observatories can serve as a means to reach out to concerned stakeholders, ensuring the participation of representatives of vulnerable groups such as women, children and indigenous peoples.
Examples of Resources
African Societal Analysis: The African Security Sector Network Think Tank: Resources on security and development governance challenges in Africa
Marsad Observatories: Resources on security sector governance in Egypt, Libya, Palestine and Tunisia 
Private Security Governance Observatory: Country-specific resources (e.g. baseline studies) on the regulation and challenges of private security companies

Be creative and find synergies across security and human rights initiatives and commitments.

  • Develop creative ways of building host government support. Although an in-country process may be the most effective way of promoting the implementation of security and human rights good practices, other activities (e.g. collaboration on human rights programmes or capacity-building within the security sector) can also provide alternative opportunities to generate impact on the ground.
  • Use the different initiatives that a government subscribes to and the commitments it makes within these initiatives as leverage to advance standards that are in line with security and human rights principles. Other initiatives not yet supported by the government may be held up as examples of standards or good practices. Consider, in this regard, the UN’s Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework and the UN Guiding Principles; the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; the UN Global Compact; any commitments stemming from a government’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights; and/or multi-stakeholder platforms, such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, the International Code of Conduct Association, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). 

Get the right person for the right job.


Case study: Colombia Mining and Energy Committee

View Content


Misalignment of national and local authorities: ensuring implementation of national level agreements at the local level

Good Practices

Conduct an in-depth situation analysis of structures and responsibilities in the host government.

  • Examine how the host government is organised and the way authority and responsibilities are devolved from the national to the regional and/or local authorities. The in-depth situation analysis can be led in-house and/or can be built through consultations with other knowledgeable stakeholders. It should include an analysis of the host State institutions, legal frameworks, political structure, formal systems and informal systems. This analysis can draw on or be part of the wider analysis of the operational context—done for human rights due diligence purposes—and/or the legal mapping process.
  • Indicate where coordination challenges between national and local bodies can lead to risks to communities, such as gaps in judicial accountability, monitoring of public security or licensing of private security.  

Complete a stakeholder mapping of the host government in order to determine who to engage on security and human rights issues.

(see Dealing With Staff Turn-Over, Decentralization of Responsibilities and Multiple Agencies within Engagement and coordination with host governments – Working with Host Governments).

Work with the host government, both at the national level and the local level.

  • Meet regularly with government representatives, including security officials.
  • Nuance the message at each level. The company should draw on its own expertise and consult others with experience in the host country’s culture, laws and social practices. By communicating in a contextually appropriate manner, the company can more effectively share concerns and develop acceptance at local levels.
  • Promote coordinated approaches across ministries (e.g. defence, interior, mining) and other host government agencies through organising joint meetings.
  • Ensure consistency of agreements with different levels of government. In coordination with government representatives, address challenges surrounding implementation of the decisions from the national level down to the local level.
  • Support exchanges between national, regional and local security bodies. Contribute to coordination mechanisms that foster communication and cooperation between different levels of government.
  • Promote targeted dialogues on human rights and humanitarian concerns surrounding the provision of security in order to facilitate greater understanding and trust between security forces and local communities. Invite representatives of vulnerable groups (e.g. women, children, indigenous peoples to participate in these dialogues (see Stakeholder Engagement Strategy (Working with Communities).

Work with other stakeholders to increase coordination between security actors

(see in-country working groups).  

  • Work with home governments, other companies, NGOs and multilateral organisations in order to promote effective government coordination.
  • Engage with actors supporting security sector reform in order to promote coordination within host government structures.
  • Support initiatives to create or reinforce a national coordinating agency for business and human rights issues. This agency would seek to increase cooperation between different stakeholders, increasing their responsiveness and accessibility.

Support the establishment of in-country working groups on business, security and human rights, where none already exist.

  • Note that working groups can be set up at the local or national level. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Consider what is more relevant in the operating context. 

Case Studies and Fact Sheets

Multi-stakeholder Working Groups on Business, Security and Human Rights

View Resource

Colombia Mining and Energy Committee

View Resource