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Private security personnel lacking adequate training: ensuring application of international norms and standards on human rights and international humanitarian law to day-to-day security duties

Good Practices

Conduct a training needs analysis at the time of contract negotiations with the private security provider.

Agree on a training programme with the private security provider based on the results of the needs analysis, including assigning clear designation of who is responsible for the delivery of each part of the training (i.e. the company, the private security provider or a third party).

  • Ensure pre-deployment training is provided to all private security personnel working on the company’s premises.
  • Include, as a minimum, the following topics:

Human rights, international humanitarian law (in countries affected or threatened by armed conflict) and national criminal law.

Gender-related topics, including prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment.

Respect for the local population, in particular indigenous peoples. This should explore topics such as religion, ethnicity and other cultural considerations.

Rules for the use of force and firearms, including self-defence and de-escalation techniques. Refer participants to the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers and the Guidance Tool: Regulating the Use of Force by Private Security Providers (DCAF 2019) . Review national laws and regulations in effect in the area where duties will be performed. Use of force training should include weapon-specific training for all personnel who are to carry a weapon. It should include a clarification of the differences in use of force between public security forces and private security providers.

Procedures for apprehending persons. The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers states, ‘Member and Affiliate Companies will, and will require their Personnel to, not take or hold any persons except when apprehending persons to defend themselves or others against an imminent threat of violence, or following an attack or crime committed by such persons against Company Personnel, or against clients or property under their protection’. All apprehended persons should be treated ‘humanely and consistent with their status and protections under applicable human rights law or international humanitarian law’.

Site safety training.

Incident response and first aid, to ensure that assistance and medical aid are provided to any injured persons at the earliest possible moment.

Private security providers’ duties and responsibilities with regard to conflict management and dealing with incidents and disturbances (e.g. public disorder, lawful and unlawful protests, strikes, labour disputes and evictions), ensuring these duties and responsibilities do not conflict with the mandate of public security forces.

Anti-bribery and anti-corruption measures.

Grievance procedures and policies for transmitting complaints to the appropriate authority.

  • After training, require that all deployed private security personnel pass an oral or written exam, as well as a physical test, to prove they are capable of performing the required security services.
  • Periodically (e.g. quarterly or bi-annually) conduct refresher courses all private security personnel, including a few new topics in each refresher training.
  • Ensure the training is updated regularly to reflect changed circumstances on the ground and the findings of ongoing risk assessment and due diligence activities.
  • Include details and conditions regarding the training programme in the contract with the private security provider.
Pratical Tools
Training Requirements According to the Federal Act on Private Security Services Abroad (Swiss Confederation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs 2017). Developed by the Swiss government in alignment with their law. This also aligns with the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers and key international standards.
Preventing And Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (International Code of Conduct Association 2019)
Guidance Tool: Regulating the Use of Force by Private Security Providers (DCAF 2019)

Ensure that participants can relate to the training programme.

  • Ensure the training is adapted to the background, literacy level and languages of participants.
  • Conduct practical exercises that include locally-relevant scenarios and possible contingencies. One method is to use the ‘talk-through, walk-through, run-through’ formula: communicate all tasks and expectations to participants; discuss each step; and run-through the whole scenario with role-players. The World Bank Group and Anvil Mining emphasise, ‘Training events are most effective if the scenario for the simulated incident is plausible or even a repeat of a previous incident’.
  • Encourage the organisation of joint drills and rehearsals for incident management (having previously assessed all potential risks). Involve public security forces, private security providers and in-house security. In general terms, these exercises should address the phases of an incident response, including:

Preparation and review of rules (e.g. for the use of force).



Designation of the on-site team leader.

Actions on contact.

Resolution of the incident.

Provision of medical attention (and evacuation), if required.

Review of post-incident lessons learned.

Final reporting and follow-up.

  • Lessons identified from these drills and rehearsals should be iteratively inserted to the relevant procedures, processes and standing orders.

Complement initial training with additional training topics and measures, such as the following:

  • Induction training to familiarise private security personnel with the company, in particular with its structure, policies and processes (e.g. handling of complaints and lines of reporting). Participants can also become acquainted with the project site at this time. Induction training should cover national and international law regarding provision of private security services, as well as community and local government relations.
  • Job-specific training focused on threats, risks and potential impacts associated with the specific assignment.
  • Short talks focused on key aspects of both the company’s expectations and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers, delivered regularly by supervisors.
  • Supporting materials (e.g. a pocket book or laminated card with principles on the use of force).

Monitor performance and, if necessary, provide additional training based on the findings.

  • Conduct regular monitoring to verify whether the learnings from the training are put into practice. As part of this exercise, consult with local communities to find out whether the situation has improved as a consequence of training.
  • Identify any remaining gaps and ensure these are addressed in refresher trainings.
  • If necessary, conduct additional training to address any further needs.

Work with other companies to invest in training for local private security providers on human rights and humanitarian law (in countries affected by armed conflict).

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights: Implementation Guidance Tools, p. 57 (International Council on Mining and Metals, International Committee of the Red Cross, International Finance Corporation and IPIECA 2011)  


Culturally appropriate and respectful security practices: preventing increased risk of conflict

Good Practices

Analyse the operational context (see human rights due diligence), paying particular attention to the factors below:

  • Different cultures and ways of life within the national population (e.g. livelihoods, language, customs) and related sub-groups within a community, including the potential for conflict between such groups.
  • As noted in AngloAmerican’s socio-economic assessment toolbox, ‘traditional lifestyles and a close attachment to ancestral territories and the natural resources found in them’, with a focus on indigenous peoples.12
  • Environmental and natural resource management strategies.13
  • Intangible cultural heritage, such as language, ceremonies and spirituality.14
  • Structure and operation of the local economy.15
  • Governance and decision-making structures, as well as their implications for vulnerable and marginalised groups (e.g. women and indigenous peoples).
  • Power structures and the politics within communities and society as a whole.
  • Social structures, in particular the different gender roles within the social and cultural context. This includes the division of labour and the different rights and obligations within the household and the broader community.16
  • ‘Different value systems, which may include approaches to negotiation and reaching agreement that are quite different to those in mainstream society’, as outlined in AngloAmerican’s socio-economic assessment toolbox.17
  • ‘Cultural protocols and procedures, including traditional ways of dealing with grievances and conflict’, as explained in the International Council on Mining and Metals’ guide on indigenous peoples and mining.18

Ensure the company’s human rights policy addresses relations with local communities

(see Sensitive discussions on security and human rights within Human rights concerns – Working with Host Governments). and Navigating different stakeholders: avoiding inadvertently favouring or excluding sub-groups within communities within Stakeholder engagement strategy – Working with Communities).

  • Consult with communities, including any inter-communal sub-groups and particularly vulnerable groups (e.g. women, youth, indigenous peoples, human rights defenders).
  • Account for differing perceptions, impacts and sensitivities among various groups within the community. This includes perceptions surrounding the business project, industry, weapons, drivers of conflict, other groups, security forces, etc.
  • Establish, implement and maintain procedures to ensure all persons performing tasks on behalf of the company are aware of the local and national culture of the environment they are operating in, including aspects such as customs and religion.  
  • Require that employees and private security providers take a non-discriminatory approach and work without prejudice or bias, in regard to race, gender, religion, culture, nationality etc. Require training on gender sensitivity, the rights of indigenous peoples and engagement with local human rights defenders. [BURDZY3] Emphasise that employees are expected to not express personal, nationalistic or political views while working. In both public and private, employees are expected to demonstrate respect when expressing views, especially as they relate to other groups.  

Develop guidelines for effective engagement between the company’s security personnel, the private security provider and local communities.

  • Ensure the company’s security and community relations departments collaborate in developing these guidelines.
  • Clarify roles of the company’s security department, in-house security and private security providers in engaging with local communities.
  • The International Council on Mining and Metals explains that companies should ‘strive for consistency of approach and employment longevity of representatives of the company so that relationships can be built and trust maintained’.19
  • Consider the help of local experts (including women and members of vulnerable groups) for the development of culturally appropriate guidelines and procedures.
  • Seek solutions developed with local communities.

Consider local experience and references from other clients working in the area as part of the award criteria in the selection of a private security provider

(see Selecting private security providers: assessing quality and cost considerations within Bids and contracts – Working with Private Security Providers).

Ensure the selected private security provider has locally appropriate policies and procedures.

Establish security arrangements taking into account findings from the context analysis and the risk and impact assessments

(see Adequate and appropriate private security arrangements: properly identifying risks and impacts and due diligence within Private security within risk and impact assessment – Working with Private Security Providers).

  • Ensure the presence of both female and male employees to accommodate any sensitivities around men preferring to engage with male representatives of a company and/or women with female representatives.
  • Ensure security arrangements (e.g. selection of personnel) do not inadvertently foster tensions through favouring one religion/race/ethnic group over others.

Agree on a training programme with the private security provider

(see Private security personnel lacking adequate training: ensuring application of international norms and standards on human rights and international humanitarian law to day-to-day security duties within Training – Private Security Providers).

  • Ensure that private security personnel are aware of and trained in aspects regarding the culture, traditions and values of the local community.
  • According to the International Council on Mining and Metals, companies should ‘provide practical advice that can enhance cross-cultural communication and understanding (e.g. advice on body language, initiating and ending conversations, culturally disrespectful actions, etc.)’.21
  • Involve local community representatives in delivering the programme, teaching and sharing their experiences.

Set regular meetings with local communities (see human rights due diligence).

  • Consider political, cultural and legal sensitivities when choosing a method of communication and the venue for meetings with local stakeholders.
  • Clearly communicate the company’s values and commitments to local stakeholders.
  • Be as open as possible when sharing information on security arrangements and insist on transparency from the private security provider.
  • Begin early. Ideally, start dialogue before any security personnel are deployed on site.
  • Listen with an open mind to communities’ security concerns and be willing to reconsider security arrangements accordingly.
  • Work together with local communities to address concerns, risks and impacts.
  • Consider establishing a multi-stakeholder security forum or draw on existing community security platforms (see in-country working groups).
  • If appropriate, invite other relevant stakeholders, such as local authorities or public security.

Establish grievance mechanisms that are respectful of customary approaches to dispute resolution

(see Community mistrust: ensuring an effective company grievance mechanism within Stakeholder engagement strategy – Working with Communities), and Security equipment and the use of force – Working with Private Security Providers)

  • If a community has an existing dispute resolution mechanism, consider how/if the company’s programme can align with and/or complement that process.
  • Consider whether it is necessary to conduct outreach and/or capacity-building to empower communities to access and effectively use the grievance mechanism.
  • Ensure that the private security provider has an accessible grievance mechanism.

Case Studies and Fact Sheets

Risk mitigation: hiring private security providers which are certified by the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA) or another industry standard

View Resource

The use of force by private security providers

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