Challenge Topic


Print Friendly and PDF


Vetting public security forces in fragile States and in post-conflict contexts: conducting background checks when lacking information

Good Practices

Maintain close relationships with different echelons of public security forces and actively seek opportunities to discuss vetting procedures.

In collaboration with the relevant government authorities, identify which institutions should be consulted in order to conduct background checks.

Establish procedures to help ensure that individuals allegedly implicated in human rights abuses do not provide security services for companies.

  • Include a clause in the memorandum of understanding establishing that no one allegedly implicated in past human rights abuses or international humanitarian law may provide security to the company. There should be no conviction, pending case or very strong evidence against the individual for such abuses.
  • When there is a credible and verified report of human rights abuses and/or international humanitarian law violations, require that the concerned individuals are withdrawn from the site until an official investigation is concluded.

Use multiple sources to obtain relevant information.

  • When legally authorised, check police records for any criminal records or warrants.
  • Consult public security personnel records, if it is legal and possible to do so.
  • Study history of abuses in the region as part of the company’s analysis of the operational context. If information on individuals within public security forces providing security to the company is not available/accessible, investigate the historical conduct of public security forces in the region, focusing on any allegations of misconduct or abuse.
  • Obtain information on each particular risk from different sources. Strive to obtain three or more verifications or multiple opinions on various risks. Potential sources may include: the web, official media, international and local NGOs, organisations from the United Nations family, other businesses, community leaders and members, independent consultancies, home country embassies, industry associations, etc.
  • Protect source confidentiality. As noted by the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Implementation Guidance Tools, ‘Some information sources may be putting themselves at risk in disclosing information’. There are ways of using the information received without having to disclose the source. For instance, part of this information may actually be publicly available or it may help identify other actors that could know more about the issue and would be ready to act as witnesses.
  • Establish an effective, accessible company grievance mechanism that accepts complaints on public security (see Human rights violations by public security forces: monitoring incidents and referring them to appropriate remediation within Stakeholder engagement strategy – Working with Communities).

If appropriate, use the services of a security consultancy company.

  • In some countries, security companies that specialise in political risk advice, investigations and security consultancy are capable of and legally allowed to conduct thorough background investigations that are beyond the scope of those conducted by a company security department. This may especially be the case for consultancy companies that are internationally recognised and reputable.

Share information with other stakeholders.

  • Establish a regular system of information-sharing with other companies, civil society and appropriate organisations.

Support efforts by governments, civil society and multilateral institutions to strengthen State institutions

(see Public security forces with insufficient human resources, low salaries, inadequate training and poor equipment: preventing criminal activity and human rights violations within Security Arrangements – Working with Public Security Forces).

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, p. 5

  • Identify security sector reform programmes that could improve vetting of public security forces and explore ways of supporting these activities.
  • The United Nations Security Sector Reform Inter-Agency Task Force explains that support for public security forces should promote ‘fair, objective, transparent, non-discriminatory and merit-based policies and practices on recruitment, salaries, performance evaluation, promotion and professional development’. Place particular emphasis on programmes that focus on gender-inclusiveness and inclusion of women in security forces.
  • Identify ways to support training programmes for public security forces (see Training Working with Public Security Forces).

Case Studies and Fact Sheets

Partnerships with Public Institutions, Experts and Civil Society: A Case Study from Public Security Training in Kenya

View Resource

Sustainability of In-Country Working Groups: How Multi-Stakeholder Input and Engagement Ensures Longevity

View Resource