Best practices in human rights due diligence ar every clear that companies should undertake meaningful consultations and maintain ongoing dialogue with potentially affected groups and other relevant stakeholders. This includes stakeholders both around the company's operations and along the entire value chain.
When it comes to security issues, this means that companies should adopt a proactive approach that focuses on prevention of company-community conflicts. Security risks are frequently the result of unaddressed concerns, negative impacts or misunderstandings about non-security related issues such as employment, land, environment, compensation and resettlement. This also includes negative legacy issues from previous projects or interactions between businesses, communities and security actors. When concerns and grievances go unaddressed or unmitigated, these issues can escalate into tensions and may eventually result in situations of violence.
Multi-stakeholder in-country working groups can be effective platforms to build trust and engage in constructive dialogue, with the goal of preventing and resolving security and human rights issues. Though diverse in their origins, implementation backgrounds, leadership, resourcing and objectives, such working groups aim to discuss and advance respect for human rights and security by companies and their security providers. These groups bring together national and local stakeholders from governments, companies, civil society and communities. Through participation in such working groups, representatives from diverse backgrounds incrementally build trust to hold open exchanges on operational-level challenges, address collective issues and needs for intervention, and generate best practices for reducing conflict risks indifferent sites and community areas. Working groups enable different stakeholder groups to overcome their entrenched positions by working together to develop work plans and calendars, conduct meetings and workshops, build tools and resources, and implement activities like monitoring and oversight.
What does this mean in practice?
- Companies should become involved in existing in-country working groups. Some working groups operate on the national level, while others operate on the regional, local or operational level. Working groups address different levels of issues. If a regional, provincial or operational-level working group does not exist, company representatives should participate in national-level meetings, in close dialogue with field staff who come into regular contact with communities.
- Some working groups might be focused on issues such as children’s rights, general business and human rights or monitoring and implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Company representatives can bring the security element into these forums as a key part of the puzzle.
- Companies should encourage coordination and linkages with other initiatives at the international and national level, where possible.Companies should table and promote in-country working group activities in different forums, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the InternationalCode of Conduct Association (ICoCA), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or local initiatives. This will not only help break silos, but will also ensure sustainability and visibility of the working group.
- Where appropriate, companies should provide financial or in-kind support to working groups. To maintain the legitimacy and neutrality of working groups, companies should cooperate with in-country working groups to implement transparent funding mechanisms and processes, such as a trust fund. The contribution to working groups’ activities should be considered an investment in securing the social license to operate, not merely a cost for companies.
- Companies should proactively input into working groups’ work plans (see Working with Communities).
- Civil society organisations and governments often take an active lead in collective engagement through working groups at the local, national and international levels. Companies should be equally active in sharing experience, challenges and good practices.
- Companies should encourage the learning and sharing of lessons between operations and other functions within the company to ensure that efforts are sustainable and not personality-driven.
- Companies should report on their engagement in multi-stakeholder in-country working groups to demonstrate how they are implementing commitments to identify and mitigate security and human rights risks.