Private security companies: the International Code of Conduct takes an operational dimension

Bern, 19.09.2013 - Representatives of some 135 private security companies, governments and human rights defence organisations are meeting in Geneva today to take part in the launch conference of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers Association (ICoCA). Launched jointly by Switzerland and industry associations in November 2010, this initiative aims to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law by such companies.

Within the framework of its human security policy, Switzerland gives high priority to dialogue with non-state actors that have a specific impact on human rights such as private security companies. The Montreux Document, which was published in 2008, marks the first step of an initiative that aims to get such companies to publicly affirm their responsibility to respect human rights when providing their services in regions where the rule of law has been undermined. 

This step was followed up in November 2010 with the launch of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC). At the time, there were 58 signatory companies and this number has since increased to 700. These companies have undertaken to respect all current legislation, including local, regional and/or national laws, human rights and international humanitarian law, and they have agreed not to enter into contractual relations with states or other entities if by doing so they break sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

The association being launched in Geneva today will make operational the implementation of a sustainable governance and oversight mechanism for the ICoC. This mechanism puts in place a certification procedure for signatory companies to become members of the association. In addition, they must accept that their activities will be monitored as well as a procedure for dealing with complaints. In this way it will be possible to verify whether they are correctly applying the ICoC principles when operating in contexts of armed conflict or in fragile situations and thus check the commitment of the private security sector to respecting human rights and international humanitarian law. The ICoC Association moreover is an innovative governance mechanism and could provide a model for procedures involving different players in the field of human rights and business.

The modality applied within the framework of the ICoC, to which companies voluntarily decide to adhere, will be maintained. The currently 700 or more ICoC signatory companies will therefore have to make a formal decision to join the association. At this point in time, about 135 companies have decided to become founding members of the association. They are joined by five states – Australia, the US, the UK, Sweden and Switzerland – and a dozen civil society organisations from Africa, Latin America, the US and Europe.

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