Update: 17.11.2010

Code of Conduct for the security industry: signing conference in Geneva

On 9 November 2010, Switzerland invited the most important private military and security companies to sign a pioneering code of conduct in Geneva. The signatory ceremony took place in the presence of countries supporting the code (e.g. the United States, Great Britain or Canada) and of international NGOs such as Human Rights First or Care.

Multistakeholder process

The Code of Conduct for the private military and security industry was developed by the Swiss initiative in close cooperation with the stakeholders (representatives of the industry, countries and NGOs). Only companies are admitted which offer services in the field of personal and object security services. The Code of Conduct expressly opposes any active involvement in military operations.

Human rights and management

In terms of content, the Code of Conduct defines guidelines for the members of private military and security companies and specifies their obligation to respect human rights regarding the use of force, detention, ban on torture, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, forced labour and the prohibition of discrimination.

In addition, the Code of Conduct includes a number of rules and regulations dealing with the corporate policies of the companies involved, especially in the fields of recruitment and employment of the personnel, the working conditions and concerning the use of weapons.

Appeal board

The obligation of the member companies to create their own appeal boards will be of particular interest. These entities will handle the complaints and examine the in a verifiable manner. Their results will have to be made available to the public and communicated to sate authorities.

Control board

The application of the Code of Conduct will be supervised by a control board consisting of members the security industry, supporting states and international NGOs and will be developed within the framework of multistakeholder workshops.

A legally binding reparation mechanism in particular shall be established within the framework of a follow-up conference. The reparations shall relate to incidents in which the companies involved have done damage in violation of the provisions.

Corresponding efforts in the UN Human Rights Council

In parallel to the Swiss initiative there exist ambitions in the UN Human Rights Council to press ahead a binding convention within the framework of the newly appointed Working Group on Mercenaries.

Although various states try to play out one initiative against the other, Swiss diplomatic efforts try to fight these manoeuvres and try to act stringently and credibly in both contexts. As a matter of fact, there is a widespread understanding among interested states that the two initiatives are to be considered as being complementary. This view is also shared by the Chairperson of the responsible working group of the UN Human Rights Council:

«The Working Group considers both approaches as complementary, and positively recognizes the initiative of the Swiss Government to set up an oversight mechanism of self-regulation by companies as a first step towards more comprehensive international regulation». (Alexander Nitikin, Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination. 65th session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, Item 67, 1 November 2010 New York).

Compared to political process in Human Rights Council, the Swiss initiative has the advantage of becoming effective on a practical level much sooner. And in the long run it can be seen as an important step towards a binding convention on a state level.


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