Human rights and business


Caroline Rees

Caroline Rees

Program Director of the Social Responsibility Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School Listen to podcast
Acting with dignity and respect

“The idea of human rights is simple: treating people with dignity. That business should respect human rights is perhaps self-evident. But it requires them to have robust policies and processes. The Guiding Principles will provide a blueprint to help them achieve this.”

John Ruggie

UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on business and human rights

Our context

In our values we commit to treating others with dignity and respect, this includes respect for human rights and an undertaking to operate according to the highest standards of business ethics. As a business that aspires to live the belief that ‘people are the business’, our concern for operating with respect for human rights stems from our aim to place people first in all aspects of the business.

A member of the United Nations (UN) Global Compact since 2004, we have recorded our commitment to observing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to upholding the basic labour rights captured in the Fundamental Principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). We value diversity and believe that diversity in employment can make a positive contribution to achieving our business objectives.

Human rights considerations cut across a range of disciplines at AngloGold Ashanti, including health, safety, security, community, environmental, human resources, legal and regulatory, ethics, governance and labour relations. Operating with respect for human rights is a particularly relevant consideration for us because of the location of many of the company’s operations in regions of the world, including in post-conflict zones, where there are few formal employment opportunities apart from mining.

This context creates the potential for tension between mines and communities over issues such as land usage, relocation, and artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). ASM activity is often the cause of difficult security issues, including allegations of breaches of human rights. Potential solutions lie in devising programmes for co-habitation with ASM activity and in ensuring that security responses observe the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (the VPSHR).

In striving to meet our commitments and to mitigate risk, we have aimed to take human rights considerations into account in developing policies in the areas of health, safety, community, environment, human resources, security and corporate governance. In particular, we have focused on implementing and embedding the VPSHR in our security management practices.

We have not, however, had a company-wide human rights policy in place. This is an area of work which was initiated in 2010 and will be developed further in 2011, in alignment with the progress that has been made in the UN in defining the responsibilities of business to respect human rights.

Human rights targets in 2011

In 2011, we therefore aim to develop a policy, frameworks and procedures on human rights, giving due recognition to the guiding principles on business and human rights which are currently being formulated by the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie, and are scheduled for presentation to the UN Human Rights Council during 2011. The guidelines are intended to be a blueprint for businesses, and outline recommended policies and procedures.

We also aim to complete implementation of our global security framework by the end of 2011, which will further entrench our commitment and compliance to the VPSHR.

A full review of all contracts with private and public security services worldwide is in progress in order to standardise contract requirements, and is targeted for completion by the end of 2011.

In 2011, our objective is to operate with zero violations of the VPSHR (in 2010, two violations were substantiated in relation to third-party security forces).

Human rights performance in 2010

In 2010, the company’s activity on human rights issues focused on two areas:

Developing human rights policies and procedures

In 2005, Professor John Ruggie was given a mandate from the United Nations to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability with regard to human rights. Significant work has been undertaken since this mandate was awarded, including the production of a series of public reports.

The ‘Ruggie agenda’, as set out in these reports, is becoming the primary international guideline regarding business and human rights. It holds that companies have a responsibility to respect human rights across a broad range of areas and recognises the VPSHR as an integral component in achieving this.

The framework rests on three distinct but complementary pillars:

The corporate responsibility to respect human rights applies to all recognised human rights. These are mainly derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Results from the gap analysis on AngloGold Ashanti’s systems compared with the UN (Ruggie) framework suggested that we should:

In November 2010 a scoping process to develop a human rights policy and framework was approved. The implementation programme which is currently being outlined includes:

During 2010, AngloGold Ashanti participated in several Ruggie consultations to progress this work, and conducted ongoing informal interactions with members of Ruggie’s team. These engagements assisted us in preparing the ground for AngloGold Ashanti to meet its human rights responsibilities in terms of the UN framework.

Embedding the VPSHR in our security management approach

AngloGold Ashanti uses its own security employees as well as private and public security service providers to ensure the protection that our employees and assets require. We aim to manage security in a way that ensures that the human rights of individuals and communities affected by the company’s activities are safeguarded.

Threat and risk assessments are conducted in all countries in which we operate to determine the security resources which are required. In Colombia, Ghana, the DRC and Guinea, risk assessments categorise the threats as sufficiently elevated to require the inclusion of state military units (public security forces) on a near-permanent basis. In addition, almost all of our active operations employ private security personnel.

AngloGold Ashanti has adopted an inter-disciplinary approach to decision-making and management of human rights, security and community issues. Implementation of the VPSHR has been a key factor in defining the current structuring of the security discipline within the group as well as setting future targets for performance.

Significant progress on implementation of the VPSHR was made in 2010. Procedures, standards and practices were reviewed and refined to ensure full compliance, while standards and procedures were revised to include rules of engagement, the use of force, and the application of less-lethal force, and allow for transparency in security agreements and contracts.

The structured approach to training of security personnel adopted since 2008 has created a better understanding of and commitment to the requirements of the VPSHR, specifically with regard to the use of minimum force and rules of engagement. In the short term, this may result in an increase in the number of alleged VPSHR incidents being reported, as awareness of rights and obligations under the VPSHR grows. We are actively encouraging self reporting of incidents by our security personnel to ensure that comprehensive data is captured. In the longer term, we expect a reduction in the number of allegations received, which would be an indicator of improved security performance.

Following self audits in 2009, formal internal audits were conducted during 2010. These indicated good progress in achieving compliance at all our operations, but highlighted the need to continue the process of formalising implementation and training processes. This will receive the necessary priority in 2011.

Current efforts in respect of training on the VPSHR will be sustained at all sites to improve engagement processes. The percentage of security service providers trained in the VPSHR in 2010 increased slightly to 88%, compared to 86% in 2009. In 2011, training will be extended to stakeholders external to security, where this is appropriate, including employees, community groups and civil societies, to create a better understanding of the issues we face and our goal of eliminating all VPSHR allegations and incidents. External audits by NGOs contracting for us to establish compliance with the VPSHR are also planned for 2011.

Security incidents in 2010

In 2010, six allegations of VPSHR violations were made. Two violations by members of the military contingent at our operation in Guinea were substantiated and these were resolved at community, operational and military levels.

No fatal incidents were recorded in 2010 as a result of security interventions by AngloGold Ashanti security personnel (two fatal incidents concerning community members were recorded in 2009).

Since the introduction of a more structured approach to security incorporating the VPSHR principles, there has been a significant reduction in the number of fatalities among third parties involved in illegal activity, as shown in the graph below.

Fatalities of third parties involved in illegal activity
2008 – 2010

Fatalities of third parties involved in illegal activity

The majority of fatalities recorded in the graph above took place at the Siguiri mine in Guinea as a result of landslides which occurred when artisanal miners illegally mined in our active pit. The number of these incidents declined from 22 in 2008 to three in 2010, and every effort is being made to prevent these incidents completely, by finding a workable solution in consultation with communities.

In addition to these fatalities recorded at the Siguiri mine in Guinea in 2010, one fatality and one injury were recorded at the Obuasi mine in Ghana as a result of a police intervention, when one person was fatally injured and another injured in an exchange of gunfire that occurred during an attempted theft of explosives. Two artisanal miners working illegally on our concession also died in two separate incidents at our exploration site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as a result of fall of ground incidents.

Since the implementation of the VPSHR principles, we have noted an improvement in our ability to deal with incidents of community unrest in a way which ensures that these do not escalate and do not result in injury to community members. In 2010, there were 12 protest actions by community members at AngloGold Ashanti operations, none of which resulted in serious injury to community members or security service providers.

We are, however, monitoring an increasing trend in the number of security incidents resulting in injuries to AngloGold Ashanti personnel which we believe to be the result of a greater level of organisation among criminal elements and syndicates. Of the 44 injuries to AngloGold Ashanti personnel recorded in 2010, 29 were at the Obuasi mine in Ghana (against two in 2009) and eight at the Geita mine in Tanzania.

The number of injuries to community members has remained relatively stable despite this trend, a demonstration of the fact that there is increased adherence to procedures emphasising the use of minimum force. Tighter security management, including improved processes for data collection and reporting, may also have resulted in an upwards trend in our reported numbers.

Injuries to AngloGold Ashanti security personnel
2008 – 2010

Injuries to AngloGold Ashanti security personnel

Injuries to community members
2008 – 2010

Injuries to community members

Ghana workshop team

The right to sanitation – Geita Gold Mine pumps water from Lake Victoria to supply the community with all-purpose water

^ Top of the page