DCAFProgrammes › Business and Security Sector Reform

Business and Security Sector Reform

Companies working in complex environments face many security challenges around their areas of operations. These challenges can undermine the safety and security of their operations and staff while also affecting the human rights of local communities. How companies engage with public and private security, as well as their management and oversight bodies, is therefore of crucial importance. Different approaches have been developed in order to address these challenges. Business and human rights, security sector reform (SSR) as well as the wider security and development communities have developed various policy frameworks, guidance documents and tools. However, there is a clear need to build bridges between these different communities. In particular, it is essential that SSR policy and practice is better integrated into multi-stakeholder efforts by companies, states and civil society organisations to promote security and human rights when companies operate in complex environments.

DCAF supports holistic approaches to addressing security governance challenges, including through promoting innovative public-private partnerships that bring together the private sector, states, international organisations, and civil society organisations to promote security, development, and the protection of human rights. In this context, DCAF is an official Observer to the Voluntary Principles on security and Human Rights (VPs).

Companies operating in complex environments can have a significant impact on domestic security sector governance dynamics. As part of DCAF’s holistic approach to security sector reform and governance, DCAF’s business and SSR programme focuses on the following areas:

  • Making knowledge available, through gathering resources on security and human rights in complex environments
  • Developing and disseminating practical solutions and good practices to address security and human rights challenges
  • Promoting constructive engagement across SSR and business and human rights communities in order to facilitate the identification and implementation of good practices


In close cooperation with other divisions within DCAF, the Business and SSR programme provides the following multi-lingual services: 

  • Applied and policy-oriented research on challenges related to security and human rights in complex environments
  • Capacity building
  • Development and implementation of field-oriented guidance and knowledge products 


  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • The Human Security Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
  • Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen’s University


Current projects:

1. Addressing Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments

DCAF, in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and with the support of the Swiss Federal department of Foreign Affairs, conducts the following activities:

  • Ensuring existing resources are available and easily accessible: Good practices remain fragmented and are rarely shared. The Knowledge Hub on Security and Human Rights in Complex Environments provides a unique platform where all the relevant tools are gathered and made available to relevant stakeholders. New resources, tools and case studies are frequently added to the Knowledge Hub.
  • Developing implementation-oriented guidance to address security challenges: Version 1 of the DCAF-ICRC toolkit on Addressing Security and Human Rights Challenges in Complex Environments, focuses on two main issues: working with host governments and working with public security forces. Two additional chapters are under development in 2015-2016: working with private security companies and working with communities. A field version of the Toolkit compiling good practices specifically relevant to field-based staff will be published in mid-2015. A Training Package for public security forces assigned to areas of extractive operations is also under development.
  • Outreach, through developing new partnerships and promoting the business and  SSR programme at conferences, workshops and seminars

2. Global Actors and Community-Level Security: Developing Best Practices

In 2014, DCAF joined an innovative public-private partnership with academic institutions, the ICRC and an extractive company to improve standards of corporate social responsibility in the extractive industry by incorporating tools for security prevention, management and resolution. This joint project will focus on:

  • Developing a framework for security prevention and corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards in the extractive industry: A final report will be published including best practices for the security dimension of CSR .
  • Publishing journal articles featuring innovative research on the development of communities of practice in the security realm
  • Outreach, through guest lectures and conference to targeted outreach

Key publications