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International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC) is the result of a multi-stakeholder initiative launched by Switzerland, with the over-arching objectives to articulate human rights responsibilities of private security companies (PSCs), and to set out international principles and standards for the responsible provision of private security services, particularly when operating in complex environments. Over the course of an 18-month process, Switzerland – with the support of DCAF – brought together private security companies, civil society organisations and academics to elaborate a code of conduct for the private security industry, based on international human rights and humanitarian law standards. The ICoC was finalized in November 2010, at which time it was signed by 58 PSCs. By September 2013, 708 companies had formally committed to operate in accordance with the Code of Conduct.

Agreement of the Code constituted the first step in a broader process to promote more effective governance and accountability of PSCs. Since then, this multi-stakeholder process has focused on the establishment of an independent mechanism for governance and oversight. This inclusive process culminated in the adoption of the ICoC Articles of Association in February 2013. The Articles of Association is the founding document of the ICoC Association, which was established in September 2013 as a Swiss non-profit association.

Current priorities

  • Supporting the establishment of an effective oversight mechanism of the ICoC, through administrative and expert support to the establishment of the ICoC Association, in particular supporting the development of the certification and monitoring procedures of the Association.
  • Promoting the ICoC initiative and its implementation, through the organisation of outreach events, development of tools and support to different stakeholders to facilitate their participation in this multi-stakeholder process.

Recent activities

  • Expert event on maritime security and ICoC (Geneva, July 2014) DCAF, in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, organized the first ever event to be held in Geneva focusing on options for States to regulate the private maritime security sector, in particular by use of the ICoC. Government and maritime private security representatives identified the advantages and disadvantages of different paths towards the regulation of this sector and explained how their respective governments had approached the topic. The event report is available here.
  • African civil society workshop on the ICoC (Senegal, June 2014).
    In June 2014, DCAF and Lumière Synergie pour le Développement (LSD), with the support of the Swiss FDFA, co-organised a workshop in Dakar for representatives of civil society organisations from the region. This workshop, the first of its kind, raised awareness on the ICoC provisions and the core functions of the Association, as well as identifying the challenges linked to private security operations in the region. The workshop report is available here (only in French).
  • Promoting the ICoC in regional business and human rights fora (India, May 2014 and Colombia, February 2014). DCAF participated in two regional consultations organised by the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) in the framework of their project aiming to develop a toolkit for National Action Plans to support the development and evaluation of State-level measures to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. DCAF introduced the ICoC and the Association during the meeting and promoted the initiative with the participants, representing governments, CSOs, national human rights institutions and affected communities from Asia and Latin America.
  • Awareness-raising meeting on the ICoC (Colombia, February 2013). DCAF took the opportunity of its presence in Colombia to co-host with Indepaz a working breakfast for civil society organisations, government and industry representatives, aiming to raise awareness on the ICoC and the newly established Association.
  • Launch of a new website platform for the ICoCA (June 2014) DCAF, as part of its support programme to the ICoC Association, developed a new website for the organisation. The web platform is available both in English and French and provides updated news and updates on the development of the ICoCA, the development of its core procedures as well as its operations. Historic information on the development of the ICoC, as well as specific guidance on how to join the initiative, is also included on the brand-new webpage. 

Key publications


Report of the Maritime Event, 4 July 2014


  • Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Services Providers, Briefing n°4, July 2013