Acorn Ideas

Issue No. 36, June 2015

Ghana and the Voluntary Principles: Implementing the Human Rights Protection Framework

Around the world, ensuring the protection of human rights while providing for the security of extractive industry activities remains a key focus area for responsible governments and operators. Recent progress by the Ghanaian government provides a hopeful indicator and model for future progress.
In 2013, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) called upon the government of Ghana to expand its efforts to protect human rights, particularly as the country’s economy grew1. The UNHCHR was not admonishing the government for poor performance, but rather drawing attention to how economic prosperity, particularly in the extractive industry, can undermine human rights protection. With expansion of extractive activity, advised the UNHCHR, came a need to build on and improve existing relationships between public and private security providers, communities, and companies.

Given that Ghana’s export stream (over USD 20 billion) is projected to be 28% gold and 34% oil by 20172 (from 42 and 22% respectively, in 2012), with the extractive sector accounting for well over 30% of GDP, the UN body’s attention to “the challenges that rapid economic growth can pose to (rights) protection” was and remains strategic.
At that time, a new focus by the Ghanaian government on human rights included drafting of a policy on corporate social responsibility, review of labor conditions and reported incidents of child labor in the cocoa industry, as well as prolonged attempts to address community impacts associated with industrial and artisanal mining. These efforts were recognized by the UNHCHR, as they noted that the rapid expansion of onshore and offshore extractive industry projects warranted care “regarding the use of public and private security.” Thus Ghana was recommended to “consider joining the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights3 (VPs).”

The ‘VPs4’ refers to a collaborative effort by governments, major multinational extractive companies, and NGOs to provide guidance to companies on steps that they can take to minimize the risk of human rights abuses in communities located near extractive industry projects. Implementing the Principles includes:

  1. Conducting risk assessments that examine security and human rights arrangements,
  2. Human rights screening of public and private security forces, and associated trainings, and
  3. Implementing reporting and investigation systems for alleged human rights abuses.

Approximately one year later, at a VP Implementation meeting in Switzerland in March 2014, the government of Ghana announced that it would join the Initiative, becoming the first African government participant. This was an important step, signaling both a commitment to human rights and to supporting a positive business environment for extractive companies.

This spring, representatives of Ghana’s government joined 27 mining and oil and gas companies, representatives from 7 governments, and 9 international NGOs at the VP Plenary meetings in London. Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources reported on the progress made implementing the VPs.
Deputy Minister Asamoah, in making her progress report, articulated the strong case for VP implementation in Ghana and wherever oil and gas or mining projects have significant community ‘footprints’ and potential impacts. She noted that that in the past there had been “disputes over compensation and delays in compensation payments” with a lack of community “consultation during project planning...(resulting in) unrest and confusion between mining companies and communities in the areas, sometimes causing violence.” As a primary means of working with stakeholder to address this legacy, “the Government of Ghana is devoting a significant amount of resources to implement the Voluntary Principles and is promoting human rights and best practices.5” Ghana believes that it will benefit from implementing the Voluntary Principles and is developing a national action plan.

At Acorn International, we hope Ghana achieves great success in implementing the VPs, and that the communities and companies doing business in Ghana enjoy a mutual established, strong and secure social ‘license to operate’. We continue to work with Ghana’s government6 on strengthening capacity to govern extractive industry activities and use of marine resources, and preserving human rights within the context of security is a critical consideration to this work. As a non-technical and social risk management consulting group, we welcome the opportunity to work with companies, governments and communities on collaborative development, including preparing for and implementing the Voluntary Principles.

Acorn International LLC delivers social and environmental risk management consulting services to the extractive industries and investors worldwide. We work with local partners in over 80 countries worldwide. Use of these local specialists is paramount, particularly in developing countries, where information is often scarce, second-hand, and unreliable. We look forward to engaging in continuous improvement for the industry and building capacity with our partners.


2Thomson Reuters Datastream, IMF.

3UNHCHR, sourced at on 15 June 2015.

6 Acorn International is presently leading an initiative with the Ghana Ministry of Fisheries, EPA, Petroleum Commission and others to develop a marine resources management action plan, and is helping the government of Senegal with a similar initiative.


Issue 35 -Inundation
Issue 34 -Colombia: Local Hiring Requirement for O&G Industry
Issue 33 -Mature and Frontier Mining Geographies: Where does Greater Risk (and Reward) Reside?
Issue 32 -Local Content in Mining: Increasing Expectations and Potential Solutions
Issue 31 -Fast Money Beware: Non-Technical Risk Due Diligence
Issue 30 -Social and Environmental Performance - Considerations for Difficult Commodity Price Environments
Issue 29 -A Window into the Opposing View - Stakeholder Concerns about Oil and Gas in Mexico
Issue 28 -Why Non-Technical Risks Matter to the Mexican Apertura
Issue 27 -Equator Principles:Drivers of Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Industry?
Issue 26 -The Transparency Tightrope: Examining UNEP’s New Access to Information Policy
Issue 25 -July 2014: Bouston
Issue 24 - July 2014: Land Tenure and Property Rights - Where Legal Compliance May Not Be Enough
Issue 23 - May 2014: 3 Things I Learned in Mexico - Non-technical Risks in the Oil Industry
Issue 22 - April 2014: Capacity Building on Stakeholder Engagement
Issue 21 - March 2014: Above-ground Facilities and Stakeholder Engagement: Deploying the 'CAC'
Issue 20 - March 2014: A Starting Point for Shared Equity
Issue 19 - March 2014: What It Takes to Run a Great Consulting Firm
Issue 18 - February 2014: Considering Human Rights - Trends and Lessons in Oil and Gas Impact Assessments
Issue 17 - June 2013: Managing Environmental Health in International Development Projects
Issue 16 - January 2013: Integrating Environmental and Social Performance throughout the Project Lifecycle
Issue 15 - January 2013: The State of Shale Play in 2013
Issue 14 - August 2012: Building Environmental and Social Governance in Host Countries
Issue 13 - May 2012: Human Rights and Business: A New Era
Issue 12 - February 2012: Extractive Industries Confront Pressure for Greater Transparency
Issue 11 - January 2012: Key Updates to the IFC Sustainability Policy and Performance Standards
Issue 10 - June 2011: Oil & Gas and NGOs: New Rules of Engagement?
Issue 9 - February 2010: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 8 - January 2009: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 7 - May 2008: Top Ten Lessons Learned About Health Impact Assessment
Issue 6 - January 2008: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 5 - September 2007: Results of web forum with our International Partners
Issue 4 - January 2007: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 3 - May 2006: Suggestions and tips for safe international travel
Issue 2 - January 2006: Annual Study of Sustainable Development Priorities
Issue 1 - November 2005: The Top 10 “unspoken" criteria for determining the success of EIAs


About Us

Contact us

Phone: 832-900-3997