ICRC and partners launch new version of Toolkit to help Chinese enterprises better manage overseas security risks

On June 13, 2023, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Academy of Red Cross & Red Crescent (IARC) jointly held an event to officially launch the updated Chinese version of the practical Toolkit on "Responsible Business and Security Management in Complex Environments" and its tailored training resources in Beijing. This event marks a significant step in empowering Chinese companies and stakeholders to effectively manage the security of their overseas operations in an effective, sustainable, and socially responsible way. Guo Yang, Deputy Secretary-General of the Chinese Red Cross Foundation and a Council Member of the IARC, hosted the ceremony which gathered nearly 70 participants from Chinese companies, industry associations, universities, non-governmental organizations, the diplomatic circle, think-tanks, and the media.

Updated Toolkit for enhanced security management

Since the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was announced in 2013, Chinese companies have been expanding their global presence. As these companies operate in diverse regions, it is crucial for them to align with international standards and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, operating in high-risk or conflict-affected areas presents numerous challenges that can adversely impact personnel, operations, and local communities.

Thierry Meyrat, Personal Envoy of the ICRC President to China and Head of the ICRC's Regional Delegation for East Asia, delivered an opening speech. SS. Zou/ICRC

"Through our field work, the ICRC has developed a deep understanding of local security and socio-economic dynamics, as well as first-hand knowledge of development challenges in those contexts. These insights and experiences have enabled us to help companies consider security issues within their management systems and their policies under the logic of prevention." said Thierry Meyrat, Personal Envoy of the ICRC President to China and Head of the ICRC's Regional Delegation for East Asia.

Wang Rupeng, Dean of the IARC, delivered an opening speech. SS. Zou/ICRC

Wang Rupeng, Dean of the IARC, stressed : "Co-founded by the Red Cross Society of China to provide humanitarian education to both domestic and overseas students, the IARC aims to strengthen its communication and collaboration with relevant international organizations, countries along the Belt and Road, and Red Cross organizations worldwide, providing intellectual support for international humanitarian cooperation and communication, broadening global horizon, and enhancing capacity in addressing humanitarian risks. "

The ICRC has been working with the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) since 2012 to develop practical tools and guidance for companies operating in complex environments, and the Toolkit stands as a significant outcome of the collaboration between the two institutions.

Jürg Burri, Ambassador of the Swiss Embassy to China, emphasized in a video speech that the Toolkit translates existing principles on responsible operations of businesses into what can be applied on the ground. "It helps companies to proactively manage security issues. I am sure it will be a real value added for Chinese companies operating abroad."

Cheng Fang, ICRC Corporate Sector Advisor, elaborated on ICRC's work regarding the Toolkit. SS. Zou/ICRC

Cheng Fang, ICRC Corporate Sector Advisor, elaborated on ICRC's work regarding the Toolkit. The latest version, consisting of four chapters, focuses on companies' interactions with governments, public security forces, private security providers, and local communities. "It can help companies align their policies and procedures with relevant international standards and principles to effectively respond to security risks and corporate social responsibility challenges," stressed Cheng.

Development of training modules

Currently, the ICRC and DCAF are working with Chinese partners to develop training resources in Chinese based on the Toolkit. These resources aim to enhance the capacity of Chinese companies and relevant stakeholders in managing the security of their overseas operations.

Ren Hao, Director of the Teaching and Research Centre of "Belt & Road" Humanitarian Cooperation of the IARC, shared their progress in developing a localized curriculum. He emphasized that, through engagement with experienced Chinese companies operating overseas, such as the Guangxi Branch of Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco) and CMOC, "the Academy aims to ensure that their training modules can align with the reality faced by Chinese companies and provide effective solutions for their overseas ventures. "

Zhang Zhang, former Chief Community Coordinator of Chalco Guinea, shared his firsthand experience of working at Chalco in Guinea and elaborated on the modus operandi Chalco adopted. "I hope our practices can serve as a reference for Chinese companies working in volatile environments, enabling them to minimize errors, mitigate significant financial losses, and prevent any potential bloodshed. "

Multilateral cooperation and synergy

"This is truly a multi-stakeholder event – and that is critical because a central insight from this Toolkit that we're launching, is that no single actor has the solution to complex security challenges faced by companies working overseas in fragile and conflict-affected environments," underscored Dr. Alan Bryden, Head of Business and Security Division of DCAF.

The importance of multilateral cooperation was echoed by Yao Shuai, Deputy Director of the Institute of International Development Cooperation at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC). She said that companies cannot work in silos but should collaborate and coordinate with international organizations such as the ICRC, United Nations agencies, and development institutions to achieve synergy.

Tu Nianfeng, General Manager of Beijing Risk Control Consulting Co., Ltd., shared his insights on the management of overseas security for Chinese enterprises. "The Toolkit can facilitate Chinese security companies in their expansion into overseas markets, ensuring their compliance with legal requirements. It enables these companies to enhance their integration into local societies, and gain a comprehensive understanding of local laws, regulations, religious beliefs, and cultural customs," said Tu.

Boris Kelecevic, Head of Operation of the ICRC Regional Delegation for East Asia, delivered a closing speech. SS. Zou/ICRC

Boris Kelecevic, Head of Operation of the ICRC Regional Delegation for East Asia, stressed that in complex environments, companies not only need a legal license granted by governments to operate but also a social license granted by local communities. And the Toolkit, drawing on concrete field experiences and best practices, can serve as an operational guide for Chinese companies.

The launch of the updated Toolkit marks a significant milestone for the ICRC in promoting responsible business practices and security management among Chinese companies operating in complex environments. The ICRC and the IARC hope to help Chinese companies to better navigate risks, meet international standards, and contribute to sustainable development along the Belt and Road by providing practical guidance and training resources.