The US State Department has said five international oil companies have agreed to a code of conduct drafted by the US and UK governments.
US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said the two nations hope their Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights "will become the global standard in the oil and mining industries."
She said, "The principles address many of the hardest challenges facing oil and mining companies as they work to protect the safety and security of their people and operations. They address as well many of the situations and practices for which companies in the extractive industry, rightly or wrongly, have been exposed to criticism on human rights grounds."
Agreeing to the pact were Texaco Inc., Chevron Corp., BP, Conoco Inc and Royal Dutch/Shell.
Albright said, "The agreement is a landmark for corporate responsibility, and not just for US and British companies in this one sector. It demonstrates that the best-run companies realize that they must pay attention not only to the particular needs of their communities, but also to universal standards of human rights, and that in addressing these needs and standards there is no necessary conflict between profit and principle."
The agreement said, "The participants recognize the importance of the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world and the constructive role business and civil society�including non-governmental organizations, labor/trade unions, and local communities�can play in advancing these goals. Through this dialogue, the participants have developed the following set of voluntary principles to guide companies in maintaining the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."
It said, "Acknowledging that security is a fundamental need, shared by individuals, communities, businesses, and governments alike, and acknowledging the difficult security issues faced by Companies operating globally, we recognize that security and respect for human rights can and should be consistent."
It said the companies should strive to contribute to the welfare of the local community while mitigating any potential for conflict where possible;
And it said the firms should sharing information on their experiences in nations, security practices and procedures, and country human rights situations.