Yesterday, the Netherlands government released the official English version of its National Action Plan. The 14 page proposal details current initiatives in the Netherlands to implement the Ruggie Framework as well as results from its consultations with industry, civil society and “other experts” in the field.
The Report is rich with acknowledgments of areas that needs to be improved and provides a spotlight on the current debates in the business and human rights field. Among the challenges identified:
One key theme that ran through the NAP was the need for the government to participate in the discussion surrounding supply chain risks. Rather than reacting to crises, consultants felt that the Dutch government could take a “proactive stance in order to fulfill its duty to protect.” As result, the Dutch government is aiming to work on structural changes (particularly in identifying risks with Dutch supply chain companies) not merely on “incident management.”
You can access the English version here .
Joanne Bauer, one of the academics who is very active in the business and human rights field, spent last semester in Germany, analyzing business and human rights issues.
Her thoughts and perspective on this can be found here.
I have often bemoaned that US legal academics are way behind in the field of business and human rights research. And, while that is still true, it looks like we are finally trying to close the gap. As anecdotal proof, I offer the following:
Each year the Corporate Practice Commentator annually polls law teachers for top ten articles in the field of corporate and securities law. As part of the process, Robert Thompson, editor for the periodical, provides business law faculty with a list of “corporate and securities articles published and indexed during the calendar year” (in the Current Index of Legal Periodicals). The Current list has close to 600 articles on it. Of those articles, we have eleven that explicitly discuss business and human rights issues. While that might not seem like a lot (and is probably not all of the BHR articles published – in fact if you know of some, please email me and I’ll include it), it is certainly more than I’ve seen in the past and as one small indicator of where we are, I find it heartening nonetheless.
In fact, it’s inspired me to do this each time the list comes out. Hopefully, the numbers will keep on rising.
... and why it should be based on Int’l Human Rights Principles – A Case Study from West Virginia.
This week, I watched a third of the people in my state go without water.
I had friends who came up to Morgantown to take showers and pack their cars with water to return to others who were less fortunate.
A Word on National Action Plans:
National Action Plans (or NAPs) are designs put together by States for ways in which to implement the UN Guiding Principles and the three pillar framework on which their built. Under the GPs, States are reminded that they have the duty to protect their citizens from business related human rights violations. NAPs are meant to address the specific types of harms that can occur when businesses have negative human rights impacts in their community.
The beauty of briefing notes like the one provided by Clifford Chance, is that their timely – case in point: the plan was announced by the UK government on September 4, 2013. Clifford Chance published its briefing note on September 5th. Obviously, that can come at a cost – usually for in-depth analysis.The note is no exception – providing a very descriptive and “straight to point” report of the plan. It discusses the UK’s endorsement of the GPs and also discusses how the NAP includes the UK government’s encouragement for all “business enterprises … to emphasise the importance of respect for human rights to their UK and overseas suppliers.”
Other major points of the NAP discussed in the note, include:
In last week’s blog (found here), I discussed two tools that have come out to fill the need to develop human rights risk assessment. CIDSE a non profit organization that stands for “tougher global justice” recently published a policy paper that discusses a related concept “human rights due diligence.” According to the authors “This CIDSE briefing explains what human rights due diligence is and … how it should be implemented by businesses and the essential role of States in that regard.”
As the report notes, the idea of “human rights due diligence” is a newer concept that has been getting a lot of attention by businesses, civil society and policymakers. Human rights due diligence is one part of the overall risk assessment that a company should perform when undertaking an analysis of how their business affects other stakeholders. In an article that I published earlier this year (which you can fine here), I spend a lot of time discussing these concepts and how they relate: human rights due diligence and human rights risk assessment, as well as how they align with traditional due diligence and risk management concepts. The CIDSE report provides eight recommendations that for integrating the UN Guiding Principles and the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework into existing business operations and legal structures. The recommendations seemed to be geared mainly at States and their role in protecting communities and individuals from business related human rights challenges. Among the recommendations put forth are requiring states to use the means “at their disposal” to require businesses to incorporate business and human rights issues into their operations. Another recommendation, asks states to strengthen the “regulatory process” to tie the issuance of permits with specific undertakings by businesses in human rights due diligence.
The Report does an excellent job of tying its recommendations to specific parts of the Guidelines and the Protect Framework. Moreover, the recommendations encompass both gradual and ambitious planks for those who would like to move the business and human rights agenda forward. I highly recommend that those who are interested in the policy initiatives that are being discussed now (or will be discussed in the future) to take a look at the report.
The full report can be found here.
So, the other thing that happened in Geneva is I met a woman who is part of an NGO in Spain that tries to make workers’ rights fun (yup, I said fun) using cartoons and activities. Their goal is to have 1001 activities in many different languages. Their site is here…
Enjoy the site. We’ll be returning to full blog status in the New Year (Friday January 10th)
Last week, I attended the Second Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights.
During the Forum’s closing session, there were times to have questions and comments from the Forum participants.
The closing session was designed to highlight what issues the Working Group should focus on going forward in 2014. One of the people who went up to comment began her comments like this: “I’m a business student and I want to speak on behalf of all business students” she then made an impassioned plea for educators to begin teaching human rights in business school, saying that if there was any hope for advancing business and human rights issues in the future it needed to come from training the future leaders.
Specifically, she noted “I have not had one course or even one discussion on human rights in my school” this needed to change- she urged, to make a difference in the world.
Wherever you fall on the tax-avoidance-as-human-rights-issue spectrum, this story of a village’s act of kindness in relation to what they did with Glencore Corporation’s tax money tells another part of the story. It put me in a festive mood. Hopefully it will for you too…
A link to the story is here.
Photo (and complimentary festive mood) taken fromhttp://www.zuerich.com/en/visitors/christmas.html