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National Action Plans: Current Status and Future Prospects for a New Business and Human Rights Governance Tool

  • Claire METHVEN O’BRIEN, Amol MEHRA, Sara BLACKWELL and Cathrine Bloch POULSEN-HANSEN
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Abstract
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Strategic Adviser, Human Rights and Development Department, Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR); Research Fellow, Department of International Law, University of Groningen.

**

Director, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR).

***

Legal and Policy Co-ordinator, Frameworks Programmes, ICAR.

****

Advisor and Corporate Engagement Programme Manager, Human Rights and Development, DIHR.

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1 European Commission, ‘A Renewed EU Strategy 2011–14 for Corporate Social Responsibility’, COM (2011) 681 final (25 October 2011), http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2011:0681:FIN:en:PDF (accessed 14 August 2015).

2 Human Rights Council, ‘Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises’, A/HRC/RES/26/22 (15 July 2014), http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/083/82/PDF/G1408382.pdf?OpenElement (accessed 14 August 2015).

3 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘State National Action Plans’, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/NationalActionPlans.aspx (accessed 14 August 2015).

4 This trend also deserves further scholarly attention in terms of norm diffusion, the role of transnational human rights networks, and multi-level human rights governance. See, e.g., Risse, Thomas et al (eds.), The Persistent Power of Human Rights: From Commitment to Compliance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

5 Recent studies suggest that new measures are needed particularly to ensure access to effective remedy for business-related human rights abuses. See, e.g., Skinner, Gwynne et al, The Third Pillar: Access to Judicial Remedies for Human Rights Violations by Transnational Business (2013), http://icar.ngo/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/The-Third-Pillar-Access-to-Judicial-Remedies-for-Human-Rights-Violation-by-Transnational-Business.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

6 See, e.g., O’Brien, Claire Methven and Dhanarajan, Sumithra, ‘The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights: A Status Review’ (forthcoming, 2016) Accounting, Auditing, and Accountability Journal, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2591226 (accessed 14 August 2015).

7 Human Rights Council, note 2.

8 Human Rights Council, ‘Elaboration of an International Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights’, A/HRC/RES/26/9 (14 July 2014), http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/082/52/PDF/G1408252.pdf?OpenElement (accessed 14 August 2015).

9 DIHR and ICAR, National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights: A Toolkit for the Development, Implementation, and Review of State Commitments to Business and Human Rights Frameworks (2014) 8–10, http://www.humanrights.dk/files/media/dokumenter/udgivelser/DIHR%20-%20ICAR%20National%20Action%20Plans%20%28NAPs%29%20Report.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

10 Ibid.

11 For an explanation of ‘new governance’ in the European Union see, e.g., Scott, Joanne and Trubek, David M., ‘Mind the Gap: Law and New Approaches to Governance in the European Union’ (2002) 8(1). European Law Journal 1.

12 Goodman, Ryan and Jinks, Derek, ‘Acculturation of States: The Theoretical Model’ in Socializing States: Promoting Human Rights Through International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) Ch. 3.

13 See, e.g., European Commission, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility in the EU’, http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=331 (accessed 14 August 2015); OECD, ‘The OECD’s Peer Review Process: A Tool for Co-Operation and Exchange’, http://www.oecd.org/site/peerreview (accessed 14 August 2015).

14 ‘The Commission invites Member States to develop or update … their own plans or national lists of priority actions to promote CSR … [and] [i]nvites EU Member States to develop … national plans for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles’. European Commission, note 1, 13–14.

15 Council of the European Union, ‘EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy’ (25 June 2012), https://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/foraff/131181.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

16 European Group of National Human Rights Institutions, ‘Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Discussion Paper on National Action Plans for EU Member States’ (2012), http://business-humanrights.org/en/pdf-implementing-the-un-guiding-principles-on-business-and-human-rights-discussion-paper-on-national-implementation-plans-for-eu-member-states (accessed 14 August 2015).

17 Government of the United Kingdom, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, ‘Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ (2013), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/236901/BHR_Action_Plan_-_final_online_version_1_.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

18 Government of the Netherlands, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights’ (2013), http://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/netherlands-national-action-plan.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

19 Government of Denmark, ‘Danish National Action Plan: Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ (2014), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/NationalPlans/Denmark_NationalPlanBHR.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

20 Government of Finland, Ministry of Employment and Economy, ‘National Action Plan for the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ (2014), http://www.tem.fi/files/41214/TEMjul_46_2014_web_EN_21102014.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

21 Government of the Republic of Lithuania, ‘Lithuania’s Action Plan on the Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ (2015), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/NationalPlans/Lithuania_NationalPlanBHR.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015); Italy and Spain published draft NAPs in 2014, and seven other EU Member States have indicated that they have begun NAPs processes. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, note 3.

22 ICAR and DIHR, ‘ICAR-DIHR National Action Plans Project’, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, http://business-humanrights.org/en/un-guiding-principles/implementation-tools-examples/implementation-by-governments/by-type-of-initiative/national-action-plans/icar-dihr-national-action-plans-project (accessed 14 August 2015) DIHR and ICAR.

23 ICAR and DIHR, ‘ICAR-DIHR National Action Plans Project: Dialogues Briefing’ (2014), http://icar.ngo/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/NAPs-Project-Dialogues-Briefing.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

24 DIHR and ICAR, note 9.

25 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘2014 Sessions of the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises’, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/2014Sessions.aspx (accessed 14 August 2015).

26 Ibid.

27 UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, ‘Guidance on National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights: Version 1.0’ (2014), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/UNWG_%20NAPGuidance.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015); Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, ‘CALS Selected by UN Working Group,’ (21 November 2013), http://www.wits.ac.za/academic/clm/law/cals/newsitems/201311/22181/news_item_22181.html (accessed 14 August 2015).

28 The Global Compact, ‘Guidance for Global Compact Local Networks on National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights’ (2015), https://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/issues_doc/human_rights/Resources/GCLN_National_Action_Plan_Guidance.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

29 Council of Europe, Steering Committee for Human Rights, Drafting Group on Human Rights and Business, ‘Draft Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Human Rights and Business’, CDDH-CORP(2014)10 (22 August 2014), http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/hrpolicy/Other_Committees/HR_and_Business/Documents/CDDH-CORP%20Draft%20Recommendation%20Human%20Rights%20and%20Business%20Final%20ENG.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015). In June 2014, the Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution promoting the practical application of the UNGPs and calling on member states and their respective NHRIs to make concrete commitments in the area of business and human rights. However, this resolution stopped short of an explicit mention of NAPs. Organization of American States, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Business, AG/RES. 2840 (XLIV-O/14) (4 June 2014), http://www.oas.org/en/sla/dil/docs/AG-RES_2840_XLIV-O-14.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

30 For example, NAPs processes are in progress in Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Scotland, and Slovenia. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, note 3.

31 In April 2015, a public launch took place and an inter-ministerial working group was established. ‘Plan de Acción Nacional de Derechos Humanos y Empresas’, http://www.derechoshumanosyempresas.gob.cl/ (accessed 14 August 2015). A national baseline study is being simultaneously undertaken by the Human Rights Programme of the University Diego Portales. Centro de Derechos Humanos, Universidad Diego Portales, ‘Judith Schönsteiner lidera equipo que efectuará primer estudio línea base sobre empresas y derechos humanos en Latinoamérica’, http://www.derechoshumanos.udp.cl/derechoshumanos/index.php/noticias-ddhh/item/1320-judith-schoensteiner-lidera-equipo-que-efectuara-primer-estudio-linea-base-sobre-empresas-y-derechos-humanos-en-latinoamerica (accessed 14 August 2015).

32 The Colombian Government has a set of business and human rights policy guidelines intended to lay the foundation for a NAP. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, note 3.

33 Ibid.

34 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, note 3; ICAR, ‘ICAR Partners with LHRC, CHR, & Khulumani to Support the Development of National Action Plans on Business & Human Rights in Tanzania & South Africa’, http://icar.ngo/analysis/icar-partners-with-lhrc-chr-khulumani-to-support-the-development-of-naps-in-tanzania-south-africa/ (accessed 14 August 2015).

35 ‘National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights to Be Drafted’, The Rakyat Post (24 March 2015), http://www.therakyatpost.com/news/2015/03/24/national-action-plan-on-business-and-human-rights-to-be-drafted/ (accessed 14 August 2015).

36 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, note 3.

37 DIHR and ICAR, note 9.

38 Ibid.

39 Human Rights Council, ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework’, A/HRC/17/31 (21 March 2011), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

40 DIHR and ICAR, note 9, 23.

41 ICAR and DIHR, note 22.

42 Ibid.

43 DIHR and ICAR, note 9, Ch. 6.

44 ICAR and European Coalition for Corporate Justice, ‘Assessments of Existing National Action Plans (NAPs) on Business and Human Rights’ (2014) 3, http://accountabilityroundtable.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ICAR-ECCJ-Assessments-of-Existing-NAPs.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

45 Ibid, 8.

46 ICAR and ECCJ, note 44, 3. As one example, the Dutch NAP addresses neither non-voluntary measures with respect to Pillar I of the UNGPs, nor measures to support access to judicial remedy under Pillar III. Ibid, 13.

47 ICAR and ECCJ, note 44, 3.

48 Ibid.

50 Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, ‘Germany: German Institute for Human Rights Presents Baseline Assessment for Natl. Action Plan on Business & Human Rights’ (6 May 2015),http://business-humanrights.org/en/germany-german-institute-for-human-rights-presents-baseline-assessment-for-natl-action-plan-on-business-human-rights (accessed 14 August 2015).

51 Universidad Diego Portales, note 31.

52 ‘What is SNAP?,’ Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights (accessed 30 July 2015), http://www.scottishhumanrights.com/actionplan (accessed 14 August 2015).

53 Ibid.

54 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ‘Business and Human Rights – DFAT Call for Input’ (12 January 2015), https://www.dfa.ie/news-and-media/press-releases/press-release-archive/2015/january/business-and-human-rights/ (accessed 14 August 2015).

55 Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme, ‘Business and Human Rights: Opinions on the Issues Associated with the Application by France of the United Nations’ Guiding Principles’ (24 October 2013), http://business-humanrights.org/en/pdf-business-and-human-rights-opinion-on-the-issues-associated-with-the-application-by-france-of-the-united-nations-guiding-principles (accessed 14 August 2015).

56 ICAR and ECCJ, note 44, 13.

57 Ibid, 3.

58 Ibid, 16.

59 ICAR and ECCR, note 44, 3.

60 Ibid.

61 American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organisations, ‘Letter to President Obama Regarding US NAP’ (12 December 2014), http://www.aflcio.org/content/download/146721/3757941/Letter+to+President+Obama+regarding+NAP.pdf (accessed 14 August 2015).

62 Ibid, 7–9.

63 ICAR and ECCJ note 44, 9.

64 Six criteria for effective NAPs were proffered in the DIHR-ICAR Toolkit. DIHR and ICAR, note 9, p. 40.

65 European Commission, note 1; Council of the European Union, note 15; Council of Europe, note 29.

66 DIHR and ICAR, note 9, Ch. 7.

67 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights’, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/WGTransCorp/Pages/IGWGOnTNC.aspx (accessed 14 August 2015).

* Strategic Adviser, Human Rights and Development Department, Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR); Research Fellow, Department of International Law, University of Groningen.

** Director, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR).

*** Legal and Policy Co-ordinator, Frameworks Programmes, ICAR.

**** Advisor and Corporate Engagement Programme Manager, Human Rights and Development, DIHR.

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Business and Human Rights Journal
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