Coverage: Commentaries on 5 years of UNGPs

Below are articles and commentaries related to the 5 year anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

See also: events, stakeholder statements, timelines of advances & set-backs.

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22 June 2016

UNGPs after 5 years: Event highlights notable achievements, remaining challenges & movement towards regulation

Author: Motoko Aizawa, Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) & Sara Blackwell, Intl. Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)

"Where have the UN Guiding Principles Taken Us and Where Do We Go Next?", 20 June 2016

On June 16, 2016, IHRB and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable…co-organised a commemorative event to mark the five-year anniversary of the unanimous adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)…During the event, Professor John Ruggie and a multi-stakeholder panel discussed what has been achieved in the area of business and human rights since the UNGPs were adopted, where gaps in protection continue to exist, and what the most appropriate next steps are in the movement toward greater corporate accountability for human rights…[M]any spoke about the desirability…of moving away from voluntary initiatives and into the domain of regulation, including mandatory due diligence…Overall, the event highlighted the many notable achievements that have taken place in the business and human rights arena since the adoption of the UNGPs, but ultimately called for all stakeholders to better "walk the talk" of the UNGPs in order to ultimately address the many challenges that remain.

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16 June 2016

Business and human rights: The world is still waiting for action

Author: Jérôme Chaplier, European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), on Euractiv

The UNGPs’ endorsement in 2011 represented an important step towards improved corporate accountability…

With the Principles, the debate moved from why to how states should ensure company responsibility for human rights…

But the UNGPs are only as effective as our governments allow them to be. And in the five years since their adoption, civil society excitement has worn off quickly. It has become obvious that despite their public commitments, the EU and its member states were in no hurry to walk the talk.

Proof is the multitude of human rights and environmental scandals that have continued to surface…

the EU-wide approach to business and human rights is limited to the promotion of voluntary and business-driven CSR, a system of rewards and recognitions in line with the wishes of conservative business lobby associations…

Along with developing robust action plans, other concrete opportunities for our governments to enhance business responsibility exist, in fields such as company reporting, trade and investment, corporate governance or public procurement…[Also refers to Nestlé, Nike, shell]

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Author: CCFD-Terre Solidaire

« UNGPs, les multinationales doivent prendre leurs responsabilités », 16 juin 2016

Cinq ans après l’adoption des Principes directeurs des Nations Unies sur les entreprises et les droits de l’Homme...qui donnent un cadre international non contraignant à la lutte contre les impacts négatifs causés par les activités des entreprises, les violations des droits humains par des entreprises multinationales se poursuivent en toute impunité. Cela montre que seules des mesures contraignantes peuvent désormais permettre aux victimes de ces violations d’avoir accès à la justice.

En ce moment même, la France dispose d’une occasion historique d’aller dans le sens d’une mondialisation régulée, respectueuse des droits humains. Une loi relative au devoir de vigilance des sociétés mères et entreprises donneuses d’ordre, destinée à prévenir les dommages environnementaux et les violations des droits humains générés par leurs activités, est bloquée au Sénat. Bien que le Président de la République ait déclaré soutenir une telle loi, le gouvernement et le Parlement tardent à adopter définitivement la proposition de loi…

L’approche européenne reste limitée à la promotion d’une RSE volontaire via un système de récompenses et de reconnaissances, répondant aux demandes des lobbies du secteur privé.

Alors que L’UE devrait prendre part à l’élan international visant à développer un traité contraignant sur les entreprises et les droits de l’Homme, elle a voté contre l’initiative onusienne…

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15 June 2016

5 Years of Failure - Why UN Voluntary Measures Aren't Stopping Bad Business Behavior

Author: Anne van Schaik & Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth, on Common Dreams

 …[T]he UN Guiding Principles, nor the related National Action Plans, have been able to hold large multinational corporations to account. They have also not been able to provide affected people and communities with a strong, enforceable mechanism to ensure they have access to justice, and secondly that any judgment or verdict on their case will be also implemented…

Luckily, it is not all doom and gloom. On 26 June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution 26/09 calling for an intergovernmental working group to establish binding rules for transnational corporations and other businesses in relation to human rights…This historic decision means that, if the Treaty is adopted and enforced, international human rights law will for the first time apply to the activities of transnational corporations…

However, the European Union, as well as other UN Members, voted first against the resolution…They claim more attention needs to be given to the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles…

The EU’s and US’s lack of support for the UN treaty on business and human rights stands in stark contrast with its support for securing privileged treatment for corporations around the globe through investment treaties and trade deals…[Also refers to BHP Billiton, Chevron, Shell, Vale, Wilmar International]

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15 June 2016

Friends of the Earth Intl. states UN Guiding Principles still weak & business & human rights must take precedence over trade deals

Author: Friends of the Earth International

"UNGP+5: Where's the Party?," 14 Jun 2016

…June 16th marks the 5th anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Yet, violations of human and environmental rights continue, and access to justice remains as difficult as…ever…We’d like to be celebrating today…But we’re not…Because…the Guiding Principles are not official UN criteria…So States are not obliged to incorporate the…Principles into…national policy...[N]either the UN Guiding Principles, nor the related National Action Plans, have been able to hold…corporations to account…Luckily, it is not all doom and gloom. On 26 June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution 26/09 calling for…binding rules for transnational corporations…in relation to human rights…However,the European Union, as well as other UN Members, voted first against the resolution and later tried to derail and boycott the process...We need to have a UN treaty on business and human rights that takes precedent over…trade deals…It is time for UN member states to rule over transnational corporations, and not be ruled by them...[Also refers to BHP Billiton, Chevron, Shell, Vale, and Wilmar.]

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15 June 2016

Human Rights and Business: From Principles to Practice

Author: Lauren Compere, Boston Common, on Huffington Post

This month marks five years since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)…

However moving from principles to practice in the last five years has not been easy.

The first achievement of the UNGPs has been to make a strong business case to companies to ensure they manage human rights risks…

In the last five years we have also seen a greater focus on this issue by regulators with a trend for putting responsibility for oversight of these risks not only on the shoulders of company management but right through to the boardroom…

Investors have also played their part in pushing corporate action from principles to practice since the UNGPs’ adoption…

We must make it as easy as possible for companies to understand the expectations of investors and others so they can embed good practice in their everyday business. In an age where many companies have global operations and complex supply chains this requires clear and simple guidance…Allso refers to Lonmin

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14 June 2016

Blog: Focus on role of businesses on inequality is essential to ensure respect for human rights

Author: Uwe Gneiting, Oxfam America

"The new frontier? Inequality, business and human rights," Jun 2016

It has been…five years since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles (UNGP)…This…progress of the Business and Human Rights field has been promising…But for the…field to remain relevant, it needs to…adapt…[I]nequality, human rights and business are inextricably intertwined…Not only do human rights violations drive inequality (e.g. erosion of labor rights…) but unequal societies are also more likely to pose challenges to…human rights…[C]orporate tax abuse and…shareholder interests have served to skew…wealth…towards the world’s wealthiest individuals and largest corporations. There is…consensus…that the existing economic paradigm…has reproduced a dynamic that has led to…concentrated market power into the hands of a few…[T]he rise in inequality has also contributed to a…proliferation of initiatives that aim to transform the dominant economic model in service of a more humane economy…[A] global economic system that enables a more equitable distribution of incomes and wealth goes hand in hand with ensuring greater respect for human rights…Business and Human Rights can help to ensure that the transformative efforts needed to overcome…inequality…occur in respect of human rights…

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14 June 2016

Commentary: UK commitment to business & human rights still has room for improvement

Author: Sian Lea, RightsInfo

"Business And Human Rights… More Than Lofty Rhetoric?," 13 Jun 2016

This Thursday, it will be five years since the United Nations Human Rights Council first adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This post argues that while the UK has demonstrated its commitment to these principles and the protection of human rights in business, there is still room for improvement… Since 2011, the UK National Contact Point (NCP)…has been tasked with handling complaints relating to multinational companies and their human rights compliance…However, out of 25 human rights cases brought to the NCP since 2011, only one has been fully accepted and concluded…The good news is that efforts to ensure companies uphold human rights appear to be increasing. The G7…met…and discussed enhancing supply chain transparency and accountability. The Equality and Human Rights Commission…recently published guidance helping company directors ensure human rights are respected…The key is making sure these efforts are more than lofty rhetoric from companies jumping onto a fashionable bandwagon…[Also refers to BT, Nike, and Shell.]

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13 June 2016

European Coalition for Corporate Justice calls for EU to focus on 5 areas to effectively implement UN Guiding Principles

Author: European Coalition for Corporate Justice

"5 Years of UNGPs: 5 Business & Human Rights issues to focus on," 10 Jun 2016

The international community adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights…pledging to address adverse impacts of business activities. Five years later, the progress made is minimal. Here are the five major action areas we think the EU and its Member States should be focusing on…

National Action Plans for effective implementation

…Member States should…develop National Action Plans through an inclusive and evidence-based process which leads to effective…policies on business and human rights…

Mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence

…The EU and Member States need to…adopt regulatory measures to ensure that companies respect human rights…

Non-Financial Reporting & Corporate Transparency

…Member States are required to transpose the new EU Directive into national law…They should seize this opportunity to tackle the gaps…of the Directive…

Access to Justice for victims of corporate abuse

…The EU and Members States should assess and tackle existing financial and legal barriers to access to justice…

A UN Treaty on business and human rights

…Current challenges in the business and human rights area require an integrated and coherent approach...

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13 June 2016

Interview: UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights enable firms to anticipate & manage corporate responsibility risks efficiently

Author: Christopher P. Skroupa, on Forbes (USA)

"Human Rights -- A Growing Risk For Companies Doing Business In Tough Places", 10 Jun 2016

Yousuf Aftab is the Principal of Enodo Rights, a corporate human rights strategy firm based in New York. He advises leading global businesses and investors on practical implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights...

Now, not only can companies harm their brand with corporate responsibility failures; they can also face substantial lawsuits and lose access to capital and political support. To navigate these emerging risks, companies need to implement far more sophisticated and structured corporate responsibility systems.

The source of this change is the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights...They have become the global benchmark for how companies manage their social impacts in and beyond the workplace...The definition also enables plaintiffs, investors and governments to hold businesses accountable for due diligence failures around human rights issues in a way they never could before. We have therefore seen a proliferation of lawsuits in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and a wave of pressure from institutional investors on multinational companies related to their human rights processes.

...The Guiding Principles are precise. They therefore enable businesses to anticipate and manage corporate responsibility risks efficiently...

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