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Analysis of Thun Group of Banks' discussion paper on UN Guiding Principles

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Article
20 August 2014

Blog post summarising analysis

Author: Damiano de Felice, London School of Economics & Political Science

"Banks and human rights: Assessing strengths and weaknesses of the Thun Group’s approach",

In May 2011, four European banks (Barclays, Credit Suisse, UBS and UniCredit) came together in Thun, Switzerland, and created an informal group (the Thun Group of Banks) to explore what the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) mean for the banking sector. In October 2013, the Group (enlarged by the participation of three additional members: BBVA, ING Bank N.V. and RBS Group) released its first public document, a discussion paper entitled “The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: An interpretation for banks”....Against this background, I followed the lead of other experts (including BankTrack, Andreas Missbach, Ariel Meyerstein and Sarah Altschuller) and wrote a detailed report on the main strengths and weakness of the discussion paper. You can find the report here, and a summary of my arguments here below.

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Company response
20 August 2014

Thun Group response

The Thun Group appreciates the interest in our discussion paper (published in October 2013) by a wide range of stakeholders, including financial institutions, governmental bodies, civil society groups, consultants and academia, including, from the latter stakeholder group, the paper by Damiano de Felice, a researcher from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Given that this is an academic paper, we view this as a contribution to a debate in academic circles, and we anticipate other academics to respond to it. As the Thun Group is unable to react to all stakeholders on an individual basis, we hosted a multi-stakeholder meeting in June of this year to reflect on the feedback received and to discuss future activities. We agreed to keep evolving as an informal ‘think tank’, plan to work on a stakeholder engagement strategy, and explore options for addressing the third pillar, i.e. access to remedy.

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Article
20 August 2014

Working paper on Thun Group's approach to UN Guiding Principles

Author: Damiano de Felice, London School of Economics & Political Science

"Banks and Human Rights: The Thun Group and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights", 1 May 2014

The publication of the Thun Group's discussion paper "The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: An Interpretation for Banks" represented a critical step in the way to delineate the relationship between the financial sector and human rights: the document aims to lay the foundations for the adoption of the first ever comprehensive guide on how universal banks should operationalise their responsibility to respect human rights. As the arguments offered by the Thun Group are likely to influence the way in which numerous financial institutions integrate human rights into their operations, this paper offers a critical assessment of the discussion paper. Notwithstanding several positive features, the Thun Group relies on a faulty subsidiary approach, avoids fundamental issues like access to effective remedy and downplays the importance of effective engagement with affected stakeholders.

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Article
2 October 2013

[PDF] UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights - Discussion Paper for Banks on Implications of Principles 16–21

Author: The Thun Group of Banks

...This guidance focuses on the implications for banks of Guiding Principles 16–21. These Principles cover the areas of policy development and commitment, due diligence in terms of scope, accountability and implementation, as well as tracking and reporting. These Principles are those which are most relevant to banks’ potential adverse impacts on human rights and which tend to be most challenging to implement...

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