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Responding department: Ministry of Social Development

Note: This response was originally submitted in Spanish.  Unofficial English translation provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

Has your government taken any initiatives to reduce companies’ negative impacts on human rights that you consider particularly successful?

The Ministry of Social Development is managing comprehensive public policies that promote the development of individuals and communities, within a context of inclusion, restitution of rights and equality of opportunity.

Thus, since 2012 the Office of the Under-Secretary for Social Responsibility has been operating under the auspices of the Office of the Secretary for Coordination and Institutional Monitoring and is an example of the direction in which Argentina is going to in this regard.

We, in the government sector, believe that the idea of social responsibility should encompass all actors and be focused on a form of joint management that is capable of enhancing the various perspectives, resources and capabilities that are at play throughout our country.  

The approach we encourage involves inviting different social actors (companies, social organizations, universities, state bodies, etc.) to work to protect natural resources, to protect culture, turning social inequalities into diversity, in pursuit of the common good. As a consequence, the mission of the department –the first of its kind in Latin America– is to facilitate and support public-private initiatives from a viable and sustainable development perspective.

In this context, the State takes on an active and attentive role in promoting profound changes in the quality of life of individuals and communities. But these changes are not brought about “from the desk” but by “going around the country” and talking to social actors in each place, redoubling and combining efforts and actions, and leaving behind individualistic and opportunistic attitudes.  

Participating in the Social Responsibility Paradigm that we are promoting from the Social Development Ministry means putting into practice values and behaviours that strengthen sustainability, inclusion, justice and social development, and which are designed to build a society that has increasing degrees of wealth integration, creation and distribution.  

Although social responsibility is an issue that has historically been addressed from the private sphere, the State has got involved in this scenario in order to promote cross-sectoral work with a comprehensive approach and coordinate institutional efforts (approaches and resources), so that effective, efficient and competent outcomes are achieved. From a social policy management perspective, comprehensiveness is understood in two ways: * comprehensiveness in outlook, through respect for a country-wide vision, rather than a fragmentary one; * comprehensiveness in management, based on cross-sectoral, multi-actor and cross-jurisdictional coordination.

What department or departments have significant responsibility for business and human rights within your government?

The Ministry of Social Development is managing comprehensive public policies that promote the development of individuals and communities, within a context of inclusion, restitution of rights and equality of opportunity.

Thus, since 2012 the Office of the Under-Secretary for Social Responsibility has been operating under the auspices of the Office of the Secretary for Coordination and Institutional Monitoring and is an example of the direction in which Argentina is going to in this regard.

Has your government undertaken new business & human rights initiatives or strengthened existing ones since the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles in June 2011?

Yes.

What are the top 5 priority issues that your government has taken steps to address since June 2011?

Types of company impacts prioritised:

  • Health (including environmental health, workplace health & safety)
  • Forced labour & trafficking
  • Discrimination
  • Women's rights
  • Impacts on children, including child labour

Other actions

The Argentinian Government has given clear indications of its commitment to extending human rights for large sections of the population. This is evident from a range of enacted laws, bodies and specific departments for dealing with issues so that such rights can be accessed and claimed.  

The following national laws can be listed as examples:

  • Comprehensive Protection of the Human Rights of Children and Adolescents (Law 26,061)
  • Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation (Law 25,673)
  • Prevention and Punishment of People Trafficking and Help for Victims (Law 26,364)
  • Prohibition of child labour and protection of adolescent employment (Law 26,390) – Accession to ILO Conventions 182 (On the worst forms of child labour) and 138 (Minimum age for admission to employment).
  • New Law to Protect the Consumer (August 2014)
  • Reform of the Civil and Commercial Code.
  • Gender Identity Law (Law 26,743) and the Equal Marriage Law (Law 26,618). At the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban (South Africa) in 2001, Argentina committed itself to drawing up a National Anti-Discrimination Plan based on research to be carried out throughout the country. As a consequence, the National Institute to combat Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI), which investigates and reports cases of that kind, and the National Coordinating Body on Sexual Diversity, under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Development, were set up.
  • Incorporation into law of the “Stable employment incentive” (Law No. 25,250). Companies with over 500 workers will have to draw up an annual social report containing systematized data on working and employment conditions, labour costs and the social security benefits for which the company is responsible.
  • Companies that employ over 300 workers will have to draw up an annual social report containing systematized data on working and employment conditions, labour costs and the social security benefits for which the company is responsible (Law 25,877).

Some of the national programmes implemented include:

Universal CHILD Benefit

Office of the Chief of Cabinet

National Social Sports Plan

Social Tourism Plan – Senior Citizens

Federal Social Tourism Programme – School children

Federal Social Tourism Programme – Families

Programme of Action to Promote Argentina Abroad

National Programme to Promote Sustainable Production and Consumption

PROSOBO Programme (Social Forests Programme)

BEC.AR Programme – Grants for Science and Technology Training Abroad

Ministry of the Interior

My Village Programme

“Best Practice” Programme to Improve Municipal Management Skills

National Political Training Programme

Ministry of Industry

Bicentenary Programme to Fund Production

Bicentenary Industrial Parks Programme

PROARGENTINA Programme – Portal for SMEs involved in export

Tax Credit Programme for Training

Programme for Accessing Credit and Competitiveness (PACC)

Local Production Systems Programme (Clusters)

Young SMEs Programme: Seed Capital and Sponsoring Companies

SME Experts Programme

SME Agencies Programme

FONAPYME Programme [fund for SMEs]

Tax Refund System

Mutual Guarantee Schemes (MGS) Programme

MiPC Programme

Ministry of Economy

Social Farming Programme (PSA)

Federal Production Restructuring Programme for Small and Medium Farming Enterprises

PROLANA Programme – Help to improve the quality of wool

Programme to Support Farm Production in Patagonia in Emergencies

Farming Emergencies Programme

PROINDER Programme – Development Project for Small Farm Producers (BIRF No. 4212 – AR)

PROSAP Programme – Provincial Agricultural Services – BID No. 899/ BIRF No. 4150 - AR

Programme to Improve the Production and Quality of Mohair

Rural Development Programme for the Northeastern Provinces of Argentina (PRODERNEA) (FIDA No. 417)

Rural Development Project for the North-Western Provinces on Argentina (PRODERNOA)

PROGRAMME No. 1: Advice and the provision of services with regard to lighting (Luminotecnia)

PROGRAMME No. 2: Advice and the provision of services with regard to efficient energy use

PROGRAMME Nº 3: Tax credit system for training

Federal Programme of Training and Technical Assistance for MSMEs

Programme for Training through Tax Credits

MyPES II Programme – formerly INICIAR Global Credit Programme for Micro and Small Enterprises

Programme to Stimulate the Growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Decree No. 748/2000)

Programme to support the initial launch of exports

Guarantee Fund Programme for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (FOGAPyME)

Impulso Argentino Programme – Social Capital Fund

Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services

Water + Work Programme

Programme to improve neighbourhoods - PROMEBA (BID No. 940 - AR)

PROMES Programme – Small-scale sanitation works

PROSAC Programme – Sanitation for slum areas where it is lacking

Programme to fund municipal governments (AR and BID No. 830/OC-AR)

PROPASA Programme (to help municipal governments with water supply and sewerage)

Emergency Housing Programme (Co-operative Housing)

PROSOFA Programme – Social Development in the border areas of Northwest and Northeast Argentina with UBN (ARG-7/94 FONPLATA)

National Programme for the Information Society. "[email protected]"

Ministry of Education

National Student Grants Programme (PNBE)

National Directorate for Compensatory Programmes Programme

FONTAR Programme – Argentinian Technological Fund

Directorate of School Infrastructure Programme

Ministry of Social Development

Welfare Benefits Programme (Non-contributory/ex gratia)

National Home Care Programme

National Food Security Plan

National “Back to Work” Local Development and Social Economy Plan

INAES Programme – Cooperative and Mutual Societies, Education and Training

INAES Programme – Financial Support for Cooperatives and Mutual Societies

INAES Programme – Group of Experts

PRO-HUERTA Programme – Vegetable Gardens Programme

Regional Social Enterprise NETWORKS Programme

FOPAR Programme – Participatory Social Investment Fund

Programme for coordinating the provision of direct help to institutions

Ministry of Health

Federal Health Programme

Programme for the Prevention and Control of Poisons

National Programme for the Prevention and Control of Cholera

National Cancer Control Programme

Programme for the Prevention and Control of Cardiovascular Diseases

Programme for the Prevention and Control of Diabetes

National System of Epidemiological Surveillance Programme

Aedes Aegypti Surveillance and Control Programme. Dengue Prevention

REMEDIAR Programme [provision of medicines]

ANAHI Programme – National Support for Humanitarian Actions for Indigenous Populations

National Comprehensive Health Care Programme for Adolescents

National Programme on Sexual Health and Responsible Procreation (Law 25,673)

National AIDS Programme (LUSIDA) for combatting human retroviruses

National Vector Control Programme

National Immunization Programme

PROMIN Maternal and Child Health Programme

Ministry of Work, Employment and Social Security

Programme to promote and maintain private employment

Public Employment Emergency Fund

Employment Offices Network Programme

Job Skills Certification Programme

Programme to support people with special skills in looking for and obtaining employment

Programme to support Protected Production Workshops

Unemployment Insurance Programme

Ministry of Justice, Security and Human Rights

National Forensic Science Programme

National Crime Prevention Plan

Comprehensive Judicial Reform Programme

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship

Regional “Somos Mercosur” Programme

Also, during 2014, the President of Argentina announced the referral to Congress of three bills on Consumer Protection:

    • Bill on a system for resolving conflicts in consumer relations. Creation of the Servicio de Conciliación en las Relaciones de Consumo (COPREC) - Consumer Relations Conciliation Service
    • Bill on the Creation of an Observatory to monitor prices and the availability of inputs, goods and services.
    • Bill on new regulation of production and consumer relations. Amendment of law 20,680 on supplies.

 * Also of note was the creation in 2011 of the "Programa ARGENTINA COMPRA" to promote sustainable public purchasing, coordinated by the Office of the Head of Cabinet.

* Furthermore, Argentina is a member of the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 (GoFP47) through the work of the Under-Secretariat as a Focal Point, the aim of which is to promote sustainability reports as a tool for ensuring corporate transparency.

The GoFP47 was set up in 2002 based on paragraph 47 of the final document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD/Rio +20), entitled “The future we want”; its members are Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa.

The Charter of the Group of Friends of Paragraph 47 states:

“We understand sustainability reporting as the disclosure of information concerning the significant economic, social, environmental and governance impacts and performance of a company. Sustainability reporting is a key way to assume corporate responsibility and to demonstrate a company’s long-term economic value. We understand corporate responsibility as the responsibility of a company for the impacts of its activities on society and the environment, exercised through transparent and ethical behaviour that contributes to sustainable development, including the health and welfare of society.” It is from that perspective that participating in the GoFP47 is seen as a channel for accessing the redress of human rights.

Has your government adopted a National Action Plan on business and human rights as encouraged by the UN Human Rights Council and UN Working Group on business & human rights, or will it do so in the future?

As for the policy on SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, in coordination with businesses, the Ministry of Social Development places emphasis on actions that involve the promotion of human rights and social and labour inclusion.

In all of our actions we promote the principles of the United Nations Global Compact that are linked to 3 main areas:

  • Human Rights (support and respect the protection of human rights; ensure there is no complicity with human rights abuses; uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining);
  • Labour rights (encourage decent working conditions, by eliminating all forms of forced labour; effectively abolish child labour; eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation);
  • Environmental rights (adopt initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility and encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies). The coordinated work we are promoting facilitates the generation of new and improved citizenship practices, which become more sustainable as they take account of and provide feedback for the different aspects of social responsibility.

Social responsibility, when understood as a form of management that promotes ethical, economic, social and environmental value, incorporates traditional elements of corporate social responsibility such as:

  • A triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental).
  • Coordination with stakeholders and accountability.
  • Tangible impact and continued improvement.
  • An ethical approach.

However, at the same time, there are key aspects linked to social policies in action:

  • Social inclusion (permanent search to improve the quality of life of rights holders).
  • Multi-actor approach (coordination and action synergy).
  • Solidarity, Mobilization and Citizen Participation.
  • Promotion of and respect for all human rights, the encouragement of gender equality and a rejection of all forms of discrimination.
  • Sustainability and viability (medium and long-term forecast).

The Paradigm we are trying to strengthen does not stop at implementing philanthropic, compensatory and support or palliative activities, because it seeks more than just the donation of money, products or services. Thus we have established as a basic rule the need to consider the many different perspectives and interests at play and to take a comprehensive view of individuals as rights holders.

The strategies being promoted by the Under-Secretariat of Social Responsibility seek the participation of different actors and social groups so that their skills and resources are involved in realizing collective social change projects throughout the country. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY is a form of management that emphasizes ethics, transparency and a commitment to others when it comes to promoting the development of a society.  

Several different ISSUES are addressed by the department: work and employment, the environment; enterprises, cooperatives and recuperated businesses; sport and physical activity, education, health, human rights promotion, culture, art, territorial strengthening, etc.

By implementing a variety of STRATEGIES, including: a. Labour market inclusion, b. Socially-responsible purchasing and inclusive businesses; c. Communication, sensitization and social awareness-raising; d. Sustainable production and trading; e. Training and research into social responsibility; f. A single register of socially-responsible organizations; g. International cooperation.

Access to remedy: What steps have been taken to develop new non-judicial remedies, improve existing mechanisms, and reduce barriers for victims?

From the Under-Secretariat we help social entrepreneurs, cooperatives and recuperated businesses to develop inclusive businesses as a tool for redressing the human rights of workers by means of labour market inclusion. In this way we promote small-scale supply chains, partnership networks, instruments for developing production and marketing arenas that strengthen the sector.

Which factors impede your government’s ability to take action on business and human rights?

Significant factors:

  • Lack of resources for enforcement, monitoring and prosecution
  • Opposition by economic stakeholders or business associations
  • Political limitations imposed by foreign governments or multilateral institutions

Minor factors:

  • Opposition or lack of consensus within government
  • Other opposition by influential people or groups outside government
  • Challenges of coordinating across government departments

Not a factor:

  • Lack of understanding or awareness of business & human rights