Finnish EU Council Presidency puts forward action agenda on BHR, acknowledging need for EU due diligence regulation

At the occasion of a Business and Human Rights conference in Brussels on 2 December 2019, the Finnish EU Council Presidency put forward an "Agenda for Action on Business and Human Rights" with more than 20 proposals for measures in the fields of public funding, legislation and judicial remedies, as well as trade and development cooperation. The agenda acknowledges the need for "further EU-wide initiatives, including regulation on mandatory human rights due diligence."

In his keynote to the conference, Professor John Ruggie affirmed that the "smart mix of measures" embodied in the UNGPs is about both voluntary and mandatory measures.

A "Perspectives Paper" with contributions from the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and others was released prior to the conference. The programme and webcast are available here.

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2 December 2019

Finland proposes EU Agenda for Action on Business and Human Rights

Author: Finnish Government

"Agenda for Action on Business and Human Rights"

...This outcome document is our proposal for an Agenda for Action on Business and Human Rights for the EU, it is issued on behalf... of the hosts of the Conference...

The European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Council of the EU, should put in place a Joint Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in order to facilitate more strategic, comprehensive and effective EU action...

...There is a need for a review of the available evidence of the effectiveness of different voluntary and mandatory measures on responsible business conduct at the level of Member States and the EU... The fragmented landscape of (existing and envisaged) regulatory measures governing responsible management of supply chains and due diligence has led to the need for further EU-wide initiatives, including regulation on mandatory human rights due diligence.

...Member States and Commission/EEAS could consider piloting a system of peer reviews for assessing the effectiveness of implementation of Member States’ National Action Plans (NAPs) on the UNGPs...

...Access to remedy... underpins both the state duty to protect human rights and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights... [T]he Commission should identify proposals for addressing possible gaps in the EU legal framework. This should include identifying how access to remedy may be enhanced through broader regulation on human rights due diligence...

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2 December 2019

John Ruggie affirms "smart mix" includes mandatory measures at Finnish EU Presidency conference

Author: John Ruggie

"Keynote Address by John Ruggie at the Conference 'Business & Human Rights: Towards a Common Agenda for Action'"

...The Guiding Principles [on Business and Human Rights] embody two core strategic concepts: advocating a “smart mix of measures,” and using “leverage.”...

We often hear the term “smart mix of measures” being employed to mean voluntary measures alone. But that gets it wrong. Guiding Principle 1 says that states must have effective legislation and regulation in place to protect against human rights harm by businesses. Guiding Principle 3 adds that states should periodically review the adequacy of such measures and update them if necessary... So, a smart mix means exactly what it says: a combination of voluntary and mandatory, as well as national and international measures.

A number of EU member states and the EU as a whole have begun to put in place mandatory measures... Such initiatives are aligned with the spirit of the UNGPs, and they are important steps in adding “mandatory measures” into the mix. Still, many leave a lot to the imagination... More should be done to specify what meaningful implementation looks like, in order to avoid contributing to the proliferation of self-defined standards and storytelling by firms. Also, with limited exceptions currently no direct consequences follow from non-compliance. Nevertheless, the ascent of Pillar I is underway...

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