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UN Forum Series Blog: Progress depends on clarifying responsibilities

At the global level, the distance between the “economic” agenda (e.g., trade, investment and finance) and the UNGPs has not diminished substantially since 2011 – the year when the UNGPs were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council...Throughout the year of 2015, Brazil signed five Cooperation and Facilitation Investment Agreements (CFIA), having as counterparts Mozambique, Angola, Mexico, Malawi and Colombia...One of its articles states that investors should “respect the human rights of those involved in the activities of the company according to the international commitments of the host state”. This language is in direct conflict with the Guiding Principles, which clearly establish that businesses should guide their actions not only in accordance with national legislation but primarily in reference to the International Bill of Human Rights...A second example concerns the new statute for state-owned enterprises (SOEs), currently under discussion at the Brazilian Congress [where] both the Government and members of Parliament are fiercely resisting the idea of including human rights due diligence and reporting as obligations of SOEs...Still at the national level, the National Action Plans produced so far are highly aspirational and lack basic elements that any credible action plan should not leave aside, such as clear assignment of roles and responsibilities, deadlines and mechanisms of enforcement and periodic measurement of progress...On the business side...a long road lies ahead for the meaningful incorporation of the human rights due diligence into corporate processes and even more when the issue is remediation...These examples point to a curious phenomenon, which is the fact that everyone seems to be “washing their hands” and throwing the responsibility of implementing the GPs onto the others...The answer is to focus on clarifying roles and responsibilities and, more importantly, to devise mechanisms for better accountability...

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