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Responding department: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice

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

There are several line ministries in Latvia, whose responsibilities include also issues related to business and human rights, including the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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

Other actions

The governmental authorities participated in elaboration of the Memorandum on Corporate and Social Responsibility, which was signed in 2010. The Memorandum was prepared by the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia, the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia, the Parliament, the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, the State Labour Inspectorate, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau and other institutions. The Memorandum is based on several main principles as compliance with labour law, protection and promotion of human rights, sustainable exploitation of natural resources, reduction of the risk of corruption. As an example of CSR programmes can be mentioned also Declaration on respect, tolerance and cooperation on the Internet, which was signed by editors of Internet portals, associations, foundations and public institutions in 2006. Declaration aims to reduce and combat intolerance and manifestations of hatred on the Internet without compromising freedom of expression and to promote open and reasoned debate.

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?

At this moment, we are developing the National Action Plan to promote Corporate Social Responsibility and responsible business conduct in consultation with the business and trade unions, as well as NGOs representatives. The Plan will be based on the OECD Guidelines as well other relevant documents.

If your government has adopted a National Action Plan or is planning on adopting one, please highlight whether it makes reference to international human rights standards and whether it was developed in consultation with affected stakeholders.

The Plan is being developed in consultation with the business and trade unions, as well as NGOs representatives. The Plan will be based on the OECD Guidelines as well other relevant documents.

Access to remedy: What steps have been taken to develop new judicial or administrative remedies or to reduce barriers to existing remedies for victims?

Article 92 of the Latvian Constitution provides that everyone can defend their rights and legal interests in a fair court. In the case of violations of human rights everyone has the right to an adequate compensation and the right to assistance of lawyer. All victims are guaranteed the opportunity to defend their rights in criminal, civil, administrative proceedings, as well as, if necessary, through the Constitutional Court.

In order to meet the requirements of the individual's right to a fair trial, as well as the victim's rights to remedy (access to justice, adequate litigation expenses, necessary legal assistance in court proceedings in a fair and timely manner), procedural rules are developed and reviewed regularly. These rights are enshrined in a number of laws, including the Law on Judicial Power, the Civil Law, the Criminal Law, the Labour Law, the National Legal Aid Law, the Law on State compensation to victims. These Laws are applicable both to individuals and legal entitities; obligations enshrined in them are legally binding also to companies and enterprises.

As a relatively recently introduced mechanism also the mediation process (voluntary cooperative process in which the parties shall endeavor to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute through a mediator) should be noted. Mediation can be used for the resolution of disputes out of court process, as well as in the proceedings.

In cases when the State enters into transactions with merchants (such as public procurement, European Union funds allocation) additional preconditions apply: the compliance with the duties prescribed by law is examined and the possible infridgements are analysed (illegal employment, payment of taxes etc.). The State pays a particular attention to cases where there is a need to find a balance between the interests of business entities and rights of individuals, for example, in cases related to preservation of the environment, public consultation on the land use planning in order to ensure public engagement in decision making and guarantee access to information.

If a person meets the State Legal Aid Act criteria, the State shall ensure legal consultations and the drawing up of procedural documents for the protection of the infringed or contested rights of a person or his or her interests protected by the law in a civil legal dispute and in order to prepare an application or a claim to the court or a settlement document, if a person is involved in a dispute of legal nature, in which legal proceedings are possible.

Latvia is an adherent to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. The Latvian National Contact Point (NCP), established in 2004, includes representatives of Ministries and other governmental institutions, Employers’ Confederation of Latvia and Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia. The Secretariat of the NCP’s Consultative Board is based within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises (OECD Guidelines) are being promoted by informative measures. We regularly arrange different meetings and seminars to promote the OECD Guidelines. Latvian NCP has dedicated webpages within the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which contains information on the OECD Guidelines, the NCP itself, and the texts of the Guidelines in Latvian and English are provided. The Latvian authorities are supportive of responsible business conduct and devote effort to increasing the level of knowledge among entrepreneurs through seminars and conferences promoting the benefits of responsible business conduct and best practices. Just an example, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Latvian Investment and Development Agency organize regular meetings with Latvian entrepreneurs ("The ABC of Exporting") aimed at the promotion of export and development of economic relations. Printed summary leaflets on the OECD Guidelines are distributed.

At this moment, we are developing the National Action Plan to promote Corporate Social Responsibility and responsible business conduct in consultation with the business and trade unions, as well as NGOs representatives. The Plan will be based on the OECD Guidelines as well other relevant documents.

So far, the NCP has not dealt with any specific instances.

Consumer Rights Protection Centre

On March 17, 1998 the Cabinet of Ministers decided to establish Consumer Rights Protection Centre (CRPC) on the basis of already existing Trade and Service Control Centre (Order March 17, 1998, No. 128). The main aim of the CRPC is to protect consumer rights by supervising trade of goods and supply of services, providing consumers with the necessary information and helping them to resolve conflicts, which have emerged. Latvia’s accession to the European Union was a major

development, which affected legislation and politics in many areas, inter alia, consumer rights protection; market surveillance; product and service safety; etc. CRPC is working under the supervision of the Ministry of Economics, which enforces the protection of consumer rights and interests, and the operation of the CRPC is regulated by the Consumer Rights Protection Law. According to the Statutes of CRPC, the main functions of the Center are:

1) To handle complaints on violations of consumer rights;

2) To provide legal advice for consumers;

3) To monitor the integration of consumer rights in draft contracts and agreements between consumer and producer or seller and service provider;

4) To supervise the correct detection of the weight and measure of food and non-food products and to supervise the correct calculation of the price;

5) To monitor and control the trade of non-food products (excluding medical products, veterinary medicines, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, veterinary pharmaceuticals, animal care products, household chemicals), etc.

6) To supervise the compliance of measuring equipment with the requirements of laws and regulations, to supervise metrological control of pre-packed goods.

In order to protect the interests of victims, Latvia has established a legal regulation under which the person is entitled to receive a legal aid provided by the State. The victim may assert their rights in criminal procedure, civil procedure, as well as in non-judicial procedures.

Persons in civil procedure have the right to request legal aid if:

1) they have obtained the status of a low-income or needy person in accordance with the procedures specified in the regulatory enactments regarding the recognition of a natural person as a low-income or needy person; or

2) they find themselves suddenly in a situation and material condition which prevents them from ensuring the protection of their rights (due to a natural disaster or force majeure or other circumstances beyond their control), or are on full support of the State or local government. The State shall ensure the following legal aid during legal proceedings in a civil matter legal consultations, the drawing up of procedural documents and representation in court.

The State shall ensure the following in criminal matters: the drawing up of procedural documents in criminal proceedings and defence or representation in a criminal proceeding.

According to article 104 of the Criminal Procedure Law, the State shall provide an attorney to the minor victim, while to the person who is at the legal age and poor or with low-income level, in criminal proceedings the State provides a public defender attorney. Article 108 of the Criminal Law provides that, if the minor victim or his representative has not entered in an agreement with a lawyer for legal assistance, in an offense that is related to violence caused by the person from whom the victim is financially or otherwise dependent, or in an offense against morality or sexual privacy, then a person directing the proceedings shall decide on inviting of an attorney as a legal aid provider.

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

If a person meets the State Legal Aid Act criteria, the State shall ensure legal consultations and the drawing up of procedural documents for the protection of the infringed or contested rights of a person or his or her interests protected by the law in a civil legal dispute and in order to prepare an application or a claim to the court or a settlement document, if a person is involved in a dispute of legal nature, in which legal proceedings are possible.

Latvia is an adherent to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. The Latvian National Contact Point (NCP), established in 2004, includes representatives of Ministries and other governmental institutions, Employers’ Confederation of Latvia and Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia. The Secretariat of the NCP’s Consultative Board is based within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises (OECD Guidelines) are being promoted by informative measures. We regularly arrange different meetings and seminars to promote the OECD Guidelines. Latvian NCP has dedicated webpages within the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which contains information on the OECD Guidelines, the NCP itself, and the texts of the Guidelines in Latvian and English are provided. The Latvian authorities are supportive of responsible business conduct and devote effort to increasing the level of knowledge among entrepreneurs through seminars and conferences promoting the benefits of responsible business conduct and best practices. Just an example, Ministry of  Foreign Affairs and Latvian Investment and Development Agency organise regular meetings with Latvian entrepreneurs ("The ABC of Exporting") aimed at the promotion of export and development of economic relations. Printed summary leaflets on the OECD Guidelines are distributed.

At this moment, we are developing the National Action Plan to promote Corporate Social Responsibility and responsible business conduct in consultation with the business and trade unions, as well as NGOs representatives. The Plan will be based on the OECD Guidelines as well other relevant documents.

So far, the NCP has not dealt with any specific instances.

Consumer Rights Protection Centre

On March 17, 1998 the Cabinet of Ministers decided to establish Consumer Rights Protection Centre (CRPC) on the basis of already existing Trade and Service Control Centre (Order March 17, 1998, No. 128). The main aim of the CRPC is to protect consumer rights by supervising trade of goods and supply of services, providing consumers with the necessary information and helping them to resolve conflicts, which have emerged. Latvia’s accession to the European Union was a major development, which affected legislation and politics in many areas, inter alia, consumer rights protection; market surveillance; product and service safety; etc. CRPC is working under the supervision of the Ministry of Economics, which enforces the protection of consumer rights and interests, and the operation of the CRPC is regulated by the Consumer Rights Protection Law. According to the Statutes of CRPC, the main functions of the Center are:

  1. To handle complaints on violations of consumer rights;
  2. To provide legal advice for consumers;
  3. To monitor the integration of consumer rights in draft contracts and agreements between consumer and producer or seller and service provider;
  4. To supervise the correct detection of the weight and measure of food and non-food products and to supervise the correct calculation of the price;
  5. To monitor and control the trade of non-food products (excluding medical products, veterinary medicines, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, veterinary pharmaceuticals, animal care products, household chemicals), etc.
  6. To supervise the compliance of measuring equipment with the requirements of laws and regulations, to supervise metrological control of pre-packed goods.

What, if any, form of support would your government welcome the most to help advance its actions to improve companies’ impacts on human rights?

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Latvian NCP are interested in learning from other NCPs colleagues about their experience and useful practices, national plans in particular to promote the business & human rights issues.