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Responding department: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Yes.  The National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

Under the umbrella of this plan:

  • Multiple initiatives geared towards awareness raising of the UNGPs among companies and also among civil servants.
  • The CSR sector risk analysis, which aims to unearth which Dutch economic sectors run the largest risks of human rights abuses or other CSR risks. On the basis of this analysis, the government will conclude covenants with the sectors on mitigating the risks.

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

Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a coordinating responsibility, tying together competences that lie with other ministries, such as Economic Affairs, Security and Justice, Social Affairs and Employment, and Finance.

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


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

Types of company impacts prioritised:

  • Other core labour rights (including freedom of association & trade union rights)
  • Access to water
  • Abuses linked to security for company operations (e.g.: torture & ill-treatment)
  • Impacts on children, including child labour
  • Investment

Actions on core labour rights (including freedom of association)

Core labour rights: intensive support of ILO's Better Work Programme, esp. in Bangladesh.

Actions on access to water

Access to Water: Supporting Waterlex for a project aimed at building capacity of African NHRIs in claiming citizens' right to water.

Actions on relations with security companies

Security for company operations: support for the Voluntary Principles.

Actions on children

Child Labour: Support of the Stop Child Labour Campaign for a project on Child Labour Free Zones.

Other actions

Investment: support for a project developing a human rights benchmark for investors/investments.

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?

Yes, in December 2013.

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.

It extensively references the UNGPs, as well as the OECD Guidelines for MNEs. In developing the plan, all stakeholders were consulted extensively, in the form of selected individual interviews as well as group consultations.

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

The government has commissioned an independent study on the question whether the duty of care for corporations is adequately anchored in Dutch law. Results expected in spring of 2015, possible new measures to follow.

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

Seed funding for the organisation ACCESS Facility, which aims to improve access to non-judicial grievance mechanisms.  / Strong support for the OECD NCP. NCP has been given the authority to conduct sectoral studies in at the request of the government for serious CSR cases.

Access to remedy: For companies headquartered in your country or their subsidiaries, has your government taken steps to enhance accountability for human rights impacts abroad?

Implementation of the new EU directive on non-financial reporting. Separately, the government already conducts an annual Transparency benchmark geared towards the 500 largest Dutch companies.

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

Most important factor:

  • Political limitations imposed by foreign governments or multilateral institutions

Significant factors:

  • Opposition  or lack of consensus within governments
  • Oppositon by economic interest groups or business associations
  • Lack of resources for enforcement, monitoring and prosecution
  • Lack of understanding or awareness of business & human rights in government
  • Challenges of coordinating across government departments

Minor factors:

  • Concern about deterring foreign investment
  • Other opposition by influential people or groups outside government

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

Mostly sharing knowledge, and capacity building for countries with problematic rule of law.