Content, timeline and process

Recent updates

New progress report

The progress report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Accountability and Remedy Project is now available. This progress report was requested by the Human Rights Council in June 2014 when it asked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to “continue work to facilitate the sharing and exploration of the full range of legal options and practical measures to improve access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses” (see HRC Resolution 26/22, paragraph 7). The progress report outlines the work undertaken to gather inputs and data for the ARP. It also sets out the findings of two preliminary investigations into State practice in relation to the challenges posed by cross-border cases and explains how the various information-gathering activities relate to other comparative research.

If you want a comprehensive update on how the Accountability and Remedy Report is progressing, please do read the report.  If you wish to comment on anything in the report please contact OHCHR

Studies on roles and responsibilities of interested states

Two preparatory studies in relation to project 2 (Roles and responsibilities of interested states) are now available on the OHCHR website. The working papers aim to gather and review empirical evidence on State practice and attitudes with respect to the appropriate use of extraterritorial jurisdiction and other regulatory measures (including cooperative measures) in business and human rights cases with a cross-border dimension. The first working paper involved a review of the terms of, and state practice under, key ILO instruments relating to severe human rights abuses. The second paper examines arguments for and against extraterritorial jurisdictions expressed in amicus curiae briefs filed by States in legal proceedings against companies under the United States Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”).

The Programme of work

The OHCHR Accountability and Remedy Project (“the ARP”) was launched in November 2014.  The present programme of work reflects and responds to the outcomes of an initial study commissioned by OHCHR, published in February 2014, and subsequent consultations and inputs from stakeholders and experts. It also takes into account the request from the UN Human Rights Council for OHCHR “to continue work to facilitate the sharing and exploration of the full range of legal options and practical measures to improve access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses…”. (Human Rights Council Resolution 26/22).

The challenges that victims face in trying to access remedy are both practical and legal in nature. The programme of work reflects this complexity and comprises six projects, chosen for their strategic value and potential to result in real change in the short-to-medium term. The projects correspond to issues that have been identified in research as requiring further clarification or as potential obstacles to remedy. Each project will result in a package of findings, good practices and recommendations to States, designed to be applicable to States with a range of legal systems and traditions and at different stages of economic development.

+ Project 1:  Domestic law tests for corporate accountability
This project will clarify how different domestic legal systems attribute and assess corporate legal liability for serious human rights abuses. It will result in ‘good practice’ guidance for States in relation to the factors to take into account in the assessment of corporate liability in cases of alleged involvement in serious human rights abuses.

+ Project 2: Roles and responsibilities of interested States

New Two preparatory studies in relation to this project are now available on the OHCHR website. The working papers aim to gather and review empirical evidence on State practice and attitudes with respect to the appropriate use of extraterritorial jurisdiction and other regulatory measures (including cooperative measures) in business and human rights cases with a cross-border dimension. The first working paper involved a review of the terms of, and state practice under, key ILO instruments relating to severe human rights abuses. The second paper examines arguments for and against extraterritorial jurisdictions expressed in amicus curiae briefs filed by States in legal proceedings against companies under the United States Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”).

This project will explore State practices and attitudes with respect to the appropriate use of extraterritorial jurisdiction and domestic measures with extraterritorial implications. It will result in “good practice” guidance for States in relation the management of cross-border cases and explore possible models of international and bilateral cooperation.

+ Project 3: Overcoming financial obstacles to legal claims
This project will look at strategies and practices to assist claimants who would otherwise be prevented from accessing judicial mechanisms due to legal costs, and result in guidance on ‘minimum steps’ and ‘good practice options’ for States.

+ Project 4: Criminal sanctions
This project will survey current and emerging State practice in relation to criminal sanctioning of corporations for serious human rights abuses and identify ‘good practice models’ for States, taking into account innovations from other areas of criminal law.

+ Project 5: Civil law remedies
This project will survey current and emerging State practice in relation to civil law (private law) damages in cases of serious corporate human rights harm, explore the role of domestic judicial mechanisms in relation to supervision and implementation of settlements and awards, and identify possible ‘good practice models’ for States, taking into account innovations from other areas of private law.

+ Project 6: Practices and policies of domestic prosecution bodies
This project aims to investigate the reasons behind the apparently very low levels of activity by domestic criminal law enforcement agencies in relation to alleged business involvement in gross human rights abuses. It will seek to identify challenges faced by domestic prosecutors in such cases, and to develop a set of recommendations for States on ways to begin addressing those challenges.

OHCHR is collaborating with the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable and Amnesty International on data gathering for Project 6. Read the joint statement of collaboration here.

Methodology

Each project is distinct and has its own methodology, but they have important links and interrelationships. Common for all projects is that the methodology will be based on inclusive multi-stakeholder and expert inputs and consultations. The programme of work describes the methodology for each project in detail.  To maximize the time and resources available, information-gathering for four out of the six projects will take place through two complementary research processes:

  1. The Open Process: a global online survey to elicit information and experiences from a broad number of jurisdictions globally, and from all stakeholders;
  2. The Detailed Comparative Process: a focused, in-depth research process comprising legal research done by legal experts in relation to 20+ ‘focus jurisdictions’, which will be used for comparative analysis.

The information from these two processes will be reviewed and analyzed by independent academics and legal experts, and used for project-specific consultations. The methodology aims to include a wide range of stakeholders in the research and information-gathering process, and to subject all findings to thorough multi-stakeholder consultations.

Timeline and key milestones

The programme of work will run until June 2016, when OHCHR has been requested by the Human Rights Council to submit a final report for its consideration. The outcomes of each of the six projects will feed into final OHCHR’s report to the Human Rights Council.

Summary overview of the project process:

The below illustration summarizes the overall ARP process and key milestones:

Background and key resources

In 2013 OHCHR commissioned an initial study on the effectiveness of domestic law remedies in cases of alleged business involvement in gross human rights abuses. OHCHR’scurrent programme of work was developed over a period of months in 2014, taking account of feedback given to the initial study in a focus group format and, subsequently, stakeholder feedbackvia a public consultation process on the initial study.  This public consultation process took place in the first half of 2014.  Draft work plans then underwent a further process of expert review in September 2014.  OHCHR’s expert review group comprised representatives of States, UN agencies, business organizations, law firms, barristers’ chambers, academic institutions, and civil society.

Key resources: