UN Forum 2016: Materials launched & commentaries

This page contains information about materials launched during the 2016 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights.

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22 December 2016

Commentary: Reflections on UN Forum on business & human rights highlights lessons from Natl. Action Plans, UK Modern Slavery Act & human rights defenders

Author: Amy Sinclair, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

"Reflections on the Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights", 21 Dec 2016

Reflections on ProcessIn reflecting on process, I have two main observations:1. Engagement and interaction...In terms of achieving higher levels of interaction, the Forum succeeded – in part. Of the sessions that I attended, a healthy portion of question time was included in each... However, an area for improvement lies in increasing levels of dialogue between panellists. The Forum would benefit from more free-flowing discussions and fewer set pieces, certainly in the designated Q&A slots...2. Balanced voice...The 2016 Forum also succeeded in terms of achieving greater business representation...Given the importance of government leadership on business and human rights, greater visibility and participation by State representatives would add a welcomed additional voice at Forum 2017...On the content of sessions, I left the Forum with these main impressions:1. NAPs...My impression, however, is that the race is on and, whilst these developments are encouraging, adequate safeguards must be built into NAP development processes to avoid the emergence of a series of hollow statements...2. UK Modern Slavery Act...Whilst its true impact, including potential extension to public bodies and their procurement practices, has yet to fully play out, the early indicators are positive...3. Human Rights Defenders...The protection of human rights defenders and adequate access to remedy for those negatively impacted by business, must occupy a front and centre position in the dialogue on business and human rights...

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15 December 2016

Commentary: Key take-aways from UN Forum include reflections on SDGs, business-community engagement, government implementation & benchmarking

Author: Vanessa Zimmerman & Global Compact Network Australia

"Engaging on business and human rights on the world stage – an update on the 2016 UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights", 15 Dec 2016

What were the key takeaways? As with any large scale event participants’ views will differ on key themes from the Annual Forum.  The following are just some of the interesting ideas and next steps discussed. More work is needed to ensure respect for human rights is effectively embedded into business plans and action to implement the SDGs...Businesses – NGO/community engagement is not progressing the way it should be and there is a particular gap when it comes to minimising risks to human rights defenders...Governments are expected to step up their implementation of the UNGPs including their support for all stakeholder groups to do the same...Benchmarking is here to stay alongside increasing scrutiny of companies’ human rights related disclosures...Benchmarking is here to stay alongside increasing scrutiny of companies’ human rights related disclosures...Initiatives like the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark and the UNGPs Reporting Framework combined with regulatory developments like the UK Modern Slavery Act mean that companies are being asked for more and better information on their human rights risk management...

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23 November 2016

Commentary: UN Forum lacked discussion of detailed steps to implement human rights due diligence

Author: James Harrison, Lacuna Magazine

"Human Rights and Business: Is the United Nations Helping?," Nov 2016

…The 5th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights takes place at the Palais Des Nations…Over the next 3 days, more than 60 workshops take place…There are many companies at the forum who talk about…human rights; from Apple to Coca Cola, from Nestlé to BP. But…I have no way of judging whose efforts are extensive, genuine, transformative…Can…UNGPs…help ensure that companies take their human rights obligations seriously?…At every session I attend, companies, states and UN actors mention [human rights due diligence]. But nowhere is practice discussed in any detail…No company is willing to share their methodology for undertaking human rights due diligence…At every session…UNGPs are continuously namechecked, but their actual impacts are never discussed…And so leaving the Forum, I wander through the atrium again…But my mind is no longer filled with hope…Instead I am worried that the UN may be prioritising the engagement of states and corporations over efforts to hold them to account, to ensure that they do something meaningful.

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22 November 2016

Japan: Japan announces it will formulate National Action Plan, Commits to involving NGOs

Author: Japanese government

human rights council room

At the 2016 Forum on Business and Human Rights, held in Geneva from 14 - 16 November 2016, the Japanese government announced for the first time that it planned to formulate a National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights. The government stated that "Japan strongly supports [and]  are committed to the implementation of the Guiding Principles. In this regard, we plan to formulate our National Action Plan in the coming years, and we have started preliminary discussion among relevant ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. In formulating our National Action Plan, we consider it important to listen to the voices of business and civil society. We aim to reflect those opinions in a well-balanced manner to promote responsible business activities."

Japan is one of two G7 countries that has not yet started the process of formulating a NAP. Civil society groups have been urging the government to do this as a matter of priority, and issued statements on the occasion of the Ise-shima G7 Summit in May 2016. 

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18 November 2016

Briefing shows increase in initiatives & actions by companies, govts. & civil society to implement UN Guiding Principles

Author: World Business Council for Sustainable Development

"Business & Human Rights: From Principles to Action," 17 Nov 2016

2016 marks five years since the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), establishing an authoritative global standard on the respective roles of businesses and governments in helping ensure that companies respect human rights…This issue brief…highlight some of the key developments that have characterized the business and human rights landscape in the…period since the UNGPs were launched, exploring areas in which business has made progress…and identifying enduring challenges moving forward…[I]t draws upon analysis of human rights reporting trends among the membership of theWorld Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). It also frames the evolving business and human rights discussion in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals…Ultimately, the brief underlines a strong sense that the work of embedding the UNGPs into practice is maturing fast and moving in a positive direction, driven by an evolving regulatory environment, enhanced scrutiny of business performance and an increasingly widespread array of guidance, frameworks of toolkits. 

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16 November 2016

Statement by 9 business organisations to govts. on development of Natl. Action Plans

Author: Global Business Initiative on Human Rights, UN Global Compact, BSR & 6 other organisations

"Business Organisations Statement on National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights," 16 Nov 2016 

On Wednesday 16th November, a statement on National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights was issued by 9 business organisations at the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva. The statement was delivered during a session on ‘National action plans to implement the UN Guiding Principles: stepping up Government commitments and action’ and was supported by BSR, FTA, GBI, ICCWBO, ICMM, IOE, UN Global Compact, USCIB and WBCSD.

Access the full statement here.

  1. ...Business supports the UN Framework and Guiding Principles and wishes to see States implement the State Duty to Protect human rights…
  2. States should see NAPs as the opportunity to exercise leadership to build genuine commitment and capacity to achieve tangible progress in standards, business behaviour and change for rights-holders…
  3. States should engage with the business community to learn from their experiences in dealing with human rights commitments…
  4. States should use the NAPs as an opportunity for collective action…

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15 November 2016

ASN Bank methodology for monitoring wages of garment industry workers showcases meaningful social impact assessment

Author: Karen Maas & Marjelle Oosterling-Vermeulen, Impact Centre Erasmus, and Hansje van der Zwaan-Plagman & Charlotte Scheltus, ASN Bank

"Garment companies and living wage: Sustainable investment and social impact measurement: The case study of ASN Bank," 14 Nov 2016

At the end of 2016, ASN Bank got in touch with the Impact Centre Erasmus to ask whether the Centre could help formulate a measurable goal in the area of living wage. This request sprang from ASN Bank’s search for a goal it could pursue to make a positive contribution to human rights…We decided to perform a baseline measurement to define the current state of affairs. In our measurement, we focused on the investment universe of the ASN Investment Funds and gradually developed a methodology. The results of these two activities have been included in this publication.

Social impact measurement is still in its infancy. Both ASN Bank and the Impact Centre Erasmus are convinced that it is therefore imperative to inform other parties not only of the results but also of the road travelled to get there. In this way, we help build the collective knowledge on living wages as well as the knowledge on social impact measurement…

[Also refers to Adidas, Amer Sports, ASICS, Asos, Esprit, Gap, Gildan Activewear, H&M, Inditex, KappAhl, Lojas Renner, Marks & Spencer, Nike and Puma.]

Download the full document here

15 November 2016

Assessment of Canada's Natl. Contact Point cases in extractive sector finds it unable to provide effective remedy

Author: Above Ground, MiningWatch Canada, OECD Watch

"'Canada is Back' But Still Far Behind," 15 Nov 2016

...Since 2000, Canada has maintained a National Contact Point (NCP) responsible for promoting multinational companies’ adherence to guidelines for responsible business conduct developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This report assesses the NCP’s performance to date, particularly with regard to harm prevention and access to remedy. It examines the NCP’s handling of five complaints concerning Canadian corporate misconduct abroad, all of which involved allegations…associated with the extractive sector…

These case studies illustrate the ineffectiveness of the NCP grievance process. The analysis shows that:

  • The NCP lacks independence.
  • …is opaque.
  • The process involves unjustified delays.
  • The NCP applies a high threshold for accepting complaints.
  • The NCP does not make findings on whether companies have breached the Guidelines.
  • The government penalty for companies that don’t participate has proven to be ineffective…
  • The process rarely concludes with an agreement…
  • …NCP has consistently failed to provide complainants with effective remedy.

…The NCP’s failings, as documented here, underscore the need for Canada to move beyond voluntary grievance mechanisms…

[Also refers to Barrick Gold, China Gold, China Railway Construction, Corriente Resources, First Quantum Minerals, Glencore, Ivanhoe Mines, Rio Tinto, and ZCCM-Investment Holdings.]

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15 November 2016

Index ranks pharmaceutical companies' efforts to improve access to medicine in developing countries

Author: Access to Medicine Foundation

"Access to Medicine Index 2016," Nov 2016

…The Access to Medicine Index analyses the top 20 research-based pharmaceutical companies on how they make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics more accessible in low- and middle-income countries. It highlights best and innovative practices, and areas where progress has been made and where action is still required…The 2016 Index used a framework of 83 metrics to measure company performances relating to 51 high-burden diseases in 107 countries…The Index analyses data gathered via a detailed survey of pharmaceutical company behaviour regarding access to medicine…The 2016 Index has a sharper focus on whether companies target their actions toward the people with the greatest need for better access to medicine. For example, in pricing, the Index examines whether companies price products fairly in the countries with the greatest need for those specific products. In R&D, it looks at whether companies are developing products that are urgently needed, yet offer little commercial incentive…

[Also refers to AbbVie, Astellas Pharma, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Daiichi Sankyo Co., Eisai Co., Eli Lilly & Co., Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Merck & Co., Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Roche Holding, Sanofi, and Takeda Pharmaceutical.]


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15 November 2016

Report by Swedwatch finds social criteria in public procurement can improve working conditions in supply chains

Author: Therese Sjöström & Linda Scott Jakobsson, Swedwatch

"Agents for Change: How public procurers can influence labour conditions in global supply chains. Case studies from Brazil, Pakistan and Thailand," 15 Nov 2016

…Many procured goods are produced in poor countries where the risk of human rights violations and poor working conditions are substantial. "Agents for Change" is based on three case studies concerning the production of surgical instruments in Pakistan, chicken meat in Thailand and coffee in Brazil. These are all products procured by Swedish contracting authorities and the production constitutes environments where working conditions often are hard and exploitation of workers widespread. In the first case, Swedwatch’s comparative studies from 2007 and 2015 demonstrated improvements in Pakistani factories, including wages and combating child labor, as results of the inclusion of social demands by the county councils, the public units responsible for health care in Sweden…Although there are several positive examples of how Swedish contracting authorities are working with social criteria, there are still many challenges remaining. Follow-up on set criteria is often lacking…To enable procurement officers to both carry out risk-assessment and monitoring, policy makers need to provide resources, time and expertise…

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