Departamento encuestado: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Also available: Response to the UN Working Group surveys on implementation of the Guiding Principles.

¿Su gobierno ha adoptado alguna iniciativa para reducir los impactos negativos de las empresas en los derechos humanos que usted considere particularmente exitosa? Por favor indique uno o más ejemplos al respecto.

The Government of Belgium, both at the Federal and federated levels, has taken a series of initiatives to improve companies’ impact on promotion and protection of Human Rights in the past, essentially in the framework of CSR policies.

Following the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles in 2011 and the EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy, the Government of Belgium has decided to draw up a National Action Plan specifically focused on Business & Human Rights to address the existing gaps.

A number of administrations are now working on this NAP, that should be completed by early 2015.

A series of steps have already been taken in the process, such as the basis analysis (Gap Analysis/Mapping) and a first stakeholder consultation.

¿Qué departamento o departamentos tienen una responsabilidad significativa respecto a las empresas y los derechos humanos dentro de su gobierno?

The process around the Belgian NAP Business & Human is led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Human Rights Directorate) and the Federal Institute for Sustainable Development (FISD, annexed to the Chancery of the Prime Minister).

The FISD chairs the Interdepartmental Commission for Sustainable Development, in which all federal and regional/community administrations are represented.

Within this commission, the FISD chairs the working group responsible for drafting the NAP Business and Human Rights and other related activities, such as the dialogue with the relevant stakeholders. Other departments involved in this working group include the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Employment, the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Environment at the federal level, as well as different line ministries at the regional and community levels.

¿Su gobierno ha promovido nuevas iniciativas en el tema de empresas y derechos humanos, o ha fortalecido las ya existentes, desde la aprobación de los Principios Rectores de las Naciones Unidas en junio de 2011?

Yes, amongst other things, Belgium has started drafting its NAP Business & Human Rights and has organized a series of colloquia and events to promote this issue at the national level, but also within the EU and at the UN.

¿Cuáles son los cinco principales temas de derechos humanos en los que las pueden tener impacto, sobre los que su gobierno ha tomado medidas?

Types of company impacts prioritised:

  • Discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • Other core labour rights (including freedom of association & trade union rights)
  • Women’s rights
  • Impacts on children, including child labour

Medidas en materia de discriminación

The Belgian Parliament has adopted a number of legislative measures since 2011 that will improve the impact of business on Human Rights in a variety of domains. For example with regard to discrimination between men and women, the Belgian Parliament adopted on April 22 2014 a law to fight the gap in pay between men and women.

A number of guides and trainings have also been developed to sensitize and inform individuals and companies on this issue.

¿Su gobierno ha adoptado un Plan de Acción Nacional sobre las empresas y los derechos humanos como lo recomienda el Consejo de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas y el Grupo de Trabajo sobre la Cuestión de los derechos humanos y las empresas transnacionales y otras empresas, o lo hará en el futuro?

Cf. answer to question 1 above.

With regards to CSR, Belgium has adopted its first CSR action plan in 2006. The latter was updated in 2010. A new update is foreseen in the framework of the upcoming NAP on Business & Human Rights.

Si su gobierno ha adoptado un Plan Nacional de Acción o está planeando adoptar uno, por favor destaque si hace referencia a las normas internacionales de derechos humanos y si se adoptaron bajo consulta con las partes interesadas y afectadas.

 Yes (cf. above).

Stakeholders (business, civil society, unions) have been consulted in the preliminary phases and further consultations are foreseen down the road.

¿Qué pasos se han dado para desarrollar nuevos mecanismos de reparación judiciales o administrativos o para limitar los obstáculos que presentan actualmente los mecanismos de reparación para las víctimas?

Individuals, groups or organisations who wish to file a complaint against companies concerning human rights violations committed in Belgium can address such complaints to the local courts. Recent legislation has made “class action” suits more easily accessible in a number of cases.

Belgium is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and as a member of the EU is dedicated to the values entrenched in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Belgium recognizes the decisions in this regard, whether they emanate from the EU Court of Justice in Luxemburg or the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg.

Belgium has also ratified the Rome Statute and recognizes the International Criminal Court.

Belgium is also a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, and has made the necessary legislative amendments to its Criminal Code to ensure extraterritorial competences for the Belgian judiciary on corruption by Belgian companies outside of the country, in accordance with its OECD commitments.

Finally, in 1993 Belgium has adopted legislation on extraterritoriality with regard to the most serious violations of international humanitarian law. This law also enables individuals to file complaints against companies when serious crimes are committed outside of Belgium, provided certain criteria are met.

¿Qué pasos se han dado para desarrollar mecanismos extrajudiciales, mejorar los mecanismos actuales, y reducir los obstáculos para las víctimas?

Belgium was one of the first signatories of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (1976) and has an OECD contact point since 1980.

Moreover, Belgium has ratified the main international Human Rights treaties and recognizes the investigation and individual complaint mechanisms under all the Human Rights treaties that it has ratified, including the complaints mechanism of the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

Para las empresas que tengan casa matriz en su país o sus subsidiarias ¿su gobierno ha dado pasos para mejorar la rendición de cuentas sobre el impacto en derechos humanos en el exterior? 

[See response to actions on judicial remedies here.]

Indique hasta qué punto cada uno de los siguientes factores le impide a su gobierno emprender acciones en temas de empresas y derechos humanos.

Significant factors are:

  • 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 are:

  •  Opposition or lack of consensus within government
  • Opposition by economic interest groups or business associations

¿Qué tipo de apoyo, si lo hay, su gobierno acogería con agrado como apoyo a sus acciones para mejorar el impacto que tienen las empresas sobre los derechos humanos?

Support to convince other countries to draft and reinforce their own legislation with regards to Human Rights and create a level playing field in this respect.

Our experience has taught us that the process of writing a NAP on Business and Human Rights was also a strong catalyst in this regard, as well as a useful means of sensitizing both government, business and civil society to the issues at hand.

In that perspective, we will encourage our partners to also draw up their own NAP’s, in a transparent and inclusive way, keeping in mind the need to consult with the relevant stakeholders.

Por favor, comparta con nosotros cualquier comentario adicional, incluyendo ideas sobre formas de colaboración futuras y aprendizaje compartido para promover el tema de las empresas y los derechos humanos.