UN Guiding Principles and further international dimensions of the NAP

19.11.2020 - Article

The Federal Government and German industry have launched a number of initiatives to implement the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights. These initiatives form part of a global process to ensure human rights due diligence.

Romanian seasonal workers employed as harvesters
Romanian seasonal workers employed as harvesters© dpa

The Federal Government is focusing on productive cooperation with international partners.

Occupational health and safety, wages that safeguard people’s livelihoods, the freedom to form unions and the freedom of association, as well as the prohibition of child and forced labour, the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and the protection of the environment –these are examples of human rights standards that companies should respect along their entire supply and value chains. The UN Guiding Principles are based on existing human rights obligations such as the International Bill of Human Rights and the ILO’s core labour standards.

As an international framework, they formulate requirements for politics and business and, for the first time, constitute a generally recognised point of reference for human rights obligations of states and for the responsibility of companies in global supply and value chains. The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights were elaborated during a six-year research and consultation process under the direction of then Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Prof. John Ruggie. The UN Human Rights Council adopted them by consensus in 2011.

The UN Guiding Principles have become firmly established as a frame of reference for many international organisations working in the realm of business and human rights, in particular the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In their revised version of 2011, containing specific recommendations relating to corporate respect for human rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are expressly based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Germany is committed to this important OECD instrument and has set up a National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines as an out-of-court grievance mechanism.

The Federal Government establishes partnerships with many other expert bodies worldwide in order to advance the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles within a broad multilateral process. It consistently supports initiatives and projects by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

As part of Germany’s 2020 Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Federal Foreign Office hosted the global launch of the UN’s new flagship project UNGPS@10 / Next Decade Business and Human Rights. It also collaborated with UNICEF to organise an EU‑wide expert workshop on the rights of the child and corporate responsibility.


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