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Second plenary on the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights

10.07.2015 - Article

The second plenary meeting to draw up the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights took place on 6 May 2015.

Strässer outlining how the drafting process will continue
Strässer outlining how the drafting process will continue© Tom Malesa

The second plenary meeting to draw up the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights took place on 6 May 2015.

At the event held at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Berlin, almost 200 German and international representatives of politics, civil society, business and academia met to find out about the current state of progress, discuss the role of various players in the drafting process and spark ideas for the coming stages. Christoph Strässer, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, underlined the Government’s determination to submit an ambitious action plan by the middle of next year.

In his words of welcome, State Secretary Jörg Asmussen of the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry highlighted the importance of the UN Guiding Principles as an “international framework that sets out more precisely than ever what responsibilities states and businesses bear for ensuring that human rights are protected and upheld”. A good implementation process would, he said, provide Germany with considerable opportunities to shape and influence matters in such a way as to create level playing field for international competition.

Outlining the National Baseline Assessment

In the course of the National Action Plan drafting process, the steering group tasked the German Institute for Human Rights with drawing up a National Baseline Assessment (NBA) to describe the status quo in Germany with regard to implementation of the Guiding Principles. At the conference, the institute’s Deputy Director Michael Windfuhr outlined the essential elements of that NBA.

Discussions among the panellists
Discussions among the panellists© Tom Malesa

There were lively discussions about the NBA, particularly with regard to what roles various players can and wish to play in implementation. For the Federal Foreign Office, which has chief responsibility in this endeavour, the NBA represents a good starting point for the coming stages in drafting the National Action Plan.

As the event continued, lead-in presentations and panel discussions allowed for the presentation of concrete examples of implementation from the point of view of businesses and trade unions as well as case studies from the perspective of those affected.

At the end, Human Rights Commissioner Strässer pointed out that a high-quality Action Plan would also send an important message as part of establishing Germany as a recognised player in human rights issues at the international level. He reported that the Federal Government now intended to launch the next phase in drafting the National Action Plan, in close liaison with those involved in the process, by conducting consultations with experts.

Businesses and trade unions presenting concrete examples of implementation
Businesses and trade unions presenting concrete examples of implementation© Tom Matesa

Responsibility for human rights in the age of globalisation

The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights provide a framework for responsibility in the area of human rights in our globalised economy. In creating a National Action Plan, the Federal Government intends to make a contribution to applying these Guiding Principles with the participation of all sections of society.

The Federal Government launched work on the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights at the opening conference in the Europasaal of the Federal Foreign Office on 6 November 2014. The conference on 6 May was intended to give the broad-based audience and interested members of the public an insight into the current state of play.

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