On 21 December 2016, the Federal Cabinet adopted the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP), which is based on the United Nations Guiding Principles that were approved in 2011. For the first time, these laid down fundamental human rights obligations that companies must meet in the context of their global supply chains. Five years after the entry into force of the NAP, it is now time to take stock, and the German Government has recently presented its report on the state of implementation. It gives an overview of all the steps that the government has taken with a view to implementing the NAP. One important measure to enhance respect for human rights in supply chains has been the Due Diligence Act, which was adopted by the German Bundestag in June 2021. It is based, among other things, on the outcome of NAP monitoring efforts that were conducted by the Federal Foreign Office in order to determine the extent to which consideration of human rights has become an integral part of German corporations. The report will serve as the foundation for the upcoming new edition of the NAP. This new edition will also need to take into account both the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and developments at European level.
10 years of the UN Guiding Principles: a milestone in efforts to protect human rights
On 16 June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. The United Nations thereby created the first global framework for corporate due diligence. The Guiding Principles define both the demands made of states to protect human rights as well as corporations’ responsibility for their global supply and value chains. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement on the tenth anniversary of the Guiding Principles:
Their adoption ten years ago was revolutionary. With them, the international community finally recognised that corporations have a responsibility for human rights. And for the first time, a UN body established an international framework that is built on three fundamental pillars: “Protect, Respect and Remedy”.
Much has happened since then. The Guiding Principles have substantially impacted policy-making around the world. They have become a point of reference for many National Action Plans, including our own.
Ten years after the adoption of the Guiding Principles, significant challenges remain: the exploitation of adults and children as forced labourers, the plundering of natural resources and forced displacement are only a few examples of the human rights violations we must continue to address. Germany is therefore campaigning – after achieving adoption of its National Action Plan – for the creation of European regulations on the respect of human rights in supply chains.