A number of bodies are involved in efforts to implement the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP). The German Government has set up an Interministerial Committee on Business and Human Rights under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office. The Committee comprises ten ministries and meets every eight weeks. Its objective is to verify the implementation and coherence of the adopted measures and drive forward the further development of the NAP process. At the meetings, the ministries regularly report on progress in the numerous governmental schemes to strengthen business and human rights. They also discuss synergy and any problems that may arise. In addition, guests from outside organisations give talks on their work. The Committee also initiates and supports the evaluation of the implementation status of the elements of corporate human rights due diligence set out in the NAP.
The NAP marks the starting point of a process that will be continuously updated and developed. In order to lay the groundwork for revising the current NAP, which covers the period from 2016 to 2020, the German Government will report at the end of this period on how the Plan was implemented.
On 12 October 2017, Professor John Ruggie, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights (2006-2011) and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the non-profit organisation Shift, met the Director-General for Economic Affairs of the Federal Foreign Office and attended a meeting of the Committee. During his visit to the Federal Foreign Office, he said:
During my visit to Berlin, I was pleased to learn about steps Germany is taking to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including through its National Action Plan. One notable provision in that Plan concerns the need for enterprises to exercise effective human rights due diligence. If 50 percent of enterprises with more than 500 employees do not have such systems in place, the Government will consider further action, which may culminate in legislative measures. The focus now shifts to how the provisions of the Plan will be put into practice.
The Committee is advised in its activities by the German Government’s National Corporate Social Responsibility Forum under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The Corporate Social Responsibility Forum’s business and human rights working group supports the Committee’s activities and makes recommendations to the German Government on the implementation and further development of the NAP process. It is made up of representatives from politics, business, trade unions, civil society and academia.
Monitoring the status of implementation
One of the Committee’s main tasks is to initiate and support a review of the status of implementation of human rights due diligence by companies. The National Action Plan explains the concept of due diligence with reference to five core elements.
In 2018, the German Government began reviewing the implementation status of human rights due diligence by companies annually on the basis of random samples. The NAP’s objective is for at least half of all companies in Germany with more than 500 employees to have integrated elements regarding the implementation of human rights due diligence into their business processes by 2020.
Companies can find further information, in particular regarding advisory and support services that are already in place, on the central website of the German Government on business and human rights. The NAP Help Desk at the Agency for Business and Economic Development is an important point of contact for companies. On request, it provides firms with confidential guidance on the NAP.