For further information on the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2019ForumBHR.aspx

For further information on the work of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx 
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Monday, November 25 • 13:30 - 14:45
Beyond voluntary: mandatory measures for meeting the State duty to protect

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Session organized by Shift, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, CORE Coalition, FIDH, Finnwatch, Germanwatch and Sherpa

Focus and objectives
A growing number of states, particularly in Europe, are actively considering mandatory measures to advance business respect for human rights. In France, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, the UK, Australia, Norway and Switzerland for example, we see governments adopting or exploring mandatory measures as part of a “smart mix” of policy tools to incentivise business respect for human rights. In a growing number of cases, these measures go beyond reporting obligations to encompass comprehensive human rights due diligence, and they are receiving support from an increasingly diverse cross-section of businesses and investors, as well as from civil society.

This session will explore senior government, business and civil society perspectives on creating space for constructive debate on the role and effectiveness of mandatory measures. The session will also look at how these national developments and discussions in Europe connect to the EU level through the role of the Finnish (2019) and German (2020) Presidencies of the Council of the EU.

The format will be a facilitated conversation among panellists with the following objectives:
  • Objective 1: Hear from senior government representatives about opportunities and challenges in exploring and/or adopting mandatory measures as part of a “smart mix” of measures
  • Objective 2: Connect national level discussions within EU Member States to EU-level debates on mandatory measures, including mandatory human rights due diligence
  • Objective 3: Gain insights from senior business and civil society representatives about what constructive engagement by business in these discussions can look like

Background to the discussion
Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, including by undertaking human rights due diligence. However, 40% of the biggest companies in the world evaluated by the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark in 2018 failed to show any evidence of identifying or mitigating human rights issues in their value chains, and the gap between leading businesses and others appears to be widening.

Under the UNGPs, states have a duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses, including by adopting a “smart mix” of measures – national and international, mandatory and voluntary – to require, incentivise and support businesses to meet their responsibility. Until recently, mandatory (ie, legal or regulatory) developments by states have tended to focus on promoting stronger human rights disclosure requirements, which connects to one element of the due diligence process (‘communicating’). But there is growing momentum to consider comprehensive mandatory human rights due diligence, particularly within the EU.

France was the first country to adopt overarching requirements in its Duty of Vigilance law, followed by the Netherlands with due diligence focused on child labour. And now various other countries have committed to or are considering legislative proposals, including in Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Norway, the UK and Luxembourg. Possible due diligence legislation is also being reviewed at the EU level, including through a study being carried out by the European Commission agency responsible for justice issues (DG JUST).
We are also starting to see more companies and investors speaking out in favour of such legislation, and on the need for harmonisation of standards and a level playing field for business.

This session aims to explore the dynamics that can help or hinder such debates and how we can best advance constructive discussion about what reasonable and effective legislation could look like.

avatar for Rachel Davis

Rachel Davis

Vice President, Shift

avatar for Jaren Dunning

Jaren Dunning

Director of Human Rights, PepsiCo

Phil Bloomer

Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
avatar for Johanna Sumuvuori

Johanna Sumuvuori

Vice-Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland
Finland represents the presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 July to 31 December 2019.Johanna Sumuvuori was appointed as State Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto on 4 July 2019.As a State Secretary she assists the minister in matters relating... Read More →
avatar for Michaela Spaeth

Michaela Spaeth

Director for Energy and Climate Policy, Business and Human Rights, International Employee Rights and Employee Issues, German Foreign Ministry
Michaela Spaeth is Director for Energy and Climate Policy, Economic Affairs and Human Rights,International Labour Rights and Issues at the German Federal Foreign Office. Michaela is a careerdiplomat. Her professional path has focused on economic and global issues and climate policy... Read More →

Heidi Hautala

Vice President, European Parliament
avatar for Alice Navarro

Alice Navarro

Legal Counsel, French Treasury

Monday November 25, 2019 13:30 - 14:45 CET
Room XX