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BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

diritti

 

The Guidelines and the Human Rights

 Chapter IV of the OECD Guidelines, entitled "Human Rights," is entirely devoted to the duty of companies to respect human rights. 

 The Chapter has been added by the revision of the Guidelines of 2011, in the wake of extensive discussions in place at the international level and, above all, given the presentation of the UN Report "Protect, Respect and Remedy. A Framework for Business and Human Rights", in June 2008. It is a UN proposal for the creation of an international policy framework for the management of the challenges faced by multinational companies and businesses in general in relation to human rights (see the" UN Guiding Principles for Business and human rights"). 

 In the Chapter, asking the companies to respect human rights, means:  

  • avoid infringing in the human rights;
  • address the adverse impact on human rights with which  they are involved;
  • minimise the risk of a negative impact on human rights with their activities, either in person, or through some business relationship also with their products or services.

 From an operational perspective, it requires that companies: 

  • adopt (explicitly) a policy of respect for human rights;
  • implement an adequate due diligence on the matter;
  • provide for or cooperate in appropriate remedial mechanisms. 

For the purposes of the Guidelines, due diligence is understood as the process through which enterprises can identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their actual and potential adverse impacts [on human rights and other values] as an integral part of business decision-making and risk management systems”.   

 From the official Commentary to Chapter IV of the OECD Guidelines other important concepts can be obtained:  

  • a State’s failure either  to  enforce relevant domestic laws, or to implement international human rights obligations does not  diminish the expectation that  enterprises  respect human rights;
  • the supply chain relationships should be  included among the "business relationships" and should be given great importance;
  • in all cases and irrespective of the country or specific context of  enterprises operations, reference should be made at a minimum to the internationally recognised human rights  expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights, (Universal Declaration of Human Rights: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1998 International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work).

 

The "UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights" 

On 24 March 2011 the "UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights" were published, offering, for the first time, an internationally authoritative standard for states and enterprises to which to refer to in the risk management of the adverse effects on human rights linked to business activity. 

 The issue of this "manual" is one of the most important consequences of the report "Protect, Respect and Remedy. A Framework for Business and Human Rights", presented in June 2008 by John Ruggie, the  Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights, following three years of research and extensive consultations conducted with the involvement of governments, companies, business associations, civil society and investors around the world.  

It proposes the creation of an international political framework for the management of the challenges faced by multinational companies and businesses in general in relation to human rights.

  The report is grounded on the consideration that: 

  • markets work the best only if inserted in a framework of rules, customs and institutions;
  • the current problem lies in the lack of governance that has been created as a result of globalisation;
  • the debate on human rights today lacks an authoritative anchor;
  • there is not a single solution, a conduct that may be claimed equally by states, companies and civil society.

Consequently, it shall make a proposal based on three pillars, which identify different and complementary responsibilities for each group of subjects, namely:

  • the State duty to protect against human rights abuses;
  • the corporate responsibility to respect human rights;
  • greater access to effective remedies for the victims of abuse. 

The Guiding Principles - espressely rerflected in Ch. IV of hte OECD Guidelines -   have inspired the development of similar standards by other international and regional organistaions, such as the human rights chapter of the Guidance on Social Responsibility from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 26000), and the revised Sustainability Framework and Performance Standards of the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group).

Human rights in the "Renewed  EU Strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility" 

 The European Union has welcomed the challenges outlined in the report of the UN. 

The Communication from the EU Commission "A Renewed EU Strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility", COM(2011) 681 final, issued in October 2011, which sets out the commitment of the EU in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, defines the improvement of EU policy coherence on business and human rights as a fundamental challenge to be faced, in particular through better implementation of the UN "Guiding Principles" of the UN. 

The DG Enterprise of the European Commission, in order to provide practical advice to SMEs on how to meet the requirements set by the "Guiding Principles" of the UN. " has financed a "Guide on Human Rights and SMEs",  within the European project “Capacity building for SMEs in the field of human rights” 

 Moreover, in 2012 the European Commission collaborated with business and other stakeholders in the development of three guides on human rights dedicated to the following specific industry sectors: employment and recruitment agencies, ICT companies, and oil and gas companies. The Giudences are consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights while leaving enterprises the necessary flexibility to adapt their approach to their own particular circumstances. They aim to help enterprises in Europe and elsewhere to meet the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, as defined by the UN and endorsed by the EU”. The guides have been developed on behalf of the European Commission by Shift and the Institute for Human Rights and Business. They are the result of an intensive multistakeholder process, involving representatives of business, trade unions and civil society organisations, as well as other experts.

 

 The report " Business and Human Rights in Italy"

Given the strong interest of the Italian Government to draw up a complete and accurate National Action Plan, at the beginning of 2013, the NCP has commissioned the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna a survey to examine the compliance of the Italian regulatory and institutional framework with the new international standard (in particular, the first and the third pillar of the UN Guiding Principles).

The document identifies the strengths and weaknesses, of the Itallian framework and suggests the priorities to be addressed in the National Action Plan on Human Rights.

The Authors decided to focus on a limited number of issues, likely the most relevant and / or problematic both in theoretically and in the specific Italian context.

Threfore, the first set of chapter of the Report is dedicated to the areas of state intervention in the economy that impact most significantly on the business conduct:

  • Corporate law and securities markets
  • Disclusure and accountability
  • Public contracts
  • State owned enterprises
  • Foreign direct investment and export credit
  • Development cooperation

The second set of tabs analyses the themes prioritised by the Italian Government in the field of human rights, namely:

  • Rights of the child
  • Gender issues
  • Freedom of religious expression in the workplace
  • Irregular migrant workers
  • Environment protection 

Finally, the last two chapters focus on the role of the Italian State with respect to Pillar III of the Guiding Principler, namely:

  • Access to state judicial remedies
  • Access to state non-judicial remedies

Each of the selected issues is the subject of an operational chapter structured as follows:

  • Reference text of the Guiding Principles 
  • Analysis of the potentially relevant international and European regulations and institutional practices 
  • national regulations  and institutional practicesm and their compliance with the Guiding Principles
  • specific recommendations on steps to be taken to adapt the national regulations and institutional practices to the Guiding Principles (in compliance with the other relevant international standards).

The chapters are based on a composite research including the direct examination of policies and regulatory instruments, the analysis of specific government grants, the study of comments and annotations in specialist publications and interviews with experts in the various addressed disciplines.

A concluding chapter examines the Italian  overall policy coherence (particularly with regard to the key issuo of the business due diligence on human rights) and makes some general "recommendations".

  The report " Business and Human Rights in Italy" (ITA)

 

The 2016 - 2021 National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 

i n implementation of the "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights",on December 15, 2016 the 2016-2021 National Action Plan of Business and Human Rights was presented by the Italian Government (and can be consulted on the website of the Interministerial Committee for Human Rights). The Guiding Principles have remarked that without the adoption of coherent policies and a strong commitment by social and business actors, economic development can not lead to greater equity, widespread prosperity and stronger social justice . The Working Group created by the United Nations for the implementation of the Guiding Principles encourages all States to develop, implement and update a "National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights" as part of the responsibility of the State to disseminate and implement the Principles themselves.

The text of the Plan is the result of the efforts of the Inter-ministerial Working Group within Interministerial Committee and of a wide consultation launched by the Committee among institutions, representatives of business, civil society, trade unions and industry experts.

Italy is one of nine countries to have provided so far a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. This proves  the commitment of the Italian government to support actions aimed at stimulating the effective implementation of human rights in the appropriate international fora . In the action plan it is also planned to rationalize the domestic legal framework and to raise awareness among enterprises, in contrast to the illegal hiring and any other form of exploitation of workers and for the management policies of migratory flows.

More in this category: « NATIONAL ACTION PLAN ON CSR