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Joint Statement on Business and Human Rights

Business and Human Rights Business and Human Rights
Business people at meeting

The Commission has been working closely with the Human Rights Law Centre to lead civil society advocacy around a national action plan (NAP) on business and human rights.

The Joint Civil Society Statement on Business and Human Rights is the key outcome of this work and has been completed following the Civil Society Business and Human Rights Roundtable in May 2016.

The Statement, which received an excellent level of support and endorsement from civil society, sets out civil society’s initial recommendations to the Australian Government on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in Australia.

The UNGPs provide an international standard for addressing and preventing negative human rights impacts associated with business activity. They were unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011. The Australian Government co-sponsored this resolution.

In order to implement the UNGPs countries are encouraged to NAPs, which are policy statements that provide an overall approach and set of government commitments articulating a government’s strategy for implementing the UNGPs. To date, ten NAPs have been completed with a further 27 underway across the world.

In March this year, the Australian Government announced its intention to undertake a national consultation in 2016 on the implementation of the UNGPs. In response to this announcement, and in preparation for the government consultation, the Australian Human Rights Commission hosted a roundtable meeting in May for civil society representatives, including non-governmental organisations and academia.

Reflecting the roundtable’s outcomes civil society’s key recommendations for the Australian Government are to:

  • establish a multi-stakeholder advisory group as a priority;

  • conduct a thorough, consultative and efficient national baseline assessment;

  • develop a NAP that contains specific, forward-looking commitments, timelines and allocated responsibilities;

  • meet criteria for the NAP development process:

    • high level of transparency

    • multi-stakeholder participation and consultations

    • an evidence-based approach

    • a monitoring and review mechanism

  • meet criteria for NAP content:

    • UNGPs as a foundation

    • include action-orientated, forward-looking targets

    • address interests of all groups in society (including the most marginalised)

    • include measures to ensure adequate access to remedy

  • lead by example, particularly in public procurement and the operation of state-owned, controlled and supported business enterprises;

  • develop clear guidance for business on how to respect human rights in accordance with the UNGPs, including on human rights due diligence and reporting;

  • develop options for safeguarding, supporting and developing mechanisms that provide access to remedy for the victims of business-related human rights abuses;

  • strengthen the Australian OECD National Contact Point; and

  • commit adequate resources to implementing the UNGPs.

It is hoped that after the public consultation are held by the Government, Australia will progress to developing a NAP.

The development of a NAP is a vital step towards Australia’s implementation of its obligation to protect against adverse corporate human rights impacts and to provide access to remedy for those whose rights have been violated due to business-related activities.

NAPs also promote transparency and accountability in the development of government policy and provide a platform for dialogue between government, business and civil society.

Read the Statement

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