National Action Plan Topic at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

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The development and implementation of a National Action Plan (NAP) for business and human rights is a significant effort for any country to undertake – both from the perspective of the State developing the NAP and the stakeholders contributing to the process. In late September 2014, the White House announced that the United States would develop a National Action Plan (NAP) to promote responsible business conduct abroad, consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. This effort is ongoing today with a significant number of civil society organizations, businesses, and academics contributing input and recommendations to assist the U.S. government with developing and releasing its approach.

To gain stakeholder input as part of its NAP development process, the U.S. government has conducted a series of dialogue events over the last year, both at locations around the country and through web-based sessions, with members of the private sector, civil society, academia, and the public-at-large. The U.S. government has utilized these events, along with requests for written input, to obtain feedback and views from U.S. businesses and civil society.  The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR), an NGO focused to business and human rights, maintains a website that tracks most of the stakeholder recommendations submitted to date for the U.S. National Action Plan.

In addition to the ongoing U.S. national efforts, development and implementation activities for NAPs for business and human rights continues in multiple countries around the world. To date, NAPs on business and human rights have been released from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Sweden, and Norway. Stakeholders that wish to gain a deeper understanding of the content and process of these NAPS may wish to consider ICAR’s report released earlier this month. ICAR has analyzed each released NAP “in terms of their content and processes in order to assess best practice and to suggest areas for improvement going forward” for both planned future NAP initiatives, as well as those currently underway.

A separate NAP analysis is provided through a recent business briefing co-authored by the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights and Clifford Chance, an international law firm. Their report provides an overview of the various NAP initiatives underway around the world, pointing out that the business community must stay abreast of ongoing NAP developments to be prepared for any legislative or regulatory change. The report also explains the processes through which NAPs are developed (such as consultations and outreach) and the opportunities this presents for business to engage with States and other actors to share knowledge and experience, and to build collaborative and strategic partnerships.

Finally, in addition to utilizing the references above, businesses following the development of National Actions Plans for Business and Human Rights may well want to consider attending the 2015 United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights taking place next week in Geneva, Switzerland since a  significant focus topic of the conference is the ongoing development and implementation of National Action Plans on business and human rights. Senior representatives from the U.S. and other national governments (including Korea, Columbia, and Germany) are scheduled to address the forum’s session on the challenges and lessons learned in developing National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights.

While the forum will provide a key opportunity for national governments, multilateral institutions, and civil society to exchange views and experiences related to the various ongoing National Action Plan efforts around the world, having business participate as part of this discussion can only increase the benefit of the forum for all stakeholders. Registration for the forum is still open and can be accessed here. Those unable to attend in person can also access live coverage of the conference here.