Business and Human Rights

As globalisation has accelerated around the world and the reach and impact of business enterprises has amplified, there has been increased debate about their roles and responsibilities with regard to human rights. The Business and Human Rights Working Group looks at at the links between human rights and business - more specifically at the ways that the private sector can improve human rights in Europe.

The role of national human rights institutions in Business and Human Rights was addressed by the Edinburgh Conference in 2010, culminating in the Edinburgh Declaration. In line with this Declaration, the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions held its first Regional Workshop on Business and Human Rights in Berlin in 2012. Since that time has been working on business and human rights at the regional level, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Within the Working Group, members share their knowledge and expertise to develop engagement with regional mechanisms on the human rights impact of corporate activities. They also liaise with the ICC Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

In the ICC working group, ENNHRI is represented by the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the German Institute for Human Rights].

ENNHRI’s Working Group has focused on the use of National Action Plans (NAP) to protect, respect and remedy the human rights impacts of business. This has become an important field of action for the Working Group members. ENNHRI has engaged on this topic in relation to the European Council, Commission and Parliament, and also the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee on Human Rights (CDDH).

Recently, the Business and Human Rights Working group provided a strong submission to the European Commission in relation to its new strategy on Corporate and Social Responsibility(CSR).

In addition, Working Groups on Business and Human Rights and Economic and Social Rights worked together to present a joint submission to the Council of Europe regarding the Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)3 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on human rights and business, in which ENNHRI members called on the CoE Member States to step up efforts to establish a practice of human rights impact assessment in this area, and to address the business and human rights challenges within the European region.

ENNHRI’s work in the field of Human Rights and Business

  • ENNHRI Statement to the Council of Europe High Level Seminar on Business and Human Rights (Strasbourg, 9 June 2017), on the Human Rights implications of privatising or contracting out Public Services.
  • ENNHRI WG on the Steering Committee for the EU Roadmap to Business and Human Rights Conference.
  • Oral and written interventions in the meetings of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Committee’s Sub-Committee/Drafting Group on Business and Human Rights (CDDH-CORP).
  • ENNHRI WG contribution to the adoption by the CoE Committee of Ministers of a new Recommendation on Human Rights and Business in March 2016.
  • ENNHRI WG held its first face to face meeting in Copenhagen on 1 December 2016.
  • ENNHRI WG members have continued to support each other by sharing information on the legal or policy developments in their own states electronically during the year