As the reach and impact of businesses has grown worldwide, debate has increased about their roles and responsibilities concerning human rights. The Edinburgh Declaration sets out collective commitments of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to engage proactively with corporate human rights responsibility and abuses, including with reference to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Through our Business and Human Rights Working Group, we facilitate work in this area.
The Working Group looks at the links between human rights and business. In particular, it examines how the private sector can help improve the human rights situation in Europe. It then brings its collective expertise and the perspective of European NHRIs to regional and international actors. They include the United Nations, the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the European Parliament.
Engaging with regional policy
Since its foundation in 2018, the Working Group has engaged with the most critical business and human rights issues on the policy agenda. The Group responds to consultations and feeds into legislative processes on a regular basis.
Recently, the Group has engaged on various European Union initiatives. This includes the European Commission’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD Directive). The Directive requires large companies to address their negative human rights and environmental impacts in line with key international frameworks. In April 2023, the Working Group published a statement on the European Parliament’s position, while in March 2022 it released one broadly welcoming the Commission’s initial proposal.
In 2022, the Working Group also looked at the EU proposal for a Forced Labour Ban. It pointed out that while such a product ban could be important in combatting forced labour in global value chains, key changes are still necessary. ENNHRI called for the proposal to adopt a human rights–based approach. In addition, the Working Group published a statement on the EU Framework for Business and Human Rights. The submission outlines how to ensure that a human rights-based approach is reflected in the Framework.
|Download: ENNHRI Statement on the ‘Zero Draft’ of the proposed business and human rights treaty|
Business & Human Rights Working Group
Our Business and Human Rights Working Group acts as a hub of experts in this area and a platform to exchange knowledge, good practices and challenges that NHRIs face. It also coordinates engagement with regional actors at the European Union and the Council of Europe.
In the GANHRI Working Group on Business and Human Rights, ENNHRI is represented by the German NHRI (chair) and the Portuguese NHRI.
Daniel Morris – Danish Institute for Human Rights