I- The State’s Obligation to Protect Human Rights
The European Framework
6. The Council of Europe [page 17]
The political declaration supporting the UN Guiding Principles was adopted in April 2014 and the Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)3 on human rights and business was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 2 March 2016.
Currently this recommendation includes the following provisions:
Article 20. Member States should apply such measures as may be necessary to encourage or, where appropriate, require that:
- business enterprises domiciled within their jurisdiction apply human rights due diligence throughout their operations;
- business enterprises conducting substantial activities within their jurisdiction carry out human rights due diligence in respect of such activities; including project-specific human rights impact assessments, as appropriate to the size of the business enterprise and the nature and context of the operation.”
8. Trade and Investment Agreements [page 19]
In 2013, France issued a number of proposals to improve the way in which social and environmental standards were addressed in European trade agreements. These proposals are still relevant.
These proposals focus on five main areas:
2. Improving the evaluation of sustainable development chapters through rigorous impact assessments. These impact assessments must provide a clear overview of social and environmental standards in countries negotiating agreements with the EU. France has completed a major revision of the European manual used to write these impact assessments. This could lead to progress in the field.
Actions to be Implemented
- Encourage impact assessments to be completed before and after agreements are concluded and make all free trade agreements conditional on the inclusion of human rights clauses and the prioritization of the UN Guiding Principles.
The National Framework
13. The Role of Public Agencies
The Agence Française de Développement (AFD)
… the AFD adopted a 2014-2016 CSR action plan developed with internal and external stakeholders. The goals of this action plan are to increase transparency
by consulting with relevant parties and by publishing information on AFD-funded projects and final reports. Other information is available upon request, including social and environmental impact assessments …
II- Businesses’ Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
3. Risk Analysis and Impact Assessment [page 40]
Businesses must understand the type and scope of adverse human rights impacts (both real and potential) caused directly or indirectly by their operations, particularly in their business relationships. This enables them to identify measures to prevent, remedy and mitigate these impacts.
Practically speaking, businesses analyse their human rights risks by:
- Using external risk analysis tools (see below), which may or may not be adaptable;
- Identifying human rights issues that are specific to their operations or sector;
- Carrying out country risk assessments by compiling the available external data;
- Carrying out background checks and audits on suppliers and other stakeholders.
Many tools are available to help businesses analyse risks and assess the impact of their operations. If necessary, they can also call on employers’ organizations and other appropriate stakeholders.
The following points are key to the implementation of risk management measures:
- Impact assessments must be completed for new operations, projects, commercial relationships, countries, etc.;
Actions to be Implemented [page 41]
- Promote the completion and publication of voluntary impact assessments, ensuring that all appropriate stakeholders are included (if necessary, through the free, prior and informed consultation of populations), particularly rights holders for companies that are not required to complete project-specific impact assessments, and ensure these assessments are monitored.
Practical Tools Addressing Specific Issues:
- The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (www.businesshumanrights.org) is an online library with connections to a wide range of working
documents and conceptual tools published by businesses, NGOs, governments, sector-specific initiatives and institutions. Many tools have been sorted by issue, country, sector or company policy/steps (policy, impact assessment, training, reporting, etc.).