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France

I- The State’s Obligation to Protect Human Rights

The International Framework

1. The United Nations (UN) [page 12]

Most international CSR standards refer to the UN instruments that are part of what is known as the “International Bill of Human Rights”, … Under this charter, States have an obligation to protect all human rights, which are considered indivisible (see the Vienna Declaration of 1993), in their home territories and abroad.

Actions Underway [page 16]

  • The French Government and French businesses are committed to addressing their actions’ adverse impacts on populations in regions in which they operate, in France and abroad, in accordance with the country’s obligation to provide protection under the ICESCR.

 

The European Framework

6. The Council of Europe [page 17]

The NAP cites article 13 of Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)3 on human rights and business of March 2016: “Member States should (…) apply such measures as may be necessary to require, as appropriate, business enterprises domiciled in their jurisdiction to respect human rights throughout their operations abroad;(…)” .

10. The Reinforcement of Legislation [page 23]

The NAP cites the 7 July 2014 law on orientation and programming related to development and international solidarity policies, through which France “shall also encourage businesses with their headquarters in France and with offices abroad to implement the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.

Actions to be Implemented [page 33]

  • Ensure the [Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land] VGGT and [the Principles of Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems] RAI are respected by French economic actors abroad. Training on the implementation of these principles and directives will be offered to government employees (in embassies and economic services) and agencies.

 

III- Access to Remedy

Introduction [page 46]

The NAP cites the 2013 Recommendation of the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme (CNCDH, France’s national human rights institution), which recommended a series of measures to “allow for the responsibility of parent companies for acts committed abroad by their subsidiaries, in order to align French law to UNGP 26”. Such measures include among other: “In criminal matters, the competent authorities should conduct a reflection on the extension of the extraterritorial jurisdiction of French criminal courts. French courts should be able to recognize themselves as competent vis à vis certain offenses committed abroad by French companies without being subject to the obligation of double incrimination”, and “In civil matters, extending the notion of extraterritoriality to parent companies for human rights violations committed abroad by their subsidiaries”.

 

1. Judicial Mechanisms – At the National Level

1.4 Proceedings

The NAP describes French courts’ international jurisdiction over legal persons in civil matters, and the scenarios in which victims can seize French courts, depending on where the company is headquartered and where the harm occurred, as well as French courts’ jurisdiction in criminal matters, including for acts committed abroad.

 

2. Non-Judicial Mechanisms – At the International Level

2.3 The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) [page 57]

The NAP recalls obligations under the ICESCR to respect, protect and fulfill ESCR on the national territory and in countries where France has a presence, notably through public and private actors conducting economic, commercial, and financial activities abroad.

 

Appendix

The positions adopted by the different groups of the National CSR Platform

Proposals by the civil society and trade union groups [page 61]

  • Civil (and possibly criminal) liability and a duty of vigilance should be introduced for French parent companies and outsourcing companies that commit human rights violations in France or abroad over the course of their activities or those of their subsidiaries or subcontractors. Under this regime, the burden of proof would be on companies, enabling victims to trace the abuse to the highest level of the chain of responsibility.
  • France should comply with and implement its international commitments to monitor transnational private actors operating in France and abroad (by applying its extraterritorial obligations under the ICESC, for instance).

 

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