III. Federal Government expectations regarding corporate due diligence in respecting human rights

Grievance mechanism [page 11-12]

“For the early identification of (actual or potential) adverse impacts, enterprises should either establish their own grievance procedures or play an active part in external procedures. Such procedures may, for example, be established by sectoral associations. The mechanism should be structured to match the target group. Accordingly, the target group should be consulted when the procedure is being devised. When new mechanisms are established as well as when existing mechanisms are used, care should be taken to ensure that they provide a fair, balanced and predictable procedure which is accessible to all those who might be affected (for instance by eliminating linguistic or technical barriers). As an extra measure, consideration should be given to the creation of offices with which complaints can be lodged anonymously.

The procedure should provide for maximum transparency for all stakeholders and should comply with international human rights standards. Existing complaints offices within an enterprise or its environment should be screened for compliance with the criteria defined above.

The grievance mechanism of each enterprise and its whole process of corporate due diligence should be subjected to regular practice-based reviews to assess their effectiveness.”

IV. Key areas for action [page 13]

“In relation to the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles, the following are the primary areas for action: …

  • access to grievance and remedy mechanisms.”

1.1 Basic rules of economic policy

Development policy

Measures [page 20]

  • “The requirements set out in the UN Guiding Principles and in the National Action Plan, in particular in its chapter III, on due diligence with regard to human rights, also apply to the organisations that implement development policy, including bodies that provide financing for development. They also serve as a basis for further assessment and monitoring and, where appropriate, further development of the grievance procedures that state implementing organisations, including financing bodies, have already established.”

1.3 State support

Export credits, investment guarantees and other instruments for the promotion of external trade

Measures [page 25]

  • “The National Contact Points for the OECD Guidelines (see subsection 4.2 below) will be upgraded to become the central grievance mechanism for external trade promotion projects.”

4.1 Access to justice and the courts for injured parties

Support for remedy mechanisms in third countries [page 37-38]

With regard to potential human rights violations within supply chains, great importance attaches to reinforcement of the rule of law and democracy in the relevant third countries, because that will create conditions for the introduction of effective redress mechanisms in those countries.

One contribution to the achievement of this objective is made by the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation (IRZ), which was established by the Federal Government in 1992. … Alternative means of dispute settlement such as arbitration tribunals and mediation also feature in the work of the IRZ.”

Measures

  • “There are already enterprises that give their own employees and outsiders the opportunity to report potential or actual violations of human rights in the framework of in-house or industry-wide grievance procedures. The Federal Government will highlight best practices in future and promote the adoption of such mechanisms.”

4.2 National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines [page 39-40]

“The National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises has been operating ever since 2001 as an extrajudicial grievance mechanism. It is based at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and has a remit to disseminate information about the OECD Guidelines, to raise awareness and to promote compliance with them. The NCP also helps to resolve problems arising in connection with the implementation of the Guidelines. To this end it examines incoming complaints and, if a complaint falls within its responsibility, offers to mediate between the parties. Among other things, the NCP is responsible for complaints of insufficient respect for human rights and of insufficient consideration for human rights in the exercise of companies’ due diligence as defined in the OECD Guidelines. In their revised version of 2011, containing specific recommendations relating to the respect for human rights by companies, the OECD Guidelines are based explicitly on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This means that the grievance mechanism for which the OECD Guidelines provide serves the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The NCP takes its decisions in consultation with the Interministerial Steering Group on the OECD Guidelines and with the “OECD Guidelines” Working Group. The Interministerial Steering Group comprises representatives of the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The decisions of the NCP are taken in coordination with this Interministerial Steering Group. Besides the aforementioned government ministries, the members of the Working Group also include representatives of the German Global Compact Network, business associations, trade unions and non-governmental organisations. The Working Group provides a forum for discussion about current issues relating to the Guidelines. Its members are also kept informed of the receipt and outcome of complaints. Explanatory notes on the grievance procedure, (including information on complaints received and their processing), are accessible online on the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and were revised jointly with the Working Group in 2014.

In the context of the German G7 presidency, the Federal Government in 2015 advocated for the strengthening of mechanisms providing access to remedies in the event of human rights violations. To this end, the G7 encouraged the OECD to promote peer reviews of National Contact Points. The German NCP will undergo a peer review in the second quarter of 2017.

Measures

  • “In future, the German NCP will raise awareness of the OECD Guidelines, promote compliance with them and raise the profile of the NCP and of its special role as an effective extrajudicial grievance mechanism in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It is being reorganised and further strengthened. To this end a new organisational entity will be created within the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. In addition, the number of staff in the NCP will be increased.”