NAP Development Process
In October 2017, the Australian Government announced that it would not be proceeding with a NAP at this time.
In January 2016, Australia underwent a Universal Periodic Review at the UN and received the following recommendations (amongst others):
- Adopt a National Action Plan to implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Netherlands)
- Begin a consultative process towards adoption of a National Action Plan on business and human rights (Norway)
- Strengthen the normative framework for the protection of human rights, including the monitoring, investigation and reparation for human rights violations committed by Australian enterprises in their territories and in third States (Ecuador)
Austraila ‘noted’ the Netherland’s recommendation and ‘supported’ both Norway and Ecuador’s recommendations. In their Official response to the Universal Periodic Review, in February 2016, Australia committed to “undertake a national consultation on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights during 2016”.
In May and June 2016, the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted business roundtables to consider the development of an Australian NAP.
In September 2016 the Australian Government responded to the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations’ survey on the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights. They recognised the UN Working’s Group guidance and stated that:
“Initial consultations have taken place with business and civil society stakeholders and the Government is considering options for further consultation including through the development of a multi‑stakeholder advisory group. The Government is also undertaking a stocktake of Australian laws and policies and business practices relevant to the UNGPs.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) commissioned Allens to prepare a “Stocktake on Human Rights and Business” in order to identify existing Australian laws, government policies and business practices relevant to the UN Guiding Principles, which was published in April 2017.
In June 2017, the DFAT established a multi-stakeholder Advisory Group on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This Advisory Group was comprised of members from across the business sector, academia, and civil society. They published their recommendations to the Australian Government in August 2017 which are broken down by ‘immediate to short term’, ‘short to medium term’ and ‘medium to long term’, and by the UNGP pillars. The Advisory Group stated that they see “value in the Australian Government delivering a coordinated policy statement in the form of a National Action Plan”.
In October 2017, the Advisory Group received a letter from the Foreign Minister late last week advising them that the government was “not proceeding with a [NAP] at this time”.
In December 2017 the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises wrote to Australian Ambassador at the UN in Geneva to highlight that:
“We appreciate Australia’s support for our mandate to promote implementation of the UNGPs, so we were disappointed by the Government’s decision not to proceed with a NAP at this time. As Australia is set to begin its term in the Human Rights Council in 2018, we had hoped to count Australia among the governments that are showing leadership in advancing implementation of the UNGPs through concrete steps. ”
The UN Working Group welcomed proposed measures to address modern slavery, but stated that “the proposed modern slavery legislation as well as other measures to eliminate modern slavery (such as the Bali Process) should not be seen as a substitute for developing a NAP on business and human rights.”
The business roundtables held in May and June 2016 served the purposes of informing and introducing Australian businesses to the concept of NAPs. Representatives from a wide range of industries, including food and agriculture, manufacturing, banking and finance, insurance, logistics, technology, pharmaceuticals, technology, and extractives, participated in the roundtables.
In December 2016, the Australian Government announced that a multi-stakeholder advisory group would be established, comprising representatives from academia, civil society, businesses and industry, to provide expert advice and support broader consultations on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles. The Advisory Group was established on 2 June 2017.
National Baseline Assessment (NBA)
No NBA has been conducted, although the business roundtables indicate “general support for the idea of a National Baseline Assessment”.
The Stocktake on Human Rights and Business is “not intended to be a comprehensive national baseline assessment” and “does not preclude the Government from carrying out a national baseline assessment in the future”.
Follow-up, monitoring, reporting and review
The Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) and Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), identified a number of challenges towards implementation of a NAP coming out of discussions held at Australia’s third multi-sector, multi-stakeholder dialogue on business and human rights. These included a significant need for awareness raising and capacity building on human rights within the business community, and the need for the Australian Government to invest in how businesses could practically use a NAP.
Stakeholders views and analysis on the NAP
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights: Policy Paper on an Australian National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).