Australia’s leading NGOs call for a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

Update: Government commits to national consultation on business and human rights (15 March 2016)

Australia is lagging behind in the global movement to prevent and address corporate human rights abuses and a group of leading NGOs is urging the Government to do something about it.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy, Rachel Ball, said that if Australia is serious about tackling serious human rights abuses, businesses need to be part of the picture.

“Australians have come to expect that Australian companies will uphold a high standard of human rights compliance when operating at home and overseas. It’s vital that we have the laws, policies and practices in place to incentivise corporate compliance with human rights and to hold the violators to account,” said Ms Ball.

This week leading NGOs in Australia including Oxfam, World Vision, UNICEF and church groups have called on the Australian Government to develop a National Action Plan on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Guiding Principles provide a single, coherent set of standards addressing the responsibilities of states and corporations with regard to business impacts on human rights. Australia co-sponsored the 2011 Human Rights Council resolution endorsing the Guiding Principles, but has not yet taken action to ensure that they are implemented in Australian law, policy and practice.

“The Australian Government says that it supports the international consensus around business’ human rights responsibilities, but lacks a clear vision of how the Guiding Principles will be implemented in Australia,” said Ms Ball.

National Action Plans have been developed or are underway in more than 40 countries around the world and last year the Australian Government supported a resolution in the Human Rights Council encouraging all states to develop a NAP or other such framework.

The development of a National Action Plan is a vital step towards Australia’s implementation of its obligation to protect against adverse corporate human rights impacts and to provide access to remedy for those whose rights have been violated due to business-related activities.

NAPs also promote transparency and accountability in the development of government policy and provide a platform for dialogue between government, business and civil society.  

The letter  was endorsed by:

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
Castan Centre for Human Rights Law
Human Rights Law Centre
Jesuit Social Services
Jubilee Australia
Plan International Australia
Mineral Policy Institute
Oxfam Australia
Save the Children Australia
The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility  
The Australia Institute
UNICEF Australia
Uniting Church of Australia
World Vision Australia