While corporations have the capacity to contribute to economic growth, poverty alleviation and human development, they can also harm the human rights of individuals and communities. The challenge for governments, business and civil society is to ensure that the power and influence wielded by corporations does not lead to human rights violations and that when violations do occur, victims are able to access a remedy.
To this end, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the Guiding Principles)1 were developed in consultation with key stakeholders and adopted unanimously by the Human Rights Council in 2011. They provide a single, coherent set of standards addressing the respective responsibilities of states and corporations with regard to business impacts on human rights. The Guiding Principles set out concrete and practical steps to ensure that the state protects those within its jurisdiction from corporate human rights violations, companies respect human rights and victims of human rights violations are able to access remedies.
As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, a candidate for the UN Human Rights Council and a wealthy, stable middle power, Australia is well-placed to play a lead role in the implementation of the Guiding Principles. Yet, while the Australian Government co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council resolution endorsing the Guiding Principles, it has not yet formally incorporated them into national law and policy.
The primary way in which governments are driving and guiding implementation is through the development of National Action Plans on the implementation of the Guiding Principles (NAPs). The UK, the Netherlands and Denmark have recently released NAPs and over 30 countries are in the development stage.
An Australian NAP would identify measures to ensure the effective implementation of the Guiding Principles in Australia and, in doing so:
- provide a platform for dialogue on business and human rights between government, business and civil society;
- identify, prioritise and monitor the Government’s regulatory and policy action on business and human rights;
- establish a process for responding to emerging needs in the area of business and human rights; and
- ensure transparency and accountability on the steps taken to implement the Guiding Principles.
Download a copy of the report here: An Australian National Action Plan for the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights