NGOs Call for Action Plan on Business & Human Rights
10 February 2016 at 8:21 am
A group of Australia’s leading NGOs has claimed the country is lagging behind the global movement to prevent and address corporate human rights abuses, in a letter to the government.
The organisations, including Oxfam, World Vision, Save the Children and UNICEF, have called on the Australian Government to develop a National Action Plan on the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights.
The Human Rights Law Centre was also a signatory, and Director of Advocacy Rachel Ball said that if Australia was serious about tackling serious human rights abuses, businesses needed 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,” Ball said.
“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.
“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.”
The letter, addressed to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Attorney-General George Brandis, said that although the UNGPs provided a single, coherent set of standards addressing the business impacts on human rights, the government was yet to formally adopt them.
“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 letter said.
“The primary way in which governments around the world are driving and guiding implementation of the UNGPs is through the development of National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights (NAPs).
“NAPs have been developed or are underway in more than 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.”
The letter also said that in June 2014 the Australian Government supported a resolution in the Human Rights Council encouraging all states to develop a NAP or other such framework, and needed to act on this commitment.
“The development of a NAP 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,” it said.
“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 also endorsed by the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Jesuit Social Services, Mineral Policy Institute Jubilee Australia, The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, The Australia Institute, Plan International Australia and the Uniting Church of Australia.