Time to Stop Napping and Start NAPing

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While naps are a common pastime, NAPs, or National Action Plans on responsible business conduct, are relatively new tools for promoting corporate accountability and human rights protection.

Last week, ERI submitted recommendations to the U.S. Government for inclusion in its upcoming NAP as part of a consultation process involving businesses, NGOs, academics, and research institutions. The NAP is an opportunity for the U.S. to prevent irresponsible business conduct and ensure victims of such conduct – including displacement, environmental harm, and gross human rights abuses – have access to recourse and remedies.

So what exactly is a NAP?

A NAP is a voluntary action plan for a nation’s policy to implement business and human rights guidelines including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. A number of countries have published NAPs or are in the process of preparing one with support from the U.N., including Argentina, Great Britain, France, Mexico, Colombia, and Niger. In September 2014, the U.S. government announced its plans to develop a NAP on responsible business conduct.

ERI’s submission recommends numerous ways the U.S. government can become a leader in ensuring that businesses respect and protect human rights and that victims of irresponsible conduct have access to a remedy. While I will not detail all of the recommendations in this post, suggested actions include:

  • Ensuring the availability of effective operational grievance mechanisms for individuals and communities to fill in gaps in judicial remedies.
  • Incorporating provisions in public assistance or procurement contracts aimed at improving access  to a remedy for victims of irresponsible business conduct
  • Removing obstacles which prevent victims from seeking justice in U.S. courts for harm connected with businesses conduct
  • Encouraging state governments to ensure that their courts are open to the claims of victims of corporate human rights abuses
  • Reconsidering the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the U.S. bilateral investment treaties model or revisit ISDS to ensure that it doesn’t hinder the protection of human rights
  • Supporting bills currently before the House and Senate which seek to enhance corporate accountability for serious human rights abuses
  • Taking executive action to ensure that U.S. assistance, including through multilateral initiatives, respect land rights (including indigenous peoples’ land rights), protect land tenure, implement due diligence, and promote responsible resettlement, when required
  • Requiring corporate mandatory reporting requirements on human rights issues

There is no shortage of actions which the U.S. can take to strengthen its position on corporate accountability and fulfill its obligations to ensure that victims of irresponsible business conduct can seek an adequate remedy. We hope that the forthcoming plan takes the high watermark and incorporates provisions which will require a change in corporate behavior, endorse international human rights standards, and enable accountability.

Written by Tamara Morgenthau, a legal intern at our Washington, D.C. office. 

CC By Ashitaka San

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