Monday, December 05, 2011

On Human Rights Impact Assessments

One of the great innovations of the new "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework" proposed by UN Special Representative John Ruggie" is its elaboration of a system of monitoring, disclosure and assessment by business of the human rights impacts of their activities. The UN's Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises is working on elaborating the Guiding Principles further.  
The UN is attempting to oversee the production of  authoritative glosses on the responsibilities of corporate organizations, including the responsibility to dfevelop and apply systems of human rights due diligence.   United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, The Corporate Responsibility to Protect Human Rights:  An Interpretive Guide (Advance unedited version (November 2011).  See, e.g., Larry Catá Backer, Governance Networks and the Institutionalization of Extra-National Rule/Norm Systems, Law at the End of the Day, Nov. 25, 2011; On the New UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights: Building on the UN Guiding Principles, Law at the End of the Day, Nov. 29, 2011.

The German Government has been active in funding research in this area.  Among sponsored research are those originating in the Menschenrechte, Unternehmensverantwortung und Nachhaltige Entwicklung, Human Rights, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainable Development, that is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and conducted at the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) at the University of Duisburg-Essen. For German readers, this group has just announced the circulation of new research paper of note:

Hamm, Brigitte / Scheper, Christian (2011): Human Rights Impact Assessments zur Umsetzung der menschenrechtlichen Verantwortung von Unternehmen. Konzeptionelle Herausforderungen und praktische Ansätze.
By endorsing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council has emphasized a distinct corporate responsibility to respect human rights. However, both normative reach and practical realization of this responsibility are still vague. Against this background there is a growing debate on processes and possibilities to implement human rights due diligence by and within companies. The debate has focused on ways to assess the human rights impacts of corporate activity through so-called Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIA). This paper addresses basic conceptual and practical issues of such procedures. The authors regard especially the demand for participation in business decisions by people affected and the necessity of organizational learning in companies as challenging quality criteria for HRIA. The paper categorizes existing HRIA approaches according to their way of approaching these challenges. The paper concludes with policy recommendations.
Mit der Verabschiedung der UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights durch den UN-Menschenrechtsrat im Juni 2011 wird Unternehmen eine eigenständige Verantwortung für den Menschenrechtsschutz zugeschrieben. Die normative Reichweite und praktische Umsetzung dieser Verantwortung ist jedoch noch weitgehend unklar. Vor diesem Hintergrund ist eine Debatte um Verfahren und Umsetzungsmöglichkeiten der menschenrechtlichen Sorgfaltspflicht von Unternehmen entstanden. Eine wichtige Rolle hierbei spielen Verfahren zur Abschätzung und Überprüfung menschenrechtlicher Auswirkungen unternehmerischen Handelns, sogenannte Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIA). Dieser Beitrag adressiert grundlegende konzeptionelle und praktische Fragen und Probleme derartiger Verfahren. Dabei sehen die AutorInnen vor allem den menschenrechtlichen Anspruch der Partizipation betroffener Menschen an betriebswirtschaftlichen Entscheidungen und die Notwendigkeit langfristigen organisationalen Lernens in Unternehmen als Herausforderungen für HRIA. Sie kategorisieren existierende HRIA-Ansätze nach ihrem Umgang mit diesen Herausforderungen. Der Beitrag schließt mit politischen Handlungsempfehlungen.

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