Human Rights Committee of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe

Human Rights & Business

Side Event  organised by the WG Human Rights, Co-development & Migrations

Wednesday 25th January 2017, from 1pm to 2.30 pm Room 2 of the Palais
Subject : the regulation of the activity of multinationals for a better respect for Human Rights and local development
Provisional Programme  :
1) Opening :
Anna Rurka, president of the Conference
Ambassador Guido Bellatti Ceccoli, Permanent Representative of San Marino, President of the Human Rights Group of Rapporteurs of the CM(GR-H).

2) Introduction: Presentation of the problem, origins and objectives of the work of the WG. Robert Simon (European Network Church on the Move)
a. 4 observations :
i. multinational companies forget to assume their social responsibilities when they operate abroad
ii. international companies pay more attention to their own interests
iii. they destabilise the social cohesion of the countries where they intervene
iv. they are an important cause of economic migration
b. the consequences of infringement of social rights
c. the will for a framework for the UN rules
d. the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers
e. how to prevent this recommendtion remaining a dead letter
f. presentation of the CINGO recommendation that is underway and will be presented to the Conference in june.

3) Amnesty video : Don't be an ostrich ! (in French) (voir)

4) Rana Plaza : case study of the impacts of multinational activities and NGO mobilisations. Action Aid- peuples solidaires : Alice Bordaçarre (8mins) (website)
a. results of the citizen mobilization
i. a non-obligatory compensation fund of an anonymous nature and the victims must claim compensation
ii. agreement on fire prevention
iii. submission of a complaint against Auchan on the sole basis of litigious commercial practice
b. proposition of a law on the obligation of vigilance by multinational companies
5) Standards in Europe and abroad, regarding civil and penal responsibility of Companies :
- The UN Guiding Principles on the civil responsibility of companies : Luis Espinosa-Salas, councillor to the Ecuadorean Ambassadress to the Unite Nations in Geneva (unable to attend)
- adoption of standards in Europe and internationally : Anti slavery act in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, European Parliament Green Card initiative, UN treaties...
Amnesty International  Switzerland : Daniele Gosteli Hauser (5mins)
In1996 businesses diverted corporate accountability for respecting Human Rights onto the countries
Assistance to companies to develope their code of ethical conduct
UN Guiding Principle : protect, respect, repair
How are they implemented ?
Duty of diligence in the supply chain
National action plans, implemented by 13 countries
International regulations :
CoE (2016)
EU (2010-2014)
UNO (resolution 26/9)
OECD (2011)
National regulations
USA, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland
Conclusion : legal bases & voluntary iniativies = a judicious combination

The proposed law on the duty of vigilance in the French Parliament (approved since the Side Event) :
Pierre Yves le Borgn, a French MP representing French people abroad, a member of PACE, former senior executive of a multinational company (5mins)
Consultation with NGOs, trades unions, companies, government
Scope of enforcement : companies with 5000 employees with headquarters in France, and with 10000 employees for those with headquarters outside France.
Enforcement plan, its non-observance can be penalised
Obligation of best efforts
See the website of the Assembly : ici and the Senate : ici

6) Preparation, presentation and follow-up of the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on « Human Rights & Business » (CM/Rec(2016)3 of 2nd March 2016) :
Ambassador Guido Bellatti Ceccoli, President of the HR group of rapporteurs DH of the Committee of Ministers and Claire O'BRIEN of the Danish Institute of Human Rights, an observer of the drafting group of the CDDH (8mins).
The recommendation is built on the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles : protect, respect, repair
The great added value : the administrative and legal rights of recourse
Follow-up :
Human Rights and Business must be considered central to the activity of the CoE since there are serious infringements to these rights outside Europe but also within Europe
There are violations that are not reversed by the States
Job insecurity is increasing
It is a golden oportunity for the CoE to become more visible
The procedure must be interactive and we must identify best practice at both country level and company levels.
- Perspective of an INGO: Gregory Thuan dit Dieudonné, Lawyer (European Lawyers Union UAE) (4mins)
The L’UAE has contributed to the CoE working group
We are very disappointed by the general guidelines which below our expectations considering what is at stake, since they are not binding even though the majority of multinationals have their headquarters in Europe
We would like the follow-up to be made by an independent group of experts
The legal link (and the responsibility) between parent company and affiliates and between the latter and their subcontractors must be reinforced. In this aspect, the French law is revolutionary and exemplary.
A total absence of obligations binding on banks and insurance companies which by their financing and guarantees permit the operation of multinationals.
- Follow-up perspective by a Member State : Luis Tarin Martin, Councillor to the Spanish Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe (5mins)
The success of the recommendation depends to a large extent on external actions and civil society pressure
A national strategy has been developed following the CoE recommendation in partnership with business and civil society. A national plan will be adopted in two month's time. It will be similar to the 2014 text specifically citing the reference to the Human Rights Convention.
Companies can also advance beyond the recommendations !
- PACE MPs are mobilised and proposed a resolution (30th June 2016) for « effectively combatting negative impacts of European companies operating abroad  : Stefan Schennach, Austrian MP (5mins)
Attempt to have a law of mandatory compliance since more than a year
But there are powerful forces opposed to this and I need the support of the Social Committee and of the Conference

7) Presentation of the recommendation of the WG for submittal to the Conference of the INGOs in June 2017 (2 mins)

8) DEBATE (25mins)

a. The question of obligatory standards / company agreements
b. Are not externalisation and sub-contracting a means to bend the rules ?
c. Are profits not incompatible with Human Rights ?
d. The endeavours developed and implemented are sometimes undermined during their implementation
e. The prevention of risks of relapse, binding terms and conditions in the perspective of implementation
f. Oportunities for other ways out ?

9) Conclusions Michel Aguilar, President of the Human Rights Committee
(2 mins)
These questions will not be lost since we will continue to work on this matter
We are preparing a recommendation of the CINGO for the month of June
We will continue the work beyond that date in a follow-up framework.

Many thanks
A desire to strengthen our partnership with PACE.

Minutes written by Philippe Grolleau of Pax Romana INGO 3rd Febuary 2017
Translation by Hugo Castelli of European Network Church on the Move INGO 17th March 2017