Business and human rights: action plan

On February 16, the Global Compact Network Russia hosted the round table dedicated to the development of the inter-agency action plan for implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The issue of business and human rights in the context of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is one of the priority areas for the Global Compact Network Russia.

The positive result of the activities of the Russian Network and other stakeholders in this area was marked by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation S.V. Lavrov at the first meeting in 2016 of the Business Council under the auspices of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The Minister encouraged to join the effort and establish a new stage of work in the format of inter-agency cooperation, emphasizing that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation gives the leading role to the UN Global Compact as a multilateral dialogue platform and a key mechanism in promoting the principles of corporate social responsibility.

The roundtable was aimed at discussing the Global Compact Network Russia’s goals related to the organization of this work. Representatives of large companies, public and business associations, expert organizations discussed key areas of joint activities for the current year.

The Director of the Agency for Social Information E.A. Topoleva-Soldunova noted that work on human rights issues in the aspect of sustainable development and corporate responsibility in the framework of the Global Compact Network Russia has been carried out not for the first year. “The meeting of the Business Council under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs at which the Minister paid so much attention to the Global Compact Network Russia was preceded by our huge collective work in this area, - said E.A. Topoleva-Soldunova. – However, this meeting was marked by the fact that for the first time at such a high level not just the principles on business and human rights, but importance of dissemination of corporate social responsibility practices in Russia as well as development and reinforcement of international relations and contacts in this area were discussed”.

During the meeting it was decided to establish the Global Compact Network Russia Working Group on Human Rights and Labor. With the involvement of the business community, government, non-state actors and international organizations, the Group will organize research and project work on the subject, the results of which will be presented for further collective discussion in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The Chair of the Global Compact Network Russia L.E. Ovchinnikova defined several areas of work of the Working Group.

“UN recommendations are addressed to the whole world, countries with different level of development, - said L.E. Ovchinnikova. - Russia is a mature state, it has a deeply thoughtful and carefully crafted set of laws and regulations which to some extent overlap or even excel the mentioned principles in content and mission. In light of this, it is reasonable to identify those provisions which are covered by the Russian law, and mark their correspondence with each other and vice versa – in order to focus on those that are not reflected in the legislation”.

In addition, L.E. Ovchinnikova drew attention to the well-known collision, when in the presence of strong laws and consistent judicial system employees and even members of the trade union organizations do not use the possibilities of the system, and proposed to consider the possibility of implementing an educational project that will motivate stakeholders for a wide polylogue across the range of issues raised in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The roundtable participants discussed the advisability of promoting the introduction of the public non-financial reporting in the Russian Federation, the concept of which is under consideration in the Ministry for Economic Development, the disclosure and promotion of best business cases in the field of human rights, information support of projects in this area in order to attract public attention and shape adequate public inquiries.

The aspect of the protection and respect of the rights of indigenous peoples in Russia was also raised with regard to specific character of their economic set-up in the relationship with the businesses operating on traditional territories. The President of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East G.P. Ledkov confirmed the relevance of the topic and proposed to develop the position of the Working Group as part of this, together with 34 regional structures involved in the Association.

“We conduct a lot of work towards the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. The Association is ready to share information and participate actively in joint projects”, - said G.P. Ledkov.

The Programme Officer from the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation R. Aluash expressed readiness to support fully the activity of the Working Group, noting that the issue of human rights in the aspect of business is promoted by not so many organizations, so the Russian Network is at the forefront.

“It is important to summarize the experience gained, review the national plans in other countries developed on the Guiding Principles, - said R. Aluash. – The work on this issue is an inclusive process; it is not limited to the participation of state bodies only. Several countries in Europe have already experience in this area with the assistance of the OECD, the Council of Europe and other organizations. When the authorities see a more organized business, they will increase their interest in cooperation in this area”.

Following the discussion, the plans of the Working Group are:

-          to carry out examination of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in relation to the Russian legislation;

-          to summarize international experience in development of the national plans for the Guiding Principles implementation, offering the country format of the document;

-          to analyze public opinion and implement the partnership education program on the subject;

-          to form the position of the Global Compact Network Russia in terms of protection of the rights of indigenous peoples of Russia;

-          to pay special attention to the resumption of collaboration with the Ministry for Economic Development on implementation of the public non-financial reporting in the Russian Federation.

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The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: implementing the United Nations “protect, respect and remedy” framework were developed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprisesJohn Ruggie. The Guiding Principles were included in the report of the Human Rights Council which endorsed the Guiding Principles in its resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011. The Guiding Principles were adopted as a standard of the global practice that is presently expected to be applied by all countries and companies. The Guiding Principles are not legally binding, but explain in detail the value of the existing rules and practices as well as international and domestic law. The Global Compact Network Russia has been closely involved in drafting of the document, organized its translation into Russian language and contributes to promotion of the Guiding Principles in the Russian Federation.

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