Yesterday (11 May), a major conference took place in Amsterdam to discuss the advancement and implementation of the EU’s Business and Human Rights Agenda. The conference was organized jointly by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European civil society organizations as an official event of the Netherlands EU Presidency. In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and since then a lot of progress has been made by governments and companies to highlight the fact that business-related human rights abuse is still a serious problem.
The EU aims to become a major player in the area of business and human rights. Brussels feels responsibility for this issue as many European companies are involved in global value chains. The hosts of the conference jointly lobby for an ambitious follow-up to the European Commission’s 2011-2014 Communication on Corporate Social Responsibility. The new plan should be based on a multi-stakeholder approach and should improve access to remedy.
Yesterday’s conference was also part of the #EU4HumanRights initiative launched by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. Its objective is to strengthen the efforts of the EU and its Member States to promote human rights. According to Dutch Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, ?empowering civil society and human rights defenders is a key priority to achieve these goals.
“NGOs are increasingly under threat all over the world, including some that are fighting against business-related human rights abuse. That’s why I am proud that we have organized this conference together with civil society,” said Mr Koenders. However, the Dutch foreign minister also added that it was important for the business sector to take part in this initiative because “We have to work together with all stakeholders to prevent human rights abuse. And when it does occur, victims need access to remedy. The Netherlands would like the EU to lead by example.”