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More than a decade ago, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights established voluntary standards on corporate responsibility to identify and address actual and potential adverse impacts to human rights. Since then, legislation has been introduced in some member States obligating corporations to apply due diligence in their operations in relation to child labour and slavery. Several others have introduced mandatory due diligence in relation to human rights and the environment while similar legislative initiatives are being considered in a few others. A legislative proposal requiring companies doing business in the EU to prevent, cease and remedy adverse impacts to human rights and the environment, and to communicate publicly on their due diligence, was presented by the European Commission at the beginning of 2022.
To achieve its desired results, a due diligence framework, whether mandatory or voluntary or a mix of the two, should be accompanied by support and guidance to encourage and facilitate meaningful engagement of corporations, especially as regards their contracts/operations with suppliers and producers in non-European countries.
Two recent Council of Europe instruments underlined the need for member States’ action to enable and reinforce corporate due diligence. The Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation CM/Rec(2022)20 on human rights and the environment encourages member States to apply a smart mix of measures, national or international, and both mandatory and voluntary, on business enterprises human rights responsibilities. Recommendation CM/Rec(2022)21 on preventing and combatting trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation encourages member States to provide guidance and tools for business on how to lower risks of being involved directly and indirectly in such trafficking.
The CDDH, in its five-year implementation review of the Recommendation on Human Rights and Business (CM/Rec(2016)3), concluded that it will continue with a thematic focus on standards on due diligence and access to effective remedies, in particular in the field of environmental protection, while ensuring the participation of relevant stakeholders. Against this background, the Workshop has:
- take stock and raise awareness of the evolution of the national and regional legal frameworks, and of action on human rights and business;
- discuss the scope and method of the CDDH’s ongoing review of the implementation of CM/Rec(2016)3;
- discuss the role of the Council of Europe in supporting meaningful engagement of and dialogue with business enterprises to deliver on their due diligence responsibilities.
The workshop brougt together the CDDH with representatives of the business community and civil society.