Business and Human Rights 

Business and Human Rights is fast becoming a vital area of work for National Human Rights Institutions. While businesses can provide opportunities for many of us, such as employment, skills and financial security, they can also impact the enjoyment of human rights through exploitative labour practices, pollutive or extractive industrial activity, data mismanagement and much more. Globalisation means that business activity can impact individuals and communities within the countries they operate in and across borders. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were created to address these issues and their foundations are built around three pillars called the 'protect, respect, remedy' framework which details:

  • the duty of the State to protect against human rights abuses
  • corporate responsibility to respect human rights 
  • greater access for victims to effective remedy

National Human Rights Institutions have a unique role in upholding the UN Guiding Principles, by responding to gaps in corporate governance that result in human rights abuses. This can be achieved through the provision of advice or reform, education and awareness raising, and through complaints handling. 

In 2010, NHRIs from around the world adopted the Edinburgh Declaration, to pledge to provide greater support to victims of human rights violations and reduce corporate human rights abuses.


Download: UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights 

Download: The Edinburgh Declaration 

National Action Plans 

National Human Rights Institutions around the world, including the Commonwealth, are engaging in the development of National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights. 

The Danish Institute of Human Rights monitors the development and implementation of National Action Plans and has created a number of useful resources such as toolkits, guides and videos. 

Video: National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights

The Toolkit on National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights

In 2017, the Institute published a Toolkit on National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights which builds on the 2014 version with examples and lessons learned from countries which have adopted NAPs. The Toolkit provides systematic guidance on how to develop a NAP that is framed by a human rights-based approach promoting participation, non-discrimination, transparency, and accountability.

Among other topics, the 2017 Toolkit provides guidance on how to undertake a national baseline assessment, plan an inclusive and participatory NAP process, and establish effective follow-up measures for monitoring, reporting, and evaluating how the NAP is being implemented. Furthermore, each section within the Toolkit provides useful and practical examples of best practice from across different country contexts to demonstrate what can be achieved.

You can access the National Action Plans on business and human rights Toolkit – 2017 edition here.  


An analysis of NAPs from 2013-2018

With an increasing number of states adopting NAPs, it is important to review NAPs and to identify their strengths and weaknesses. The Institute conducted an analysis of the development process, content, and implementation of current NAPs adopted between 2013-2018 and published its findings in a report in November 2018.

Need for more accountability

Without an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of current NAPs, covering the development process, content, and implementation process, there is a danger that an accountability gap grows.

The analysis identifies both positives and a number of areas of concerns regarding both process and content related issues. By gathering the information in one place and highlighting relevant findings, the hope is to provide insights to professionals working with the development of future NAPs.

You can access the full analysis of NAPs from 2013-2018 here.


Women in business and human rights

Mapping conducted by the Institute provides an overview of select topics for state attention in strengthening their gender focus in UNGPs implementation processes, including, but not limited to, NAPs.

The topics are:

· Employment and labour rights

· Land and natural resources

· Essential services and privatisation

· Trade and investment

· Access to effective remedy

For each topic, the mapping provides an overview of key gender issues, country examples from existing NAPs and other relevant sources on how these issues might be addressed, and key points for consideration for states on how to strengthen attention to the rights of women and girls in UNGPs implementation processes. 

You can access the mapping on women in business and human rights here.