Implementation at national level of the 2008 UN Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework and their 2011 Guiding Principles has been very slow, on all continents including Europe which has seen some progress towards National Action Plans. Given the centrality of the State duty to protect, States need to do much more to ensure that businesses respect human rights.
The UN Framework and Guiding Principles set out clearly that business impacts require a “smart mix” of policy responses that goes beyond voluntary standards and includes regulation. Yet States’ efforts so far have given little attention to legal measures. Evaluation of the impact of actions by companies and governments towards ending human rights abuses will help to assess remaining gaps requiring complementary further steps in order to strengthen the collective framework.
There is urgency, because a wide number of communities and individuals are suffering abuses now as a result of business activity. There are continuing cases where operations of companies have violated a range of human rights, including labour rights and rights to land, livelihood, health, a clean environment, and peaceful protest, constituting a large scale of abuses. Civil society and Church voices across the globe are demanding more effective responses. The growing impatience in many countries has been marked by the Ecuador initiative for a binding instrument and statement to the Human Rights Council supported by 85 States.