OHCHR Accountability and Remedy Project I: Enhancing effectiveness of judicial mechanisms in cases of business-related human rights abuse

Overview


Council Mandate:
Resolution 26/22 (para. 7)
Focus of the report:
Effectiveness of State-based judicial mechanisms
Council Response:
Resolution 32/10 (paras. 1, 4 – 5, 11, 13 – 16)

- This resolution requested follow-up work on ARP I, leading to a report on the relevance of human rights due diligence to determinations of corporate liability

Background

The OHCHR Accountability and Remedy Project (ARP) began in 2014 with the aim of delivering credible and workable recommendations for enhancing accountability and access to remedy in cases of business-related human rights abuse (background on each phase of ARP).

The first phase of the project (ARP I) began in response to a mandate from the Human Rights Council in resolution 26/22 (June 2014) requesting OHCHR:

"to continue work to facilitate the sharing and exploration of the full range of legal options and practical measures to improve access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses, in collaboration with the Working Group, to organize consultations with experts, States and other relevant stakeholders to facilitate mutual understanding and greater consensus among different views, and to publish a progress report thereon before the twenty-ninth session of the Human Rights Council, and the final report to be considered by the Council at its thirty-second session."

Over the course of 2014-2016, and following ARP’s multi-stakeholder, consultative methodology, OHCHR developed numerous papers regarding the role and effectiveness judicial mechanisms in business and human rights cases, including a project scoping paper, series of working papers, progress report to the Council, discussion paper, and consultation draft.

At the Human Rights Council’s thirty-second session in June 2016, OHCHR presented the ARP I final report and its explanatory addendum (see how to read an ARP report).  These documents contain

  • general observations regarding State-based judicial mechanisms (in the report);
  • a series of recommended actions for improving the effectiveness of these mechanisms, drawing upon good-practice lessons uncovered during the two-year project (in the annex of the report);
  • detailed explanations and context for these recommendations (found in the addendum); and
  • a model terms of reference States can use to review the coverage and effectiveness of laws relevant to business-related human rights abuses (found in the addendum).

OHCHR also produced a paper containing illustrative examples of methods that States have used and steps that States have taken in practice that are relevant to the ARP I recommended actions.

Following the conclusion of ARP I, the Human Rights Council requested follow-up work on ARP I in resolution 32/10, leading to a report on the relevance of human rights due diligence to determinations of corporate liability.

Further work on ARP I is currently being conducted through the fourth phase of the project (ARP IV).

For any questions or comments regarding the ARP I work, please contact business-access2remedy@ohchr.org.

Summary

Ensuring legal accountability of business enterprises and access to effective remedy in cases of business-related human rights abuse is a vital part of a State’s duty to protect. However, accountability and remedy through judicial mechanisms in such cases is often elusive. Numerous problems exist in many jurisdictions, leading to a system of domestic law remedies that is patchy, unpredictable, often ineffective and fragile.

Business enterprises are seldom the subject of law enforcement and criminal sanctions. Further, private claims often fail to proceed to judgment and, where a legal remedy is obtained, it frequently does not meet the international standard of adequate, effective and prompt.

Legal uncertainty in many jurisdictions regarding the legal responsibilities of a parent company vis-à-vis human rights abuses connected with the business enterprise’s operations is not only a barrier to remedy itself, but also gives rise to further barriers, including by adding to legal costs and creating delays.

Accountability and remedy challenges are exacerbated in cross-border cases as many domestic legal regimes focus primarily on within-territory business activities and impacts. The extent of international cooperation in cross-border cases has a crucial bearing on accountability and access to remedy in practice.

Further, a lack of policy coherence and the piecemeal development of legal responses for business and human rights issues has hampered the effectiveness of domestic legal regimes in many jurisdictions.

Rectifying these deficiencies will require concerted and multifaceted efforts from all States, encompassing actions relating to law reform and legal development, improvements to the functioning of judicial mechanisms, law enforcement, policy development and closer international cooperation. The recommendation actions found in the annex of the ARP I report provide a significant resource for States seeking to improve the effectiveness of their domestic legal responses to business and human rights challenges.

Documents

ARP I Documents

ARP I Follow-up Work

Events, Meetings, Etc.

This section includes select events and other types of meetings in which OHCHR took part, and which can be made public. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it representative of the geographic reach of the project, which was global in nature.

OHCHR is actively seeking to participate in events related to accountability and access to remedy for business-related human rights abuse. If you would like to notify the ARP team of, or invite us to, relevant events, or propose organizing an event with us, please contact business-access2remedy@ohchr.org.

Event

Date

Place

Additional information

OHCHR Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on increasing the effectiveness of domestic public law regimes

28 November 2017

Switzerland

OHCHR Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on the relevance of human rights due diligence to determinations of corporate liability

5-6 October 2017

Switzerland

OHCHR Workshop with States

15-16 March 2016

Switzerland

 

Consultation with national human rights institutions

March 2016

Switzerland

 

OHCHR Consultation with civil society

25 February 2016

Switzerland

 

OHCHR Workshop with States

28-29 January 2016

Switzerland

 

OHCHR ARP I Multi-Stakeholder Consultation

19-20 November 2015

Switzerland

Sessions at the 2015 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

November 2015

Switzerland

 

Consultation at IAP Annual Conference

15-16 September 2015

Switzerland

 

Consultation with business

16 September 2015

USA

 

ARP I Expert Meeting

8 July 2015

USA

 

OHCHR Side event on progress report

June 2015

Switzerland

 

Consultation with prosecutors

22 May 2015

The Netherlands

 

Consultation on corporate crime

20 May 2015

United Kingdom

 

Sessions at the 2014 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

December 2014

Switzerland

 

OHCHR Expert Meeting

September 2014

Switzerland

 

OHCHR Expert Meeting

October 2013

Switzerland

 


Questionnaires

The following questionnaires were made available to gather information for the ARP I report.

Phases of the Accountability and Remedy Project

For background on the greater Accountability and Remedy Project, consult the ARP background page. For information on specific phases:

ARP Phase

Major Outputs

ARP I: Enhancing the effectiveness of judicial mechanisms

ARP II: Enhancing the effectiveness of State-based non-judicial mechanisms

ARP III: Enhancing the effectiveness of non-State-based grievance mechanisms

ARP IV: Enhancing the accessibility, dissemination and implementation of ARP findings

  • Ongoing