REPORT INTER-SERVICE GROUP ON BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
13 March 2018, 10.30-12.30
Participating services: EEAS, DEVCO, GROW, JUST, SG and TRADE.
Aim of the meeting: first brainstorming on a EEAS/Commission non-paper to start preparing
the EU's input ahead of the next OEIWG.
COM services to send comments on the draft non paper by Monday 19/03 c.o.b.
EEAS to consolidate input and circulate a revised draft for quick reactions
Finalisation of the paper : 28/03
Submission to GRI for information: 6/04
First discussions in COHOM : 11/04
Informal stakeholders consultations: CSOs and businesses – April/May.
Summary of the discussions:
- SG highlighted the lack of clarity of the context
, with uncertainty on whether real
negotiations will take place. If the EU decided to engage formally in negotiations, a formal
mandate would be required. The non-paper could be shortened and present ideas more clearly
(bullet points – additional annex if lengthy explanations needed). It will be important that
COHOM delegates gather the views from other departments to have a whole government
approach reflected in the debates.
- Level of engagement
in the OEIWG: beyond the options already spelled out, GROW was in
favour of developing the option of leaving completely the LBI negotiations and exploring
alternative non legal routes. However, recent discussions in COHOM where rather in favour
of a constructive engagement and further developing the options for a LBI. In addition, there
are signs that Ecuador's position might become more constructive, making it more difficult for
the EU to leave the negotiations. The EEAS explained that even if the process is not certain,
having an EU position ready would be important.
- JUST updated the participants on the new sustainable finance action plan
adopted on 8/03,
which includes Commission action (analytical and consultative work) to explore how best the
EU could establish mandatory human rights due diligence, including in the supply chain. The
idea was to adopt a wording that is closer to the French law adopted last year: the due
diligence would apply not only to human rights violations but also more broadly, ie. with
respect to environmental damage and labour rights, this is why it is linked to the
“sustainability strategy”. The first step will be to tender out a study which would analyse
existing laws (NL, UK, FR, forthcoming CH, etc.), costs/benefits, feasibility, etc. In parallel,
consultations could start. The analytical work should be completed by Q2 2019.
- JUST argued that it would be useful for the non-paper to develop further the different
already with concrete elements. On some elements, MS could be asked to provide
more information (e.g. mutual legal assistance) DEVCO suggested to focus on gaps in the
UNGP, including access to remedy.
- GROW suggested to highlight the high EU's standards in the area of business and human
rights from the start of the paper as key rational for engagement. TRADE suggested a clear
reference to the previous non-paper in the intro, which already covers EU actions (updated in
- TRADE suggested to present clearly to MS the different aspects to clarify, with a kind of matrix
including: the type of instrument, the scope, the level of ambition. This could be
presented in a way MS could pick and choose prefered options (e.g. all encompassing vs
filling the gaps)
- Action plan and expert group:
SG and GROW warned against creating separate processes
and an "usine à gaz". The links with the work on SDGs
should be more prominent in the
paper, as this should be seen as the umbrella for discussions on RBC/CSR and business and
human rights. Member states are eager to see a more coordinated approach on RBC/CSR. It
would be useful to get more clarity from MS on expectations from such an AP beyond
visibility issues. An AP is a mean to achieve something. The goals would have to be clearly
spelled out before deciding on the best way to achieve them.
- Member states also encouraged increased monitoring on the UNGPs implementation.
GROW is undertaking a stocktaking exercise in the framework of the work on the SDGs,
which could be useful in this respect.
- Beyond encouraging a RBC/CSR subgroup in the SDG multistakeholder platform, MS are
wondering what concrete actions will be taken. How will business and human rights be
integrated in the SDG work more broadly?
-JUST: suggested to update the COM SWD of 2015 to map the actions on BHR and show
progress in the area
- Under AOB, the EEAS provided an update on parallel developments regarding private
security and military companies (PMSC).
In the short term, the EU is expected to
participate in two important events:
1) end May 2018: next session of the UN Intergovernmental working group
the content of an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and
oversight of the activities of private, military and security companies
2) 6-7 June 2018: Fourth Plenary Meeting of the Montreux Document Forum:
expressed public support to the Montreux Document,
elaborated in by the Swiss Government
and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and which outlines the main
responsibilities and best practices under international humanitarian law for states to ensure
that PMSCs respect international law and are accountable for violations.