On 21 December 2016, the German National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (German NAP) was published. In spite of earlier promises that there would be a draft document which everyone could comment on, the Government only released a final version. This is in line with its policy change from an open multi-stakeholder consultation process towards top-down decision-making where the steering committee representatives including members of civil society organisations no longer participated in 2015 and 2016. This decline in democratic participation forms part of the criticism in the official press release by civil society organisations.
Despite stating Germany as a major player in globalisation, the German NAP is currently only available in German and tricky to find if you do not subscribe to the German newsletter of the Business & Human Rights Ressource Centre. Therefore, I translate the most important feature of the first ever German NAP:
Its declared “objective is that at least 50 percent of all companies residing in Germany with over 500 employees integrate until 2020 elements of human rights due diligence in their processes as defined in chapter III [of the German NAP].* If companies do not implement specific procedures and measures, they must be able to explain why this did not happen (“comply or explain”-mechanism). If less than 50 percent of the companies mentioned above integrate human right due diligence elements as defined in chapter III in their corporate management until 2020 and, consequently, there will be no sufficient implementation, the government will assess further steps to the point of legal measures.” (page 12).
Having witnessed part of the struggle on this objective, particularly the strong resistance by the Ministry of Finance, I am very pleased. A thorough analysis of the NAP will soon be published here.
*My first reading of the German government’s depiction of this understanding of human rights due diligence: they have followed the language and the concept of the UNGPs.