National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights

Dec 22, 2016

21.12.2016: Foreign Minister Steinmeier at a cabinet meeting Enlarge image 21.12.2016: Foreign Minister Steinmeier at a cabinet meeting (© Gärtner/Photothek.net)

The German Government adopted the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights in its cabinet meeting on Wednesday (21 December). The goal of this Action Plan is to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.


Companies must carry out human rights due diligence

The Action Plan is an ambitious project. For the first time, German companies’ responsibilities as regards upholding human rights are laid down in a fixed framework by stipulating homogeneous and verifiable global standards. The Action Plan pools the strengths of the various stakeholders from the state, business sector, civil society and trade unions, with the aim of improving the human rights situation along the supply and value chain in Germany and worldwide. The German Government expresses its clear expectation in the Action Plan: companies must carry out human rights due diligence.

The German Government has based its definition of this due diligence closely on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were drawn up in a six-year research and consultation process headed by Professor John Ruggie, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights. These principles define the state’s human rights duties and corporate responsibility in the global value and supply chains and were unanimously adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011.

“We are pleased that the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights went before the cabinet before the end of the year. A lot of work went into making this happen. The result is impressive, also if we compare it with other countries,” said a Federal Foreign Office Spokesperson.


Measures to uphold human rights standards

In concrete terms, the Action Plan includes procedures for investigating human rights violations, measures and a mechanism to inspect adherence to human rights standards, transparent reporting and a complaints procedure.

It also defines the conditions by which companies can make use of the instruments of foreign trade and investment promotion. This means that such promotion is tied to compliance with human rights standards. In addition, it establishes a wide-ranging monitoring procedure. The Action Plan explicitly includes the option of legal measures against companies that do not accept the standards it lays down.


Evolution of the Action Plan

The National Action Plan was drawn up in various stages. Ten hearings with experts and three conferences were held. The process was coordinated by the Federal Foreign Office and launched there on 6 November 2014. During the first phase, topics in the UN principles that are of relevance to Germany were identified for further exploration. On the basis of the outcome of this discussion, an exchange then took place between the main stakeholders from the business sector, politics, civil society, associations and academia.


Find out more:

National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights - currently only in German (PDF, 609 KB)

Last updated 21.12.2016

© Auswärtiges amt