Human Rights, Humanitarian Assistance,Refugees

Business and Human Rights

March 15, 2019

1 Background

  • (1) In 2005, The United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights appointed Professor John Ruggie of Harvard University as the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises at the 69th session. He then presented the "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework (UN Framework) drafted through consultation with civil society and governments, at the 8th session of the Human Rights Council(HRC) The UN Framework categorizes relations between multinational corporations and human rights into three pillars: (1) the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, (2) the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and (3) access to remedy. While the UN Framework clarifies the state duty and the corporate responsibility that relate to the impacts on human rights by business activities, it places emphasis also on the needs for mechanisms enabling access to effective remedies, and lists specific areas and cases the relevant actors are expected to undertake as their duty or responsibility. The aforementioned framework was unanimously welcomed by the HRC in resolution A/HRC/RES/8/7 which was presented at its 8th session.

  • (2) For the implementation of the UN Framework, Professor Ruggie drafted "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework (UNGPs)” that was endorsed at the 17th session of the HRC in 2011. Consequently, the HRC in resolution A/HRC/RES/17/4 established the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (UN Working Group), consisting of five independent experts whose mandate includes promoting dissemination of the UNGPs, exchanging good practices and lessons learned and conducting country visits.

  • (3) The UN Working Group encourages all states to develop a national action plan as steps to implement the UNGPs. In response, many states have launched the development of their national action plans in accordance with their national circumstances and regulations. Since 2013, more than 20 states, including the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United States, Germany and France, have issued their national action plans. Moreover, the 2015 Leaders' Declaration G7 Summit in Elmau stated that the G7 strongly supports the UNGPs and welcomes the efforts to set up substantive action plans. The 2017 Leaders' Declaration G20 Summit in Hamburg also requested G20 members including Japan to work toward establishing adequate policy frameworks such as national action plans.

2 National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

  • (1) Through the statement delivered in the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in November 2016 and Japan's SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles, Japan announced its intention to formulate a National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights. The NAP formulation was further reiterated in the "Expanded SDGs Action Plan 2018" decided at the 5th meeting of the SDGs Promotion Headquarters in June 2018 as well as the "SDGs Action Plan 2019" decided at the 6th meeting of the SDGs Promotion Headquarters in December 2018. Furthermore, the "Growth Strategy 2018" approved by the Cabinet in June 2018 specified to formulate a NAP for respecting human rights as basic principles of business behavior.

  • (2) Having reviewed approaches to the development of NAPs on business and human rights undertaken in other jurisdictions, in the initial stage of the NAP formulation process, the Government of Japan, decided to undertake the Government-led baseline study with the aim of capturing the current landscape to what extent current legislation and policies provide for the protection of human rights in the context of business. In this process, the Government of Japan conducted a desk review undertaken by all relevant line ministries and agencies and organized consultation meetings with multi-stakeholders (the meeting summary is listed below.). In December 2018, the Government of Japan issued a report which summarizes the outcomes of the study. It is of the view that the baseline study will contribute to increasing awareness of the topics involved in the new and developing area of business and human rights.

  • (3) The Government of Japan believes that the development of the NAP pertaining to respect for human rights in business activities, which is becoming a new global standard, will enhance the promotion of human rights in business activities. Encouraging Japanese companies to advance progressive initiatives on respecting human rights in the context of business will also contribute to boosting and maintaining Japanese companies' competitiveness in the market. Going forward, the Government of Japan intends to consider establishing an advisory committee to hear opinions and recommendations from experts and a working group to discuss among various stakeholders toward the NAP formulation on business and human rights.

  • (4)As to our future schedule, the Government of Japan plans to identify priority areas that should be incorporated into the upcoming NAP in the first half of 2019, prepare a first draft of the NAP in the second half of 2019, and issue the finalized NAP in the middle of 2020 (this schedule may change due to the working process.).