By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Tribunal decisions, which Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says, "cautions against forgetting the WWII lessons, reminds us of catastrophic consequences of the attempts to determine the fate of the world by suppressing legitimate interests of other States and peoples".

In a statement to the UN General Assembly's 71st session on September 23, Lavrov said: "The freedom of expression or peaceful assembly should not be used as a cover for condoning radical movements that profess the Nazi ideology and support the glorification of the Nazi and their accomplices."

- Photo: 2021

New German Law Seeks Corporate Accountability for Rights Violations in Global Supply Chains

An Important Step Towards Implementing UN Guidelines

By Rita Joshi

BERLIN (IDN) – After protracted negotiations, Germany’s coalition government has announced an agreement on a German ‘mandatory human rights due diligence law’ focusing on corporate accountability for human rights violations in global supply chains. In doing, it has taken into account the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). These also address the human rights risks and identify the human rights impact of their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

June 2021 will see the 10-year anniversary of the adoption of the UNGPs by the UN Human Rights Council. To mark this occasion, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has launched a new project to further drive and scale up implementation of the UNGPs in the coming decade. “The project will take stock of achievements to date, review existing gaps, and develop an ambitious vision and roadmap for the decade ahead.”

The German project is a compromise between the core demands of civil society organizations and legal reservations of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. The proposal will be tabled mid-March for discussion by the German Federal Cabinet. Final voting has been promised within this year.

The importance of the law is underscored by the fact that millions of men, women and children work in inhumane conditions as part of global supply chains. They are paid less than a living wage and mistreated at work, where fatal factory accidents are all too common. Companies from the Global North exacerbate working conditions through their pricing and deadline demands.

Certification processes and voluntary standards have proven to be ineffective in terms of bringing about improvements. ECCHR, therefore, uses a range of legal tools to ensure that transnational contractors, buyers and retailers are held responsible for the exploitation of workers.

UN Guiding Principles

According to the Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), Human rights due diligence is a critical part of fulfilling the “corporate responsibility to respect” as defined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). It is an ongoing, cyclical process that takes account of the dynamic nature of human rights situations.

It is also a key tool in the global efforts to Build Back Better since it enables companies to focus their attention on the most severe human rights risks and identify the human rights impact of their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A number of governments of European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) member states, in particular, have therefore recently introduced or have announced their intention to consider the introduction of, legislative regimes to require companies and corporate groups to carry out human rights due diligence. These kinds of regimes are referred to as “mandatory human rights due diligence” (mHRDD) regimes.

Commenting the German government’s announcement on February 12, Miriam Saage-Maass, vice legal director and head of the Business and Human Rights program at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) said: “With this compromise, the German government is finally taking a step, which is long overdue, to protect human rights in global supply chains. But the announced due diligence law must be improved”.

In a statement on February 12, she stressed: “We are sceptical about the fact that the law initially only applies to large companies with 3000, later 1000, employees. Small and medium-sized companies, especially those in high-risk sectors such as the textile industry, urgently need to be required to protect human rights.”

In addition, she said, the law’s strongest language only applies to direct suppliers. Indirect suppliers are included only with weaker measures. “The rights of people at the very end of supply chains must also be respected and violations punished. We remain hopeful that the announced obligation for companies to prevent human rights violations will be enforced irrespective of where they occur in supply chains, and that complaint mechanisms for those affected will be strengthened.”

She welcomed the proposed strengthening of the role of NGOs and trade unions in Germany, which will enable “them and us” to better support those affected in their fight for human rights. Nevertheless, accentuated the call for additional civil liability to be anchored in the German supply chain law.

“Only with it can the law truly benefit those who need it most – workers in the Global South. As a civil society organization, we will continue to do our part to support the implementation of a strong and effective mandatory human rights due diligence law and enforce the rights of those affected,” ECCHR’s legal expert Saage-Maass added. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 February 2021]

Image: Global Supply Chains. Source:

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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