UK National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights and gender equality

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September 2015

Why the UK National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights must integrate and prioritise gender equality and women’s human rights

ABColombia as part of the CORE Coalition (Corporate Responsibility) together with the Gender and the Development Network (GADN) presented to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office our contribution on gender to the revision of the National Action Plan (NAP) for implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

In this document, ABColombia et al explain how the revised UK NAP on Business and Human Rights is an opportunity for the UK Government to fully integrate and prioritise gender equality and women’s rights to reflect the prevailing context of gender inequality, which is largely missing from its current NAP.

This document explores how the revised UK NAP on Business and Human Rights can become an instrument for the promotion and enforcement of women’s rights.

It highlights the importance of State and corporate responsibility to respect and actively protect women and girls’ rights.

The submission’s recommendations encourage the UK Government to identify and implement gender-sensitive legislation such as due-diligence policies to address the specific risks women are exposed to as a result of UK business activities.

Ultimately, the NAP revision should include not only accurate policies but also provide remedies through formal and informal justice systems to ensure redress for victims and prevent abuses.

Read the executive summary below
Read the full report here


Why the UK National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights must integrate and prioritise gender equality and women’s human rights

Executive Summary

Violations of women’s and girls’ human rights caused by entrenched gender-based discrimination occur in every country in the world, cutting across economic, social, environmental, political and cultural spheres, from local to global levels.

As such, business activities and operations, as well as the trade and investment policies that facilitate them, create heightened risks to women’s rights and impact upon women in gender-specific ways, whether as workers, community members or human rights defenders. Women living in developing countries who are poor are particularly at risk to adverse impacts of business activities.

These risks and impacts are enhanced further still when gender intersects with other forms of identity-based discrimination, such as age, ethnicity, caste, sexual orientation, and migrant and HIV and AIDS status.

The review of the UK’s National Action Plan (NAP) for implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) [1] offers a critical opportunity for the UK Government to fully integrate and prioritise gender equality and women’s rights to reflect the prevailing context of gender inequality, which is largely missing from its current NAP.

The NAP should serve as a framework to significantly strengthen policy coherence between government commitments on women’s rights, the business and human rights agenda, and its rapidly expanding focus on promoting the role of the private sector in development.

Vitally, it would help ensure that the UK companies operating and sourcing from overseas, as well as the wider trade and investment environment, go beyond ‘do no harm’ to actively contribute towards the fulfilment of women’s human rights. This requires strong regulatory frameworks, combined with gender sensitive human rights due diligence, and steps to ensure the increased barriers women face in accessing justice are addressed. [2]

This opportunity should not be missed. Not only is urgent further action needed to end women’s rights violations linked to corporate practices, but businesses are demanding specific, coherent and clear regulatory frameworks and guidelines from governments on their corporate responsibility to respect human rights in order to ensure a more level playing field.

This paper by the GADN’s Women’s Economic Justice Group (WEJ), endorsed by the CORE Coalition, details how women are particularly at risk of corporate related human rights violations and face additional barriers to accessing remedy. It offers recommendations to the UK Government for strengthening the revised NAP in order to help urgently redress these issues.

Notes

[1] HM Government (2013) ‘Good Business: Implementing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’

[2] This would be in line with the principle of ‘additionality.’ One of the requirements for using public resources to support the private sector is that they should contribute to development outcomes.

This is also supported by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which require states to take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that […] receive substantial support and services from state agencies such as export credit agencies and official investment insurance or guarantee agencies, including, where appropriate, by requiring human rights due diligence.

More Information:

Read the full submission

Summary Submission to the Review of the UK National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

Read: ABColombia’s report: “Colombia: Women, Conflict-related Sexual Violence and the Peace Process

• Read the UK’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (2013)