Business and human rights: an EU Roadmap?

12 May 2016 11:41 AM

A major conference was held in Amsterdam yesterday to advance the implementation of the Business and Human Rights agenda of the European Union. The conference was organised jointly by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs joined and European civil society organisations and held at the official premises of the Netherlands EU Presidency.

Human rights and business

Photographer: Baiwir Fotografie 

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Five years after this milestone, a great deal of progress has been made by governments and companies. However, business-related human rights abuse is still a serious problem.

International game-changer

The EU has the potential to be an international game-changer when it comes to business and human rights. It also has a specific responsibility, because of the large numbers of European companies involved in global value chains. The hosts of the conference jointly advocate an ambitious follow-up to the European Commission’s 2011-2014 Communication on Corporate Social Responsibility. The new plan should be based on a multi-stakeholder approach and should improve access to remedy.


This conference was held as part of the #EU4HumanRights initiative launched by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. The initiative aims to strengthen the efforts of the EU and its member states to promote human rights. Empowering civil society and human rights defenders is a key priority in the human rights policy of Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders.

‘NGOs are increasingly under threat all over the world, including some that are fighting against business-related human rights abuse. That’s why I am proud that we have organised this conference together with civil society,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘It’s also crucial for the business sector to play an important part in events like this. We have to work together with all stakeholders to prevent human rights abuse. And when it does occur, victims need access to remedy. The Netherlands would like the EU to lead by example,’ he added.

Coherent strategy

The conference builds on the aid and trade agenda promoted by the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Lilianne Ploumen. The Netherlands aims to develop a coherent strategy to address problems in global value chains, such as child labour, exploitation of workers and other human rights violations. This aim is also in line with the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For more information, please see the conclusions of the conference. These were prepared jointly by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MVO Platform, the European Coalition for Corporate Justice and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions.