OHCHR Accountability and Remedy Project I: Enhancing effectiveness of judicial mechanisms in cases of business-related human rights abuse


Reports


Main ARP I Outcome Documents

Follow-up Report


Introduction


Background to the initiative

The question of how to secure accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses has long been an issue on the business and human rights agenda. Research by civil society organizations, academics and others has found that judicial systems often fail to hold companies to account and to ensure effective remedy for victims. This situation is particularly acute in cases involving gross human rights abuses and other particularly serious offenses – such as slavery, torture, extra-judicial killings, forced and child labour, and large-scale harm to human health and livelihoods. While such offenses are most often perpetrated by States, companies can be involved either as offenders or by being complicit in such abuses.

As part of its mandate to advance the protection of and respect for human rights, OHCHR launched a process in 2013 aimed at contributing to a fairer and more effective system of domestic law remedies to address corporate liability for gross human rights abuses. As the first step in this process, OHCHR published an independent study by legal expert Dr. Jennifer Zerk that examined the effectiveness of domestic judicial mechanisms in relation to business involvement in gross human rights abuses. The study identified barriers to accessing justice at the domestic level, and the effects of differences in domestic approaches on the way that remedial systems are used in practice. OHCHR invited all interested stakeholders to submit feedback on the issues identified and recommendations made in the study; an analysis of the written submissions received is available here.

The launch of the "Accountability and Remedy Project"

In June 2014, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 26/22, which requested the High Commissioner

"to continue work to facilitate the sharing and exploration of the full range of legal options and practical measures to improve access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses, in collaboration with the Working Group, to organize consultations with experts, States and other relevant stakeholders to facilitate mutual understanding and greater consensus among different views, and to publish a progress report thereon before the twenty-ninth session of the Human Rights Council, and the final report to be considered by the Council at its thirty-second session." (OP 7)

In response to this request, OHCHR officially launched its "Accountability and Remedy Project." The first phase (ARP I), which took place from 2014 – 2016, focused on enhancing the effectiveness of judicial mechanisms in cases of business-related human rights abuse.

Through a consultative process, OHCHR developed a detailed and ambitious programme of work for ARP I. Six distinct, but interrelated, projects were chosen to focus the work; they were selected because of their strategic value and potential to improve accountability from a practical, victim-centred perspective.

In May 2015, OHCHR presented an ARP I progress report to the Human Rights Council on legal options and practical measures to improve access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses.

After finishing its extensive research and gathering of inputs from a range of stakeholders, OHCHR submitted its final ARP I report to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-second session in June 2016. The report offers a set of practical resources which States can draw upon with a view to progressively and systematically improving their implementation of Pillar III of the UNGPs. The report's annex contains a set of (1) policy objectives for States addressing both procedural and substantive aspects of access to judicial remedy, and (2) elements to demonstrate different ways that the policy objectives can be achieved in practice. These policy objectives and elements capture "good practice" lessons, were developed through inclusive multi-stakeholder processes, and were designed to take into account different legal systems, cultures, traditions and levels of economic development.

The ARP I report was released with two companion documents, which should be read alongside the main report.

  • The ARP I addendum explains key legal concepts and the main findings emerging from ARP I in further detail. Additionally, this document includes a model terms of reference that can be used by States to review the effectiveness of domestic legal systems.
  • OHCHR also produced a paper containing illustrative examples of methods that States have used and steps that States have taken in practice that are relevant to the different policy objectives and which have the potential to improve access to remedy in cases of business-related human rights abuses. These illustrative examples have been identified through the extensive data collection process underpinning the report and are included for illustration and learning purposes only.

Continuing developments with ARP I

In June 2016, the Council adopted resolution 32/10 by consensus, which welcomed OHCHR's work on improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse and noted "with appreciation" the ARP I report. Further, the Human Rights Council requested the High Commissioner to continue work in this area and to convene two consultations involving representatives of States and other stakeholders. OHCHR convened these consultations in late 2017 with a view to further unpacking the policy objectives contained in the ARP I report and exploring certain areas that warranted closer attention.

The first consultation was held in Geneva in October 2017 and looked at the relationship between human rights due diligence (as described in the UNGPs) and determinations of corporate liability under national law for adverse human rights impacts arising from or connected with business activities. A follow-up report that was informed by the discussion at this consultation was submitted to the Human Rights Council at its 38th session in June 2018. The second consultation was held during the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva in November 2017. More information about these consultations is available in the events section below.

Follow-up work on ARP I is currently being conducted through the fourth phase of the project (ARP IV).

For any questions or comments regarding the ARP I work, please contact business-access2remedy@ohchr.org.


Documents


ARP I Documents

ARP I Follow-up Work


Events, Meetings, Etc.


This section includes select events and other types of meetings in which OHCHR took part, and which can be made public. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it representative of the geographic reach of the project, which was global in nature.

OHCHR is actively seeking to participate in events related to accountability and access to remedy for business-related human rights abuse. If you would like to notify the ARP team of, or invite us to, relevant events, or propose organizing an event with us, please contact business-access2remedy@ohchr.org.

  • OHCHR Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on increasing the effectiveness of domestic public law regimes, Switzerland, 28 November 2017
  • OHCHR Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on the relevance of human rights due diligence to determinations of corporate liability, Switzerland, 5-6 October 2017
  • OHCHR Workshop with States, Switzerland, 15-16 March 2016
  • Consultation with national human rights institutions, Switzerland, March 2016
  • OHCHR Consultation with civil society, Switzerland, 25 February 2016
  • OHCHR Workshop with States, Switzerland, 28-29 January 2016
  • OHCHR ARP I Multi-Stakeholder Consultation, Switzerland, 19-20 November 2015
  • 2015 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights Sessions, Switzerland, November 2015
  • Consultation at IAP Annual Conference, Switzerland, 15-16 September 2015
  • Consultation with business, USA, 16 September 2015
  • ARP I Expert Meeting, USA, 8 July 2015
  • OHCHR Side event on progress report, Switzerland, June 2015
  • Consultation with prosecutors, The Netherlands, 22 May 2015
  • Consultation on corporate crime, United Kingdom, 20 May 2015
  • 2014 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights Sessions, Switzerland, December 2014
  • OHCHR Expert Meeting, Switzerland, September 2014
  • OHCHR Expert Meeting, Switzerland, October 2013

Questionnaires


The following questionnaires were made available to gather information for the ARP I report.


Background on the Accountability and Remedy Project


The Accountability and Remedy Project aims to strengthen implementation of the "Access to Remedy" pillar of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Since its launch in 2014, this multi-year project has examined access to remedy challenges at the national level and the actions (legal, policy-related, and practical) likely to be most effective at addressing them. To ensure that our findings are globally relevant and implementable, information is collected from as many jurisdictions as possible, drawn from all UN regional groupings, and reflecting a wide range of legal structures, systems and traditions. Contributions are encouraged from as many stakeholders as possible in order to build a thorough understanding of the needs and perspectives of users of grievance mechanisms in a range of contexts.

OHCHR has completed three phases of the project, each focusing on a different category of grievance mechanism. OHCHR's findings in relation to judicial mechanisms can be found in the 2016 report and explanatory addendum presented to the Human Rights Council (and a companion Paper on Illustrative Examples). Its findings on the use of State-based non-judicial mechanisms are set out in its 2018 report and that report's explanatory addendum. The findings of the third phase of the project on non-State-based grievance mechanisms are set out in the 2020 report and its explanatory addendum.

In 2020, OHCHR launched a fourth phase of the project (ARP IV) to enhance the accessibility, dissemination and implementation of the findings from the first three phases of the project.