National Action Plan


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National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

In June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which addressed the human rights responsibility of companies. They are applicable at both the national and international level and also extend to value chains and supply chains. The 31 Guiding Principles rest on three pillars:

  1. State duty to protect
  2. Corporate responsibility to respect
  3. Access to remedy

The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the European Commission have called on governments to implement the UN Guiding Principles (PDF, 1,08 MB) and draw up National Action Plans (NAPs) for doing so.

The Development of the National Action Plan 2014–2016

From 2014 to 2016, the German government developed a Nation Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in a process led by the Federal Foreign Office. An intensive consultation phase included the participation of a steering group consisting of all relevant social groups, including trade unions, civil society organizations, and business associations.

The German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR) and the business network econsense were invited by the Federal Foreign Office to play a part in shaping that process in a consultative role until summer 2016. In spring 2015, the Institute prepared the "National Baseline Assessment" (NBA) for the steering group. The analysis looked at the extent to which the situation in Germany was already in line with the UN Guiding Principles and specified possible implementation deficits in the form of audit tasks. In December 2016 the German Federal Government published the National Action Plan. In a statement, the Institute noted that the NAP lacked ambition, especially compared to the range of issues raised in the NBA. More importantly, the tension between voluntary compliance and mandatory enforcement was not eased.

The Implementation of the National Action Plan 2017–2020

Given this result, the Institute is pushing for an implementation of the Action Plan that takes these points of criticism into consideration. Using funds from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) for the period from summer 2017 through the end of 2020, DIMR will conduct advocacy, research, and consultation related to topics relevant for the NAP and support the BMAS and its bodies during the NAP implementation phase.

In May 2017, the Working Group on Business and Human Rights of the German Government’s CSR Forum elected Michael Windfuhr, deputy director of the German Institute for Human Rights, its chairperson. The Working Group is a continuation and expansion of the steering group of the NAP development process. It advises the Government on the strategic orientation and conduct of the NAP implementation process. Its recommendations are presented to an interministerial committee that makes the decisions concerning the NAP implementation and takes responsibility for them.

The central information portal of the German Federal Government is the portal of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

Further information:

The Institute's Press Release 21.12.2016: Cabinet adoption of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights: A hesitant integration of business and human rights (Word, 63 KB, not barrier free)

DIMR (2015): National Baseline Assessment: Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (German)

The National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (2016) (German, PDF, 610 KB)

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Sara Phung
Researcher and Policy Adviser, Projects "National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights", "UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights"
Tel.: +49 30 25  93 59 - 124
E-Mail: phung(at)