Transcript of the Video message by Angel Gurría
17 June 2020 - Paris, OECD
(As prepared for delivery)
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the second part of the 8th Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct.
During the first part of this Forum, almost a month ago, we discussed how RBC needs to be an integral part of a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, our discussion will focus on ‘access to remedy’, which is a key aspect of the work of the National Contact Points (NCPs) for RBC. This is a particularly fitting topic as we celebrate, this year, the 20th anniversary of the NCPs, and what very different circumstances we find ourselves in!
The COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve globally – hitting our health systems, our labour markets and our economic systems. Business as usual is upended, and this crisis is having severe impacts on the most vulnerable and marginalised. Ensuring their protection is critical and access to remedy is a core part of this protection and of any post-crisis recovery. It also goes hand-in-hand with accountability.
In today’s world, legal frameworks have not kept pace with the globalisation of business operations. Complexities around transnational litigation, weak rule of law in certain contexts, and difficulties in accessing justice, mean that many of the world’s most vulnerable communities are adversely exposed to harms caused by international business operations. Furthermore, complex global supply chains, corporate structures and sub-contracting practices have made it difficult to understand where responsibility for impacts caused by business activities begins and where it ends, and presents a challenge for accountability.
Our National Contact Points (NCPs) across 49 countries play an important role in addressing these challenges and in providing access to remedy. They offer a unique grievance mechanism under the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises – the global standard for responsible business conduct. This covers a vast array of topics and ensures that business-related harms – whether on the environment, human rights, labour rights or corruption – are addressed.
NCPs are a diverse mix, mostly of government officials but many also include representatives from trade unions, NGOs, business and academia. Their role is to promote the MNE Guidelines and provide a platform for dialogue between companies and those impacted.
The reach of the NCP system is global and wide-ranging. Since the system was first established two decades ago, our NCPs have handled more than 500 cases relating to company operations in over 100 countries and territories in all five continents. They have focused on the protection of human rights, due diligence, employment and worker issues, and the environment.
And they have an impressive track record: Over half of all cases on environmental issues, for example, have resulted in agreement between the parties. Around 30% of the cases filed since 2011 have addressed due diligence in supply chains – a critical issue for business and governments today.
Let me provide four brief examples to demonstrate the varied work of our NCPs:
Still, there is always room for improvement, and we are supporting governments to make their NCPs as strong and effective as possible. One way to ensure that practice meets standards is through our peer review mechanism, an assessment method in which the OECD excels.
Our comprehensive programme of peer reviews of NCPs has yielded strong results, with 35 of the 49 countries having completed or committed to undertaking a peer review. To date, NCPs have implemented 88% of the recommendations made through these peer reviews. This has generated improvements in the functioning of NCPs, ranging from additional or specialised staff through to transparent and clear operating rules and better communication of case outcomes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The current global health crisis has far-reaching economic and social consequences. It affects whole societies and hits the most vulnerable hardest. More than ever, the NCPs’ role in seeking agreement between parties and remedy, where possible, is of fundamental importance. We know of at least one ongoing case directly related to the impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace – more are expected.
Let us use today’s meeting to reflect on the importance of the NCPs in the wider remedy and accountability landscape, and on how they can continue to contribute to a healthier planet and healthier economies.
Let us work together to leverage responsible business conduct to tackle this crisis and build the post-COVID19 world in an inclusive and sustainable manner. Thank you.