FIDH comments on the European Commission’s proposed Directive on Due Diligence

Published by Brent Patterson on

On March 12, 2021, Euractiv reported: “[Members of the European Parliament] have urged the European Commission to table an ambitious due diligence law obliging [European Union] companies to address all aspects of their value chains that could affect human rights, the environment and good governance.”

On February 23, 2022, the European Commission released its proposal for a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence.

In its commentary on that proposal, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) says:

“Our organisations welcome publication of the proposal. Current voluntary instruments and business self-regulation have failed to stop corporate abuse. …However, while the proposal contains some very good elements, it still falls short on numerous fundamental points. …We regret that in drafting the proposal, the EU too often disregarded the existing globally agreed-upon set of best practice principles, which outline how corporations should ensure respect for human rights.”

Among its recommendations for improvements:

“Reinforce the role of civil society and the place of affected populations in the due diligence process. Provide for meaningful engagement of companies with the stakeholders; draw particular attention to indigenous people, human rights defenders, and vulnerable peoples or groups; and protect against reprisals.”

FIDH and its members recommend the inclusion of a specific article on consultation of stakeholders, including human rights defenders.

Their analysis says:

“[This article should note that] the involvement of stakeholders, including human rights defenders and trade unions, should happen at all stages of a project design, implementation, and monitoring, and at different levels of the value chain. It should also be warranted when designing and implementing remedial mechanisms.

The core provisions of the Directive should include an obligation to respect the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples.

The text needs to provide a specific provision on the protection of victims and the risk of reprisals faced by human rights defenders, trade union members, and local communities.”

In a presentation to the European Parliament’s Committee on Development (DEVE) last month, Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project advocacy coordinator Kerstin Reemtsma highlighted:

“It is central that on one side the due diligence initiative and also the directive on the environment, includes strong provisions for the protection of human rights defenders, mainly environmental defenders, as well as very clear mechanisms for participation, meaningful participation prior to investment and environmental impact assessments of major development projects.”

In May 2021, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability launched model legislation for due diligence and corporate accountability in Canada. The Canadian model legislation can be read here.

Given the PBI’s accompaniment of human rights defenders in Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico impacted by Canadian corporations, notably mining and oil and gas companies, we continue to follow developments on due diligence legislation in both Canada and the European Union with great interest.

For further commentary, please see:

PBI calls for due diligence legislation with four key provisions to protect human rights defenders (September 1, 2021)

PBI-Mexico accompanied lawyer calls for European due diligence legislation instruments for Indigenous rights (October 13, 2021)

PBI-Colombia notes due diligence is on the EU’s agenda in 2021; progress not yet seen in Canada (January 15, 2021)

Export Development Canada says it carried out ‘rigorous due diligence’ before loan for Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory (May 11, 2020)

Canadian bank BMO supports human rights due diligence statement, but finances pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory (May 7, 2020)

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