What Good is a NAP for Developing Countries? A Preliminary Assessment of Achievements and Prospects for National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights in the Global South
30 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2018
Date Written: October 27, 2016
The global effort to compel states to meet their duty to protect in the business and human rights context is centered on the project of developing National Action Plans on business and human rights (NAPs) for implementing the UNGPs. This project has been central to the agenda of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (Working Group) over the past few years. To date NAPs production has been concentrated in Europe. A looming question for the business and human rights movement and proponents of the UNGPs, therefore, is to what extent Global South countries will undertake a NAP process. The development of NAPs only in the Global North, which are in general aimed at curbing harmful corporate conduct by multinationals in the Global South without corresponding action in the Global South, is a clear impediment to the development of a global governance system that can avert corporate human rights violations, the very objective of the NAPs project. Equally necessary is the strengthening of institutions – local legislative frameworks, judicial systems, and law enforcement - in developing country host states. In this way, the production of NAPs in the Global South, particularly in conflict and post-conflict societies, can be seen as a guard against neo-colonialism by providing a critical opportunity for developing countries to systematically address the governance gaps rooted in their own institutions. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that Global South countries – China, South Africa, Thailand, India, and many others -- are the home states of multinationals that operate internationally both within their regions and in other regions of the Global South. These countries share responsibilities to strengthen their legal and regulatory institutions so that companies domiciled within their borders operating internationally know that they will be held to account for their human rights impacts. This paper aims to shed light on Global South perspectives on NAPs in an effort to understand the prospects for UNGP diffusion in Africa, Asia and Latin America through them. The emphasis is therefore on a locally-grounded conception of NAPs that meets the needs of Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans. The first section is a review of reports of regional workshops and other published analysis on the potential role of NAPs in implementing human rights norms for business within the Global South and identify several key needs that NAPs can serve. Next we examine the impetus of Global South states to develop NAPs by reviewing the political, economic and social underpinnings of NAPs commitments in two countries, Kenya and Chile, where the governments have committed to a NAP and at the time of this writing the processes are underway. We conclude with reflections on the prospects for the continued evolution and generation of NAPs in the Global South.
Keywords: National Action Plans, NAPs, Business and Human Rights, Global South, Chile, Kenya
JEL Classification: K00, P45
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation