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ECCJ 2016 General Assembly: what’s next for the corporate accountability movement?

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18 ECCJ member organisations from 14 European countries met in Brussels, at the end of May, for the coalition’s yearly general assembly (AGM).

Celebrating 10 years of ECCJ

This year, ECCJ’s General Assembly coincided with ECCJ’s 10th Anniversary. The ten-year milestone was marked by a Corporate Accountability Forum organised by ECCJ’s Secretariat, followed by a drinks and dinner reception. The Forum was an occasion to draw lessons and inspiration from past successes, analyse current developments and trends, and try to predict what the next decade will be like for the corporate accountability movement. The reception brought together current and former ECCJ members, with partners and allies from civil society, academia and EU institutions. It was an engaging event that provided participants with an excellent opportunity to network, reminisce and celebrate a decade of ECCJ.

Human Rights Due Diligence still top priority

Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) was a core ECCJ priority since the 2015 AGM, but political progress in the area has been slow. The EU-level political context is challenging, due to the Better Regulation agenda, among other reasons and decision-makers are reluctant to back progressive change.

Mandatory HRDD remains a key ECCJ priority for the next year. The coalition has already invested considerable efforts in building common strategies together with civil society allies. A notable result was the New momentum towards mandatory HRDD - Working with and for HRDD workshop (Brussels, January 2016). Co-organised by ECCJ, Amnesty International and CIDSE, the event brought together 43 NGOs and platforms from 16 countries. The workshop confirmed civil society interest in mandatory HRDD, and highlighted the need for enhanced strategic collaboration.

The FrenchGreen Card’ initiative, promoted by French Members of Parliament (MPs) and NGOs, aims to gather pan-European parliamentary support, and call on the European Commission to undertake legislative actions aiming to enhance business respect for human rights and access to justice for victims of abuse. A first meeting in this regard was held in Paris, on 18 May, with the participation of EU MPs and MEPs. It gathered enough support for the Green Card’s launch. As a result, eight EU Parliaments adopted a similar resolution and individual MPs and MEPs signed a supportive statement. Other strategies considered for advancing the HRDD agenda, were launching a European Citizen Initiative and mobilizing the business community

Filip Gregor (Frank Bold) presented the Human Rights Reporting and Assurance frameworks (RAFI) project, led by SHIFT, and the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark. The RAFI project aims to establish standards for companies reporting under the UNGPs. The Reporting Framework has already been launched. Building on UNGPS, it aims to improve company transparency and guide companies into taking actual steps to respect human rights. The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark is a project lead by a coalition of NGOs and investors. Its goal is to build a standard that would allow investors to rate companies on their responsibility to respect human rights.

Suzan Van der Meij (the MVO Platform, NL) presented a report on the EU Roadmap to Business and Human Rights Conference, co-organised by CSOs (including ECCJ and the MVO Platform) and the Dutch EU presidency.

The key messages delivered at the conference, are consistent with ECCJ’s main policy goals in areas like EU policy framework (call on EU to implement UNGPs at EU level); access to justice (EU and Member States should intensify efforts to remove legal, procedural and institutional barriers); Human Rights Due Diligence (States should make sure businesses implement HRDD); EU and Member State support for international processes in the area (i.e. improved engagement in the UN Treaty Process). The above listed issues are part of the organisers’ conclusions, resulted from a compromise between CSOs and the Dutch Government. As explained by the organisers, one of the aims of the conference was to influence the Conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, (June 2016), expected to address BHR issues. (The Conclusions have been published. Their content reflects the advocacy work conducted by ECCJ, although they fall short of meeting all our demands).

Electing a new member

CNCD-11.11.11 had applied to replace Gresea – in agreement with them – as ECCJ’s Belgian member. CNCD is an umbrella organization of development NGOs which has already been working closely with ECCJ on several issues, was elected as Gresea’s replacement, becoming ECCJ’s newest national member.

Next AGM

The next AGM will be a strategy forum, where ECCJ’s next Strategic Plan will be discussed and voted. Members from Romania and Switzerland offered to host the event, but the exact location is to be confirmed in 2017.

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