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Meld. St. 10 (2014–2015)

Opportunities for All: Human Rights in Norway’s Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation — Meld. St. 10 (2014–2015) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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4 Policy coherence for human rights

There is virtually no aspect of our work that does not have a human rights dimension. Whether we are talking about peace and security, development, humanitarian action, the struggle against terrorism, climate change, none of these challenges can be addressed in isolation from human rights.
Ban Ki-moon

The different human rights are inextricably linked and are relevant to almost all areas of society. The efforts to promote and defend human rights will be mainstreamed into all aspects of the Government’s foreign and development policy. Ensuring respect for human rights is both a foreign policy goal and a means of achieving lasting security and sustainable development. The work on the Government’s three human rights priorities – individual freedom and public participation, the rule of law and legal protection, and equality and equal opportunities – will be incorporated into policy development in other areas. The Government will pursue a coherent foreign and development policy with a consistent profile. The question of which human rights priorities are the most important will be considered according to the case. Norway’s efforts in the different areas will pull in the same direction and be mutually reinforcing.

4.1 Key human rights issues in security policy

The main goal of security policy is to safeguard a country’s sovereignty and political independence as a member of the international community. This is achieved by means of a broad range of political, military, diplomatic and economic tools, together with instruments of international law. Safeguarding and further developing the international legal order is an overriding foreign and security policy concern for Norway, together with strengthening all peaceful cooperation, more particularly cooperation on reducing poverty, ignorance and disease, and protecting the environment and addressing climate change. Such factors are often a direct cause of instability and conflict, and thus in turn have consequences for Norway.

Norwegian security policy is based on a broad threat assessment. It comprises enforcement of sovereignty and authority on land and in our sea areas combined with support for the fight against international terrorism and for peace and reconciliation processes in other countries of the world. Our membership of the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO, and our participation in operations abroad, form a comprehensive and coherent whole, the aim of which is to prevent, contain and resolve conflict.

The crisis in Ukraine shows that conventional threats to a state’s integrity, and the resulting unrest and human rights violations, can take place even in today’s Europe. Sanctions and other foreign policy tools can help to counteract destabilising political forces, but at the end of the day our security depends on a robust defence force and our NATO membership. The binding cooperation in NATO, the Council of Europe and the EU are the cornerstones of the system that protects human rights and democracy in our part of the world.

There is growing international awareness of the link between stability and security on the one hand and respect for human rights on the other. Unstable societies with little respect for human rights can be breeding grounds for criminal networks and boost recruitment to terrorist organisations. Modern security policy is thus closely linked to the promotion of democracy and human rights. Democratic societies governed by the rule of law have open, predictable decision-making processes that rarely put neighbouring states in unexpected or difficult situations. Democratic social processes and respect for human rights directly enhance confidence between countries. This means that promoting democracy and human rights is an important element of all security policy cooperation in which Norway participates, not least our cooperation in NATO, the OSCE and the UN. An example of this is the UN Security Council’s emphasis on the importance of ensuring that women take part on an equal footing with men at all levels and in all functions for promoting lasting peace and security. Women’s participation is crucial to securing lasting peace.

The commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, such as set out in the UN Charter, should enhance security policy contact and cooperation across dividing lines. The principle that security is indivisible, in the sense that a country’s security is inextricably linked to the security of other countries, is also a good foundation for cooperation across national borders. Certain states misuse the declaration of a state of emergency as an excuse to depart unlawfully from human rights. The international human rights conventions have very strict requirements for situations where a state of emergency can justify the renunciation of human rights. For example, the European Convention on Human Rights specifies that only in time of war or other public emergency that threatens the life of the nation may a state deviate from such an obligation.

Norway’s security is fundamental to its ability to defend human rights internationally. At the same time, a broad engagement for peace and human rights provides credibility and influence when security interests have to be safeguarded, and when contributing to other countries’ security, for example through international operations. Correspondingly, the strong focus on strengthening the international legal order also increases the credibility of our security policy. Human rights, democracy and the principles of the rule of law thus feature prominently in Norwegian policies.

Challenges to security policy may also involve human rights dilemmas. Terrorism, transnational organised crime and cyber threats are examples of new security policy challenges where countermeasures must be based on a coherent and effective human rights policy.

4.1.1 Terrorism, organised crime and cyber threats

Globalisation leads to closer cooperation and stronger mutual dependence between states. This has a number of favourable consequences, but it also creates new security policy challenges that can seriously threaten human rights. Security policy threats are more unpredictable and difficult to define than they used to be. Norway’s security can be affected by actors and events that go beyond the use of military force against Norwegian territory, and these cannot therefore be met by military countermeasures alone. Global security policy threats such as drug trafficking, terrorism, growing radicalisation and polarisation, human trafficking, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, cyber threats and piracy raise new sets of problems and require a broad-based approach. These types of crime threaten stability and development, and create special security policy and human rights dilemmas for states.

Combating organised crime requires a well-developed international legal order, effective cross-border and cross-regional cooperation, strong justice and security institutions, and intensive anti-corruption efforts. Norway also believes that it is important to increase knowledge about international criminal networks, for example through the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime.

In a number of areas, technology is advancing more rapidly than our ability to address potential vulnerabilities in our societies. Certain states, citing the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention, claim that control of digital information is a national security policy affair, where the state is free to take whatever action it considers necessary from a security perspective. Norway is among those states that claim that the free flow of digital information is primarily a question of freedom of expression, and that security policy action in the digital sphere should be mainly confined to prevention and defence against cyber threats and crime.

Terrorism, extremism, organised crime and cyber threats jeopardise security and weaken the ability of states to safeguard their citizens’ human rights, and action must be taken to prevent and combat these threats. However, the efforts to combat terrorism and organised crime must always comply with obligations under international law, including human rights, international humanitarian law, and the principles of the rule of law. Respect for human rights and the rule of law is in itself a key element in the efforts to address and prevent terrorism, since lack of compliance with these international obligations increases the risk of support and recruitment to terror organisations. Norway’s work for human rights, democracy, peace and sustainable development therefore makes an important contribution to the long-term fight against terrorism. The aim of our efforts is to strengthen the abilities of states to safeguard their citizens’ rights and put them in a better position to prevent and combat terrorism.

The UN has a special responsibility for coordinating the global efforts against terrorism. Regional organisations such as the EU, NATO, the OSCE and the African Union are also important actors. A further strengthening of the UN’s role would make it possible to unite and coordinate the international efforts initiated and implemented by states. The Government supports the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, in which upholding human rights and the principles of the rule of law is one of the main pillars.

New weapons and tactics are being used in the fight against terrorism. The use of combat drones in armed conflicts is in itself considered lawful. However, as with other weapons, drones must be used in accordance with humanitarian law and other international law. In particular, the use of combat drones across borders raises questions related to fundamental rules for the use of force, human rights and humanitarian law. Some of these questions will be even more pertinent if fully autonomous weapon systems are developed and used in armed conflicts or other types of violence such as terrorism. A fully autonomous weapon system is a weapon system that, once activated, operates on its own and can select targets and initiate a lethal attack without further human intervention and control. The use of such weapons will raise a number of legal and ethical questions, regardless of whether such weapons are used within or outside the context of an armed conflict. Norway considers it important that the use of all types of weapons should be subject to international law, and in international forums where automatic weapons are discussed, we have argued that international law should also apply to fully autonomous weapon systems.

Textbox 4.1 Preventing radicalisation and violent extremism

The strong radicalisation and polarisation taking place in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, including the recruitment of increasing numbers of young Islamists to the wars in Syria and Iraq, represent a significant security threat for many countries, including Norway. The Government believes that prevention is the most important strategy for combating radicalisation and violent extremism, and Norway is an active participant in international forums that give us access to knowledge about the situation at the international level and enable us to join expert networks. Together with a number of other countries, Norway is considering the need for further measures to prevent individuals who have participated in armed conflicts, such as the one in Syria, from becoming a security threat on their return home. It is essential to ensure that such measures are not in conflict with international human rights law.

Textbox 4.2 Combating human trafficking

The UN has estimated that annually several million people worldwide become trafficking victims, and human trafficking is believed to be the world’s second largest illegal economy. Human trafficking is a serious and profit-motivated crime that violates human rights. It is particularly prevalent in vulnerable states with a weak police and judicial system, where organised criminal groups can buy protection or exemption from prosecution. For example, human-, drugs- and weapons trafficking are helping to finance insurgency and terrorism in the Sahel region. Although human trafficking primarily affects individuals, the fight against this form of crime also contributes substantially to the efforts to counter global security threats such as terrorism. At the international level, Norway has helped to ensure that the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings includes an effective monitoring mechanism, and is working for a similar mechanism to be introduced in the UN.

Priorities:

  • help put states in a better position to prevent and combat terrorism, organised crime and cyber threats, and thereby strengthen their ability to safeguard their citizens’ human rights;

  • seek to ensure that international measures against terrorism, organised crime and cyber threats are consistent with human rights, for example by supporting the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

4.1.2 Human rights, security sector reform and peace operations

The mandates of international peacekeeping operations, including the special political operations under the UN, increasingly include measures to promote human rights. Such operations are often mandated to oversee that human rights are respected and to assist the country concerned with improving its human rights efforts. This requires a coherent approach to peacebuilding, which Norway is promoting in a number of countries through its work with security sector reform. The Secretary-General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative plays a key role in mainstreaming human rights into the activities of the UN system as a whole.

The purpose of security sector reform is to rebuild and reform the armed forces, the intelligence service and the justice sector in countries emerging from conflict or authoritarian rule. The reforms are intended to ensure that the security structures are under democratic control and are transparent and accountable, in line with good governance norms. A state’s security structure has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and it is therefore essential that these state institutions operate in accordance with human rights principles. Norway considers it important that women’s rights, needs and participation in decision-making are included in security sector reform.

In addition to contributing military troops to peacekeeping operations, Norway provides civilian police officers and other civilian actors who can promote security sector reform consistent with human rights. We also provide other forms of capacity-building support that strengthen the peacekeeping capacity of the UN, the African Union and their member countries, and their ability to implement security sector reform. A condition for Norwegian support is that the gender perspective is integrated into all activities. Our security sector reform efforts are intended to make an important contribution to improving the status of human rights in these countries.

Norwegian personnel in peacekeeping operations regularly come up against situations where fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, protection from arbitrary deprivation of liberty and the prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, are threatened. Peacekeeping personnel need training and competence to deal with such situations. Education in the laws of war is essential, and Norway gives this high priority. The Norwegian armed forces and justice sector also provide training and advisory services to other countries’ public institutions and personnel.

NATO’s fundamental aim is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its member countries by political and military means. Respect for human rights is a central element of NATO’s activities, including its operations and cooperation with partner countries. This is reflected in planning, training, support for partner countries and the requirements the Alliance imposes on future members. Progress on the Membership Action Plans and the Individual Partnership Action Plans of candidate and partner countries respectively is evaluated annually in a number of areas, including human rights, democratic control of the armed forces, compliance with the rule of law, and treatment of minorities. For several years, Norway has contributed to increasing NATO’s focus on the implementation of the UN resolutions on women, peace and security. The Alliance has now developed sound procedures for limiting civilian losses during operations, and is working systematically on strengthening the protection of the civilian population in armed conflicts.

Priorities:

  • take steps to ensure that respect for human rights and protection of civilians are an integral part of all international operations;

  • take steps to ensure that all international operations are mandated to report on the human rights situation in the areas where they are operating;

  • be a driving force for the inclusion of security sector reform measures that promote human rights, and for the inclusion of women’s rights, needs and participation in security sector reform.

4.1.3 Human rights and the export of strategic goods, services and technology

The export of strategic goods, services and technology (defence-related products and dual-use goods) from Norway is subject to control and thorough evaluation, among other reasons to prevent Norwegian equipment subject to licensing from being used to commit violations of human rights or humanitarian law. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs submits an annual report to the Storting on the scale of exports, export control regulations and the practical implementation of the Guidelines for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when dealing with applications concerning the export of defence-related products, as well as technology and services for military purposes. The guidelines set out detailed criteria for assessing the risk that the product or technology concerned can be used to commit serious human rights violations, including internal oppression. The guidelines were tightened in 2013, which means that applications for export licences for both defence-related products and dual-use goods destined for military end users can be refused if they do not meet one or more of the criteria.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), signed in April 2013, provides guidelines for the regulation of export control by states. Norway has stricter export control rules and guidelines for assessing the export of defence-related products and dual-use goods than those laid down in the ATT, but the Treaty is an important initiative in the international efforts to combat irresponsible and illicit spread of small arms and light weapons and other conventional weapons, and the Norwegian authorities played a central role in the treaty negotiations. The Government seeks to ensure that as many states as possible comply with the ATT provisions and do not interpret them too narrowly.

Figure 4.1 Beetroot Design Group, Greece

Figure 4.1 Beetroot Design Group, Greece

Priorities:

  • continue to practise the national export control regulations in a strict, predictable and transparent way in order to prevent Norwegian defence-related products and dual-use goods from being used to commit violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including internal repression;

  • seek to ensure that the ATT provisions are complied with and not interpreted so narrowly as to limit the possibility of refusing export licences in cases where there is a risk of human rights violations or breaches of humanitarian law.

4.2 Peace, humanitarian efforts and combating serious international crimes

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Martin Luther King Jr

Norway plays an active role in the efforts to promote international stability and security. Our contribution to preventing, reducing and resolving conflicts can be seen as part of our efforts to promote human rights, relieve humanitarian need, and in assisting in transition from war to peace and towards long-term development. Our bilateral efforts in individual countries and through international organisations help to establish national and international human rights frameworks for peace and conflict resolution.

4.2.1 Human rights in the context of peace efforts

Conflicts are often triggered by violations of human rights. Promoting human rights is therefore an integral part of Norway’s work for a more peaceful world.

The Norwegian authorities play an active role in the efforts to include human rights on the negotiation agenda in peace processes. We also seek to ensure that human rights considerations are duly reflected in the final agreements, for example through the incorporation of human rights in national legislation, justice sector reform, or the establishment of ombudsmen. Sometimes a specific human rights agreement is negotiated or monitoring mechanisms are put in place to ensure that human rights are respected in practice. The universal status of human rights can be a good starting point for depoliticising a debate or resolving a deadlock.

Norway works in a long-term perspective based on maintaining a direct dialogue with the parties. Our efforts include support for civil society actors that promote human rights, and contact with UN funds and programmes. One of our main aims is to promote civil society participation in peace processes, since experience has shown that this makes an important difference to the sustainability of an agreement. In line with the UN resolutions on women, peace and security, we also seek to ensure that women participate on equal terms with men in decision-making processes related to conflict resolution, peace and security. We encourage the parties to include women in their delegations and to integrate the gender perspective into peace processes.

It is difficult to include measures for effective prosecution in a negotiated peace agreement in cases where the parties at the table are themselves responsible for the abuses. In such cases, fundamental values may come in conflict with an urgent political and humanitarian need to find peaceful resolution. The parties at the negotiating table cannot ignore the victims’ right to justice and accountability, but on the other hand the victims and human rights defenders cannot ignore the need to reach a peaceful, negotiated resolution of the conflict. In these cases, it is important not to make a choice between peace or justice, but to achieve a result that takes account of both.

We need to employ mechanisms of transitional justice that take into account different interests and considerations in a balanced way, and at the same time protect the victims’ rights, including the rights of victims of sexual violence. Transitional justice is more than a judicial process; it also includes truth and reconciliation processes, redress and institutional reform. The final goal is to prevent the conflict from flaring up again and to provide a foundation for reconciliation. These processes are crucial for building trust after a crisis and creating a basis for peaceful, democratic development over time.

Transitional justice is a key priority in peace and reconciliation processes, and the final result must be consistent with international law. Norway’s role as third party and facilitator is based on the principle of impartiality, but we will never take a neutral stand on human rights.

Priorities:

  • be a driving force in the efforts to include human rights in peace negotiations, for example by highlighting the need to safeguard the rights of victims and marginalised groups in peace agreements;

  • develop tools for dealing with the dilemmas that can arise when balancing the demand for transitional justice against the need to bring the conflict to a rapid end;

  • support organisations and other actors, including UN funds, programmes and peace operations, that promote human rights in conflict and post-conflict situations;

  • pursue a leading role in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, and in particular promote women’s participation and influence on an equal footing with men in peace processes.

4.2.2 Combating impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide

Combating impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide has become an integral part of the broad international effort to promote human rights. The International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent international criminal court established to try such crimes, is a cornerstone of these efforts. Norway has strongly supported the ICC and the temporary international criminal tribunals established for specific country situations since their inception. We see the ICC as an important contributor to building democracy, strengthening of the rule of law, and post-conflict peace building.

The adoption of the Rome Statute and the establishment of the ICC have resulted in significant developments in global norms and standards. An increasing number of states parties have introduced penal provisions for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in their penal codes.

The authority of the ICC is limited to cases where states parties have not themselves had the will or the capacity to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. By ensuring that justice is done in practice, states can retain ownership of this part of the reconciliation process.

The ICC prosecuting authority has so far initiated formal investigations into eight situations, all of them on the African continent. In two of these, Kenya and Darfur in Sudan, the head of state currently in power has been indicted.

The large number of investigations in Africa has led to criticism that the ICC has focused too strongly on this continent at the expense of conflicts in other parts of the world. However, several reasons may explain why all the situations so far referred to the ICC have been concerned with abuses in Africa. One reason is that Africa has more states parties (34) to the ICC than any other continent. There are a fair number of states in other regions that are still not parties to the Rome Statute, and the ICC can only initiate an investigation of abuses committed on the territory of these states if the state concerned declares that it accepts the ICC’s jurisdiction or in response to a decision by the UN Security Council. So far, the Security Council has referred two situations to the ICC (Darfur and Libya). A second reason for the predominance of African situations is that four African states have themselves referred situations to the ICC for investigation, and that they have lacked either the ability or the will to try the cases at the national level. As of October 2014, the ICC has initiated 10 preliminary investigations with a view to possible formal investigations. Most of these situations are in states outside Africa.

Norway plays an important role in the efforts to promote cooperation between the ICC and its member states, and has been involved in several regional seminars in Africa on capacity-building in areas such as witness protection. Norway will continue to promote universal support for the ICC and to support Security Council referrals to the Court in order to prevent individuals from enjoying impunity for serious international crimes. Together with the governments of several other countries, the Norwegian Government is advocating the referral of the situation in Syria to the ICC.

Priorities:

  • promote universal support for the International Criminal Court and for cooperation between the Court and its states parties;

  • safeguard the most important functions of the ICC, such as witness protection and enforcement of sentences, and support capacity-building projects that enable states to institute their own criminal proceedings for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide;

  • advocate for UN Security Council referrals of particularly serious situations to the ICC in cases where the state itself is unable or unwilling to prosecute.

4.2.3 Human rights in the context of humanitarian efforts

Humanitarian aid is essentially a matter of saving lives, alleviating suffering, promoting and protecting human rights and safeguarding human dignity, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. Humanitarian crises tend to be a result of various mutually reinforcing factors, such as conflict, weak governance, human rights violations, poor infrastructure, low food security and unfavourable natural conditions. Climate change may also constitute an important factor. The complex causes of these crises make it necessary to view humanitarian aid in the context of other foreign and development policy efforts, including conflict and disaster prevention, efforts for peace, the protection of human rights and development aid. The conditions for humanitarian work and human rights protection have become more difficult in recent years, and in many countries humanitarian actors are being directly attacked or are otherwise prevented from providing life-saving help and protection to the civilian population.

Together with international humanitarian law, the core human rights instruments constitute the fundamental normative framework for all humanitarian efforts. These efforts must be rights-based. This approach centres on the victim and emphasises the key human rights principles of participation, non-discrimination and accountability. A rights-based approach is crucial for humanitarian disarmament, protection of civilians and assistance to the displaced and other vulnerable groups, including children and persons with disabilities. A rights-based approach also draws more attention to the transition between humanitarian and long-term assistance, especially in protracted crises.

Norway has for many years played a leading role in the efforts to improve legal protection for people who have had to flee their homes, regardless of whether they are refugees, internally displaced or environmental migrants. As a facilitator of the UN resolution on protection of and assistance to IDPs, and supporter of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Norway helps to ensure that the situation of IDPs remains high on the international agenda. Norway also plays an active role in the Nansen Initiative, a state-led, consultative process intended to build consensus on the development of a protection agenda addressing the needs of people displaced across international borders in the context of disasters and the impacts of climate change.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also supports practical measures enabling humanitarian organisations better to meet the needs of the recipients of assistance. For example, in response to the destruction wreaked by the typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in autumn 2013, the World Food Programme (WFP) deployed personnel to solicit the victims’ views on their needs and priorities in order to ensure appropriate assistance with active involvement of the victims.

Figure 4.2 Moises Romer, Mexico

Figure 4.2 Moises Romer, Mexico

One of Norway’s main objectives is to strengthen the position of women in society and address their needs in humanitarian crises by working for better protection, for example through mainstreaming the gender perspective, and by promoting women’s involvement in all assistance efforts. Our efforts in humanitarian disarmament also aim to strengthen the rights of persons with disabilities, including the victims of landmines and cluster munitions.

Priorities:

  • increase the focus on humanitarian aid for especially vulnerable groups such as children and persons with disabilities, and develop and implement clear, quantifiable methods for ensuring a rights-based approach to humanitarian aid;

  • strengthen the efforts to mainstream the gender perspective into all humanitarian assistance, including needs assessments, implementation and reporting on all humanitarian efforts;

  • seek to ensure that states take more responsibility for respecting the rights of IDPs and that the international community is better equipped to respond to internal displacement resulting from humanitarian crises;

  • raise environmental migration on the international agenda through the Nansen Initiative.

4.3 Poverty reduction and sustainable development

4.3.1 Human rights and climate and environmental policy

Human rights are also a central element in climate and environmental policy. Respect for human rights is necessary for sustainable development conducive to economic growth, social development, good health, a stable climate and a healthy environment. A climate and environmental policy based on responsible management and the precautionary principle will contribute to stabilize the climate conditions and to a healthy environment, and these in turn help to safeguard human rights such as the right to health and food. Likewise, safeguarding freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association fosters support for a sound climate and environmental policy.

Limiting the average rise in the global mean temperature to no more than 2°C is an essential step for future development and welfare. Drought, flooding and other extreme weather events – intensified by climate change – combined with population growth, use of hazardous substances, pollution, non-sustainable use of resources and changes in land use, result in biodiversity loss and put pressure on ecosystems. Biodiversity loss adversely affects ecosystem functioning and thus access to water, food, and raw materials for pharmaceutical production and medical research. This in turn leads to poverty, reduces growth and affects human health and well-being.

Climate change and environmental damage affect social development in every country. Particularly at risk are the least developed countries, which are less able to adapt to climate change and where people are less equipped to seek alternative livelihoods. The poor and other vulnerable groups such as the sick, the elderly and children often suffer the most. Climate change and environmental damage directly affect families in these groups and thus the position of women, since women often bear the practical responsibility for the family’s well-being. It is vital to take the gender perspective into account in climate and environmental policy, and to work for sustainable development, climate change adaptation and transition to a low-emission economy. The poorest and most vulnerable groups, especially women and children, must be given priority in these efforts, which must take account of human rights, including workers’ rights.

International bodies have become increasingly attentive to the mutual interaction between climate and environmental policy on the one hand and human rights protection on the other. Both charter-based and treaty-based monitoring bodies have made it clear that environmental damage can contravene a number of human rights, among them the rights to life, health, property and protection of privacy. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have pointed out the need for better cooperation and coordination across sectors and agencies in order to strengthen compliance with human rights obligations and to take climate and environmental considerations into account. The UN also recommends adopting a rights-based approach to environmental protection.1 Around 130 countries, including Norway, have adopted constitutional provisions on the right to a certain degree of environmental quality or on the state’s obligation to protect the environment.

The importance of access to information and public participation in connection with environmental matters is specified in a number of multilateral environmental agreements. These include the Århus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, which emphasises the importance of making environmental information readily accessible to the public. Accessible information on the internet and on social media sites enables individuals and organisations to take a qualified stand on environmental issues at both national and international levels.

The poorest and most vulnerable groups are often in a particularly weak position when decisions on national or regional resource management are being made. For example, many of the 1.6 billion people who according to the UN are highly dependent on forest resources for their livelihoods lack ownership and property rights to the forests. Norway has advocated respect for human rights in the implementation of UN efforts to prevent deforestation and forest degradation (UN-REDD). It is especially important to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and their right of participation in the planning and implementation of processes that affect their livelihoods and the land areas they inhabit or otherwise use, in accordance with ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries.

According to the 2012 agreement across political parties on Norwegian climate policy, the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative has integrated goals related to the conservation of natural forests, sustainable development and respect for indigenous rights, in addition to the main goal of emissions reduction. Long-term forest conservation requires results in other areas in addition to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This approach, combined with payments for verified emissions reductions and improved governance, can contribute to good, lasting results, and will help to avoid conflicts over land and resources.

Priorities:

  • promote coordination between the efforts to address climate and environmental problems and the work for human rights in environmental and human rights forums;

  • work for the right of the civil society to information and participation in national and international decision-making and negotiation processes on climate, environment and natural resources issues, as well as their right of appeal and judicial review of decisions with a bearing on these issues;

  • continue the efforts to reach the integrated goals for the conservation of natural forests, sustainable development and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities of the International Climate and Forest Initiative, in addition to the main objective of reduced emissions, in line with the 2012 cross-party agreement and as set out in the 2014 budget proposal (Prop. 1 S (2014–2015)).

4.3.2 Human rights in the post-2015 development agenda

Respect for human rights is crucial to realising poverty reduction through sustainable development. This is the primary objective of the Government’s participation in the development of the post-2015 agenda.

The Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, have mobilised international political awareness and resources to address poverty reduction, and have led to progress in key development areas such as health, education and gender equality. Efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals have resulted in the protection of important economic and social rights, but all the goals have not been achieved, and the work will be continued in the post-2015 agenda.

The fact that a large proportion of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries indicates that the fundamental causes of poverty are as much political as economic. This means that aid to these countries should focus more directly on political reform, with an emphasis on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In order to be sustainable, economic growth and social development need the context of a stable climate and a healthy environment.

For these reasons, there is broad agreement that the post-2015 development agenda needs to be more comprehensive than the Millennium Development Goals. The Government considers that in addition to the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development, the agenda should include human rights, good governance, democracy and the rule of law. Human rights should be clearly reflected in the post-2015 goals, both in the form of stand-alone targets and as tools for ensuring progress in areas such as education, health, gender equality and the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Not all countries agree on this, and the work ahead will be challenging.

The realisation of women’s and children’s rights and the rights to education, health, water and food are crucial to foster sustainable, inclusive economic growth and development. The principles of public participation, non-discrimination and accountability are particularly important in this context.

Priority:

  • seek to ensure that the rights perspective is integrated into the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, in the form of targets and as tools for ensuring progress in areas such as good governance, education, health, gender equality and sustainable energy for all.

4.4 Development cooperation

The stated overall objective of the Government’s policy for development cooperation is to promote democracy and the realisation of human rights, and to enable people to work their way out of poverty. The Government will make more active use of its development policy to promote human rights, and will ensure that human rights are integrated into all aspects of development work. The rights-based approach is centred on the individual’s rights and freedoms. It seeks to strengthen the authorities’ ability to safeguard citizens’ rights, as well as to increase citizens’ knowledge of their rights and enable them to demand that these rights be implemented. The principles of individual freedom and public participation, the rule of law and legal protection, and equality and equal opportunities will have an even more crucial role to play in our multilateral and bilateral development cooperation. The aim is to promote the implementation of human rights also in areas of development cooperation that do not specifically deal with human rights.

Figure 4.3 Ria Shah, India

Figure 4.3 Ria Shah, India

Around one quarter of Norway’s overall aid budget is channelled through the UN system. The objective of integrating human rights in the UN development system is discussed in chapter 5.8.

4.4.1 Human rights-based development cooperation

A human rights-based approach to development cooperation builds on individual rights set by the human rights commitments and obligations of the countries concerned. This approach serves to quality assure development cooperation and contributes to sustainable results regardless of sector and theme. Just as important as which goals are chosen is how they are pursued. This means giving a country’s citizens opportunities for meaningful participation in decision-making, ensuring that planning and other processes are transparent, and making it clear which agents are responsible for services. It is also important to identify and take into account the causes of any inequalities. The commitment to human rights means that all projects and services must be based on the principles of non-discrimination and participation, which helps to strengthen the influence of vulnerable groups. If a development project or programme is linked to a particular human right, such as the right to health or the right to education, aid should be organised in a way that strengthens the state’s ability to fulfil its commitments and obligations. The recommendations of UN special procedures and treaty bodies in particular areas of rights are of great value in the process of developing and implementing development cooperation.

A rights-based approach to development cooperation promotes social development and reduces poverty. The World Bank has estimated that eliminating discrimination of women in the labour market would increase productivity by as much as 25 %,2 and according to ILO, excluding persons with disabilities from the labour market could cost up to 7 % of GDP.3 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and OHCHR, a rights-based approach ensure that the necessary health services reach marginalised groups, which means that more people will receive the information and services necessary to help prevent child and maternal mortality, unwanted pregnancy and HIV infection, as well as improving health services in general.

Textbox 4.3 How should the results of development cooperation be measured?

In order to measure results, it is first necessary to define and describe the starting point (the actual situation or benchmark) and the problem itself, for example women’s lack of political participation. A goal must then be formulated that sets out the desired result of the project or programme. The goal should be specific enough for the change in relation to the starting point to be measurable, for example: ‘Women participate in politics on an equal footing with men.’ Relevant indicators, for example the number of women members of parliament, must be chosen that will show how much progress has been made towards the desired result.

Real change takes time and often involves temporary setbacks. This applies not least to democracy building and efforts to strengthen human rights. The results can be measured at many levels and at different stages of the project or programme cycle. Some projects and programmes are designed to deliver products or services, for example to put in place structures such an institution or a monitoring system. However, the fact that a product or service has been delivered is usually not enough to yield the desired result. The true results can only be seen when the product or service is being used and is having a tangible effect on the target group. The social impact of a project or programme can seldom be measured precisely. Usually the results have to be viewed in a larger context where other factors are also present, and the degree to which the measure concerned has contributed to development is then evaluated. In the work of advancing democracy building and human rights, it should be possible to establish with a sufficient degree of probability that an activity supported by Norway has contributed to change. This can only be established by having a clearly defined starting point, a specific goal, relevant indicators and effective risk management.

Priorities:

  • pursue a human rights-based development policy and humanitarian assistance;

  • develop and employ relevant tools for the Foreign Service’s human rights efforts in development cooperation, including other thematic initiatives, that address ways of advancing human rights through dialogue and written agreements or partnerships;

  • review the overall system of grant management of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norad and FK Norway with a view to upgrading and harmonising the human rights provisions.

4.4.2 The impact of negative developments in individual countries on development cooperation

Progress, or lack of it, in a country’s human rights situation will have a substantial effect on how the Government organises development cooperation with the country and how much economic support the country is to be given. In a country where human rights, democracy and the rule of law have worsened over time, Norway may, on the basis of an overall political assessment, reduce support or direct it through other channels, such as the UN system or civil society organisations. Many factors play a role in this assessment, including the consequences of the different forms of response. Reducing development assistance may make the situation of the most vulnerable groups even worse. Consultations with local partners are therefore essential in any assessment of whether to freeze or reduce development assistance. If a reduction is considered to be the most appropriate measure, Norway will encourage other donors to do likewise so as to give a stronger signal to the government of the recipient country.

Priority:

  • set clear conditions for recipients of Norwegian aid as regards their willingness to make progress on human rights, democracy and the rule of law by specifying the basic conditions for Norway’s support, and making it clear that serious breaches of these conditions will have tangible consequences for the cooperation.

4.4.3 Priority partner countries

The Government intends to introduce a new category designated priority partner countries or ‘focus countries’, where it will intensify and concentrate development efforts. Concentrating country expertise, control and follow-up capacity in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norad and the embassies will be more efficient and make it easier to measure and communicate results.

The Government’s aim is to engage with the designated countries in broad, long-term, poverty-oriented cooperation. These will be countries where we have good country expertise and can make a difference, and where we have a presence that allows close follow-up and ongoing dialogue with the authorities. In the process of selecting focus countries, two categories stand out. One is vulnerable states. Such states have weak government institutions, inadequate legal protection and ongoing armed conflicts or a high risk of such conflicts breaking out. These are the countries with the poorest populations and a serious humanitarian situation, where the Millennium Development Goals are the furthest from being achieved, and where support from the international community is crucial, even when political and social change is progressing slowly or not at all. Stabilisation and peacebuilding are crucial in these countries. It takes a long time to achieve results in vulnerable states, and the risk of setbacks is typically high. At the same time, these are the states where the costs and risks of refraining from engagement will be highest.

The second category of priority partner countries consists of the more stable developing countries with better functioning institutions. Here the authorities must demonstrate a willingness to implement reforms. The transformation from a poor, low-income country to a middle-income country requires the establishment of the rule of law, anti-corruption measures and a more effective taxation system. The development cooperation will place greater emphasis on private sector development and sound resource and revenue management. In all of the priority partner countries greater priority will be given to coordination and division of labour with other donors. Norwegian development assistance sets out to put both categories of countries in a better position to safeguard the interests of their citizens and fulfil their human rights obligations.

The Norwegian authorities will maintain a dialogue and close cooperation with the authorities in the priority partner countries, with importance attached to predictability and engagement in a number of different sectors. Better market access in Norway and a stronger focus on private sector development are relevant elements in this efforts. Political and economic analyses and evaluations of the human rights situation and degree of democracy will be conducted for each focus country, to be used as reference values for the cooperation and serve as a basis for setting clear priorities for the organisation and goals of Norwegian assistance. Once this has been done, negotiations will be entered into with the recipient countries on joint priorities and goals, which will then be followed up, including in annual meetings.

Priority:

  • seek to ensure that the agreements with priority partner countries include human rights obligations as a foundation for bilateral dialogue and cooperation, and that the human rights perspective is reflected in the cooperation goals and results reporting.

4.4.4 Human rights in the multilateral financial institutions

The multilateral development banks are key sources of financing and guidance for borrowing countries, and key actors in the development debate. They have a strong normative influence, due especially to their financial importance and broad thematic engagement. None of these banks have an explicit human rights mandate, since human rights have always been perceived as sensitive issues in the context of their work. The broad range of the banks’ activities, however, is highly relevant to the human rights agenda. There is a growing tendency for both the World Bank and the regional development banks to approach this agenda more openly and actively.

Human rights now have a higher profile in the policy documents of the multilateral financial institutions and in the safeguard mechanisms for assessing the social and environmental impacts of loan-funded programmes. Together with like-minded countries, Norway actively seeks to ensure that the programmes make positive contributions to stakeholders’ rights. The member countries in the region have a majority on the boards of the regional development banks, and the composition of the board therefore influences which views on strengthening the human rights perspective are likely to prove acceptable in policy formation. Earmarked voluntary funding is another way of exerting influence, in addition to the ongoing work of the board. In the light of the banks’ financial mandate, the most persuasive arguments are likely to be those that demonstrate a link between human rights and economic development.

For the first time, the new overall strategy of the World Bank Group contains an explicit reference to human rights. The Bank’s support for state-building processes in the reconstruction phase after a crisis often has some influence on civil and political rights, and substantial funding is provided for development activities organised by local communities. The World Bank’s safeguards policies cover, among other things, indigenous rights, how to deal with displacement in connection with Bank-financed infrastructure projects, and grievance mechanisms. The World Bank Group’s private-sector organisation, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has published Performance Standards that contain guidelines on how to conduct the necessary risk and impact analyses for a project to become a sustainable business.

Norway is seeking to ensure that both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) follow the UNCTAD Draft Principles on Promoting Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing, which have a human rights perspective.

Over the last 15 years, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has shown increasing awareness of human rights issues in areas such as minority rights, gender equality, pollution and financial irregularities. This can be clearly seen in internal policy development and in risk management related to its safeguards policies. The IDB private-sector organisation, the Inter-American Investment Corporation (ICC), adopted new safeguards policies in 2013 that are fully in line with the IFC Performance Standards. The IDB is foremost among the multilateral banks in policy development and standards for the inclusion of women’s rights and gender equality considerations. It is also at the forefront internationally in the development of a unique, legal identity for all citizens and residents.

As the result of a compromise, the new safeguards policies of the African Development Bank (AfDB) contain a general reference to human rights as a guiding principle. This enables the board members to ensure that human rights considerations are taken into account in all projects and programmes that are subject to the board’s approval.

Compared with the other development banks, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has more articulated guidelines for human rights. The social safeguards policy includes the rights to shelter, livelihood and services. The guidelines emphasise the right of the poor and vulnerable to be heard and to have access to information and freedom to choose their own development. The ADB’s safeguard policy for indigenous peoples includes the rights to self-determination and non-discrimination, cultural rights, and the rights of the elderly and persons with disabilities. The ADB also has grievance mechanisms whereby communities can protest if they believe that the Bank is not following its own guidelines.

Priorities:

  • seek to ensure that human rights are given weight by the boards of the World Bank Group and the regional development banks in all types of loans and through earmarked voluntary funding;

  • seek to ensure that human rights considerations are clearly taken into account in the safeguards policies for the social and environmental impacts of the regional development banks’ lending practices;

  • seek to ensure that the multilateral financial institutions follow the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights or use relevant international standards that promote progress towards the Guiding Principles.

4.5 An active and responsible business sector

Increased trade, investment and private sector development are necessary for economic growth, employment and development. Many developing countries have experienced substantial economic growth in the last decade, which means that donors’ relations with them have become less aid-oriented and have taken on a more reciprocal political and economic orientation. An active and responsible international business engagement can have a positive influence also in the area of human rights.

Some of the world’s fastest growing economies have weak governance and poorly developed legislation for protecting human rights. Norwegian companies are increasingly focusing on and establishing themselves in these new markets. They invest and have large financial outputs, and employ an increasing number of people. Through their investments and job creation, Norwegian companies have considerable influence, and by showing responsible business conduct they can promote social development in the countries where they operate. The Government appreciates that an increasing number of Norwegian companies are integrating social responsibility into their business strategies.

The Government expects that Norwegian companies consider how best to follow up the recommendations in recognised international standards for responsible conduct. The Norwegian authorities will take steps to provide businesses with necessary information regarding international guidelines and the local human rights situation, and will advise companies operating in challenging markets. The increasing global recognition of international guidelines is important as these contribute to a more equal and predictable operating conditions, including for Norwegian businesses.

4.5.1 The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights following negotiations facilitated by Norway. The principles have rapidly become the prevailing international standard for business and human rights, and have been integrated into the UN Global Compact, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and a number of industrial standards. A number of companies have also implemented the principles in their operations. In summer 2014, the Human Rights Council decided, without a consensus, to establish a Working Group to develop an internationally binding instrument on business and human rights. The process could undermine the agreement on the Guiding Principles, which are the result of a unique global compromise between states, civil society and the business sector. Like other Western countries, Norway will therefore give priority to the efforts to strengthen national and international implementation of the Guiding Principles.

The UN Guiding Principles are non-legal recommendations that apply to all states and enterprises regardless of size, sector, location, ownership or structure. They consist of three main principles, based on existing obligations under international law:

  • states’ obligation to protect against human rights abuses within their territory and/or jurisdiction by third parties, including business enterprises, and to safeguard human rights through national legislation;

  • expectation that all business enterprises respect human rights, beyond following the rules and regulations in the country of operation, and that they conduct human rights due diligence;

  • states’ obligation to ensure, through judicial, administrative, legislative or other appropriate means, access to effective remedy when human rights abuses occur within their territory and/or jurisdiction, and encourage businesses to participate in or themselves have non-judicial grievance mechanisms for those affected by their operations.

States’ obligation to protect against human rights abuse

A state’s responsibility to ensure that human rights are respected within its jurisdiction includes an obligation to provide protection against abuse by third parties, including businesses, by legislation and other means. The UN Guiding Principles are derived from the states’ obligations under human rights conventions and the ILO core conventions, which are discussed in more detail in chapter 3.4.7.

According to the Guiding Principles, states should:

  • set out clearly the expectation that all business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or jurisdiction respect human rights in all their activities;

  • enforce laws and regulations that is aimed at, or has the effect of, requiring business enterprises to respect human rights;

  • ensure that laws and policies do not constrain business enterprises’ respect for human rights;

  • provide effective guidance to business enterprises on how to respect human rights throughout their operations;

  • encourage, and where appropriate require, business enterprises to communicate how they address their human rights impacts.

The Guiding Principles recommend that states should clearly express their expectations that business enterprises respect human rights, also when operating abroad. This applies particularly when the state itself is involved in the business activities. In such cases due diligence is considered a necessary and appropriate tool for ensuring respect for human rights. The Guiding Principles put special emphasis on states’ responsibility to assist business enterprises in conflict-affected areas, where there is a particularly high risk of human rights abuses.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will issue a national action plan for implementing the UN Guiding Principles. The plan will provide the framework for a coherent, coordinated approach, specify which authorities are responsible for the various areas covered by the Guiding Principles and set out measures for further follow-up. The plan is intended to ensure that the principles are understood and made relevant for state-owned enterprises, as well as to clarify that all Norwegian enterprises are met with the same expectations, regardless of which authorities they are in contact with. The national action plan will clarify the expectations concerning companies’ practice of corporate social responsibility, including respect for human rights, and ways in which the authorities can assist in these efforts.

States’ responsibility to ensure access to grievance mechanisms and effective remedy

The UN Guiding Principles describe states’ responsibility to ensure that there are judicial, administrative, legislative or other appropriate means for addressing human rights abuses, for example through compensation. The principles refer to the OECD National Contact Points, ombudsmen and other complaints mechanisms.

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises set out non-binding, non-judicial principles and standards for responsible business conduct. At the same time, the governments adhering to the guidelines expect enterprises to assess how best to implement the guidelines. All OECD countries have committed themselves to establishing National Contact Points (NCPs). The Norwegian NCP is a partial advisory body that assists the Norwegian authorities in promoting the OECD Guidelines and provides advice and guidance on complaints in individual cases. The NCP is not a monitoring or control body. The national contact point should give emphasis to developing and maintaining good relations with the Norwegian business sector, especially companies that operate in vulnerable states where there is a higher risk of complicity in inappropriate conduct. The NCP shall also develop and maintain contact with the social partners and other stakeholders that can promote the broadest possible application of the OECD Guidelines. On the basis of individual enquiries, the NCP reviews specific instances related to a particular company’s activities in the context of the Guidelines. If an enquiry is considered to be relevant, the NCP shall facilitate dialogue and mediate between the parties with a view to resolving the issue.

Corporate responsibility

Corporate responsibility for respecting human rights covers a broader field than merely following the legislation of the country where the company operates. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights recommend that the company concerned should

  • declare that it respects human rights;

  • conduct human rights due diligence, so that it avoids violating the rights of groups or individuals;

  • have a system for dealing with instances where it has been complicit in activities leading to a violation of human rights.

The Guiding Principles define ‘due diligence’ as the measures a company takes to identify, prevent, limit and provide an account of how it deals with the impacts of its activities on human rights. The scope of the assessment depends to some extent on the company’s areas of activity, ties and particular characteristics. The company itself should decide how best to implement the recommendations on due diligence assessments, but all companies should regularly conduct such assessments as part of their activities.

Textbox 4.4 Industry dialogue on freedom of expression and privacy

In 2011, leading actors in the telecommunications field initiated a dialogue on the interaction and boundaries between freedom of expression and the right to privacy. The companies wished to develop tools, measures and an open dialogue with stakeholders based on the UN Guiding Principles and their own experience of public authorities’ use of telecommunications data, telecommunications monitoring and website blocking. In March 2013, the Telecom Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy published its 10 guiding principles. The principles are: policy commitment, raising awareness and training, impact assessment and due diligence, sharing knowledge, processing (handling and anticipating government requests), external reporting, mitigating risks of governmental demands, informing policy and regulations on freedom of expression and privacy, employee safety and liberty, and grievance mechanisms. Participating companies report annually on their implementation of the principles, which have been translated into a number of different languages. As of September 2014, the participating companies are Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Millicom, Nokia Solutions and Networks, Orange, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, the Vodafone Group and the Telenor Group. A two-year collaboration has been established with the Global Network Initiative.

The Government expects Norwegian companies to base their corporate social responsibility work on the UN Guiding Principles, and to consider how they should conduct due diligence assessments in order to ensure that their activities do not in any way violate human rights.

Priorities:

  • develop a national action plan for coherent follow-up by Norwegian authorities of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;

  • continue to play an active role in the efforts relating to human rights and business in the UN Human Rights Council and international organisations, for example by seeking to ensure that international organisations and development banks are implementing the Guiding Principles;

  • intensify the efforts to inform and advise businesses on the Guiding Principles and other internationally recognised corporate social responsibility guidelines and standards, including the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

4.5.2 Know-how and dialogue

The Government will take active steps to promote international standards for business and human rights and clarify how they can be followed in the various sectors. In these efforts it is essential to establish a dialogue with the business community and civil society, and the Norwegian authorities attach importance to input from KOMpakt, the Government’s consultative body on matters relating to CSR. KOMpakt consists of representatives of the social partners, civil society, companies and other centres of expertise and is a key arena for dialogue with civil society in Norway.

There is a need for further knowledge about the most effective strategies for identifying and preventing the risk of companies becoming complicit in human rights violations.

Priorities:

  • strengthen local institution-building and civil society in partner countries where there is a special need to increase protection against the risk of business-related abuses;

  • provide support for building capacity and expertise on corporate social responsibility in Norway among Norwegian companies;

  • strengthen the efforts of the foreign missions to advise Norwegian companies on human rights in the host country as an integral part of business promotion.

4.5.3 Enterprises that are partly or fully state-owned

The Government’s expectations of partly or fully state-owned enterprises are set out in its white paper on the importance of ownership for diversity and value creation.4 The Government has both general and more specific expectations of these enterprises in terms of corporate social responsibility. The specific expectations fall under four thematic headings: climate and the environment, human rights, workers’ rights, and anti-corruption. The Government’s expectations are based on national and international standards, conventions and reporting norms. The Government expects Norwegian enterprises in which the state has an ownership interest to be well informed regarding the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and their incorporation into the OECD and EU guidelines.

Large companies with international operations make growing use of due diligence in risk assessment and reduction, as recommended in the UN Guiding Principles. This also applies to a number of companies in the state’s portfolio of enterprises where the state has direct ownership. In addition to the consequences for those affected, complicity in human rights abuses can seriously damage its reputation and result in substantial costs for the enterprise. Enterprises should make systematic efforts to avoid human rights abuses in order to reduce the risk of complicity.

According to the white paper, the Government also expects that:

  • enterprises in which the state has an ownership interest respect fundamental human rights, as set out in international agreements, in all their activities, and that the same applies to their suppliers and business partners;

  • all enterprises in which the state has an ownership interest integrate all factors relevant to human rights into their activities;

  • enterprises conduct relevant due diligence assessments in line with the recommendations in the UN Guiding Principles in order to avoid complicity in human rights abuses, and report on how they deal with issues that have a bearing on human rights.

Enterprises in which the state has an ownership interest are expected to respect and promote decent work, where core labour standards and rights at work are upheld and employees are paid a living wage. These enterprises are also expected to be familiar with national legislation and international agreements relating to working conditions. The ILO’s eight core conventions cover the fundamental principles and rights at work: the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, and the effective abolition of child labour. ILO member states are obliged under international law to comply with the core conventions. The conventions also apply in the field of human rights, and the principles and rights they set out are included in the UN Guiding Principles.

Textbox 4.5 Due diligence in state enterprises

The Norwegian Guarantee Institute for Export Credits (GIEK) and Export Credit Norway help to finance Norwegian export contracts. Companies that apply for financing are required to submit environmental and social impact analyses for their projects. These indicate whether there are any special risks attached to the project and which considerations the applicant or project developer has taken into account. Further contact with the applicant is based on this information, which also indicates what additional information is necessary in order to process the application. Applications are evaluated and followed up in accordance with the social and environmental impact assessment. The goal is to ensure responsible conduct in view of the social and/or environmental risks of the projects.

Innovation Norway administers a substantial share of the state funds for business development. This state-owned enterprise offers financing, expertise, promotion, networking and advisory services, and assists Norwegian companies in Norway and companies with international ambitions. Corporate social responsibility is an integral part of Innovation Norway’s activities, as well as a priority area in its own activities and in communication with clients.

Norwegian central government agencies and wholly state-owned companies that promote activity and competitiveness in the business sector should show sufficient due diligence to reduce corruption and adverse impacts on human rights and the environment.

Priority:

  • seek to improve ownership dialogue with enterprises where the state has direct ownership, as set out in the white paper on the importance of ownership for diversity and value creation.

Footnotes

1.

Human Rights and the Environment, Rio+20: Joint report OHCHR and UNEP.

2.

World Bank, World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development.

3.

S. Buckup: ‘The price of exclusion: The economic consequences of excluding people with disabilities from the world of work’, Employment Sector Working Paper No. 43 (Geneva, ILO, 2009).

4.

Meld. St. 27 (2013–2014) Et mangfoldig og verdiskapende eierskap

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