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Åpningsinnlegg ved nordisk-baltisk seminar

Statssekretær Marianne Hagens åpningsinnlegg ved et nordisk-baltisk seminar i Oslo 20. mai 2019.

 

  • Welcome to Norway! We are pleased to host this peer-learning seminar for the Nordic-Baltic National Contact Points (NCP), together with experts from the OECD Secretariat. 
  • I am delighted to see that the broad cooperation taking place within the Nordic-Baltic format also includes awareness raising and exchanging experiences on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). 
  • There is a long-standing tradition of Nordic-Baltic cooperation. And this particular area, the National Contact Points, stands out as a natural and promising area for deeper cooperation. 
  • The program looks exciting with leading business representatives invited from both the financial and textile sectors. They will certainly provide you with valuable insight on how they deal with Responsible Business Conduct within their enterprises. 
  • I know the money laundering scandals of Nordic banks in the Baltics is also on your agenda. This topic is of great concern to us and I am sure we can all learn from studying these cases. 
  • This seminar will focus on how the National Contact Points best can coordinate efforts to promote due diligence for Responsible Business Conduct. 
  • Why is this so important? Because well-functioning contact points are key to promoting Responsible Business Conduct. And because a grievance mechanism needs to be in place. 
  • Knowing that businesses will play a vital role in achieving the sustainable development goals, our efforts to promote sustainable and Responsible Business Conduct are highly relevant. 
  • Also, responsible business conduct is increasingly becoming a competitive factor for our businesses in many countries, sectors and value chains. 
  • So it is crucial that we promote coherent guidance to our business communities. 
  • Today, businesses operate in a complex tapestry of business relationships, joint ventures and with long supply chains. It is becoming increasingly demanding for them to conduct risk based due diligence. That goes in particular for small and medium sized enterprises. 
  • We do, however, have some tools at hand which can help us out. 
  • In May 2018, the OECD Council adopted a Recommendationto promote and implement the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct. 
  • As many of you might already know, this Guidanceis an authoritative international reference on due diligence. It explains how companies should conduct diligence to avoid and to address adverse impacts under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  
  • More concretely, it sets out adue diligence framework to be used by enterprises to avoid and address adverse impacts in their operations, supply chains and business relationships on all relevant topics under the Guidelines  - that is information disclosure, human rights,  employment and industrial relations, environment, bribery and  consumer affairs. 
  • Companies cannot ‘pick and choose’ which of these adverse impacts to avoid and address. But they must prioritize, according to severity and likelihood. 
  • We rely on you, the OECD Contact Points, to assist in informing companies in our respective countries. This will help our companies to understand this due diligence tool and how they can follow up satisfactorily. 
  • It might be useful for you to know that the Norwegian Contact point has launched a Norwegian introduction to the OECD guidelines. The Government encourages all our business partners to familiarize themselves with this tool. 
  • I strongly encourage the Norwegian Contact Point to share from its accumulated experience and knowhow with all present here today. 
  • Today’s seminar will also focus on how your National Contact Points can process complaints in accordance with the OECD guidelines. 
  • How can you best promote coherent guidance to businesses on handling complaints processes? Unbiased, fair and transparent actions are crucial.   
  • Share and learn from each other’s concrete experiences. 
  • Norway’s National Contact Point is at present handling complex cases against Norwegian enterprises on how they observe the OECD guidelines. Referring to these real world cases would have been be very instructive but, as you know, the case handling process is confidential. Neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor I are in a position to refer to them. However, I am sure you have settled cases that can be highlighted and shared instead. 
  • Another important part of National Contact Point’s mandate is to provide courses, training and networking with stakeholders from business, civil society and trade unions.

  • The Norwegian NCP has developed tailor-made tool and courses on due diligence for Responsible Business Conduct. 
  • The result of these competence-building efforts is that Norway’s National Contact Point has high standing as an independent expert advisory body. It has created trust among all the stakeholders. 
  • Our National Contact Point has informed me that they are currently receiving so many requests for training and tools from a range of key actors, that there is a waiting line for the services they provide. I take this as a good sign and a complement to our Contact point. 
  • Before I wrap up, I would like to refer to a recent report from a Council meeting in OECD that shows an uneven level of functioning among NCPs.

  • There seems to be a need for member countries to step up their efforts, in order to fulfil the Ministerial Council commitment from 2017 to provide for fully functioning and adequately resourced National Contact Points. It will also be crucial for meeting the goal of having all countries peer reviewed by 2023. 
  • I do not know exactly how we score on this in our Nordic-Baltic context. This seminar, however, will hopefully contribute to a level-playing field. 
  • Norway’s NCP was one of the first contact points to undergo a peer review - in 2013. Some of you have been through similar reviews. The scrutiny of a peer review gives a wealth of experience and you may use this opportunity to share valuable insight on how to improve your operations in all areas of your mandate. 
  • Finally - and on this basis - I would like to wish you all an informative and constructive peer-learning seminar.

 

 

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