In this section, you can consult the main data and sources used during the Belgian NBA process. The information is organised according to the UNGPs. In case you want to provide information or documentation relevant to the team, you can use this link
Pillar 1 – State
To assess the role of the state, the team will collect and assess the regulations and policies adopted by Belgium in three domains:
1. Crucial areas for the UNGPs
- Corporate accountability/liability
- Corporate structures, governance and partnership
- Labour protection
- Environmental protection
- Land and property protection
- Tax evasion and tax avoidance
- Trade and investment (including portfolio investments)
- Anti-bribery and corruption measures
- Anti-discriminatory measures
- Access to information, and data protection
- Consumer protection
- Trafficking of human beings and modern slavery
2. Economic context:
The team will also collect documentary sources to assess progress in regulatory and implementation measures in ten salient economic sectors for Belgium that will be evaluated in Pillar II as well:
- Diamonds and precious metals
- Public utilities
- Chemistry and pharma
3. State-business nexus
The team will gather information on how Belgium (at all levels of government) has implemented the UNGPs in its economic relations with businesses in the following areas:
- Sustainable public procurement
- Public-private partnerships (PPP)
- State-owned companies (SOC)
- Businesses providing public and social services
- Belgian public bodies that support businesses by means of e.g. granting labels, preferential credits, insurances, licenses, or by means of development cooperation mechanisms involving businesses.
The information will be mainly collected from official websites and laws and regulations in force in Belgium. The team will also conduct interviews with state officers to gather additional data on how Belgium is implementing the UNGPs. Additional information can also be contributed by contacting the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pillar 2 – Business
Pillar II focuses on corporate responsibility to respect human rights. Assessing the (effectiveness of) efforts on the part of companies to be in line with the UNGPs is challenging for several reasons. Detailed information on how companies deal with their responsibilities vis-à-vis human rights, and how they are translating these responsibilities into practice is limited. Moreover, access to information varies depending on the size of a company, the legal requirements and societal pressures it is facing, sectoral norms, etc. Finally, if the assessment would want to obtain a representative picture of the practices of this diverse set of actors, a large sample of companies would be required, which is not feasible in the context of this exercise.
- The NBA team opted to combine a UNGPs readiness check (based on the CHRB Core UNGP Indicator Assessment methodology) of a sample of 30 companies in 10 economic sectors (see pillar 1) with other data collection strategies. Considering the tightening international regulatory environment, the CHRB framework can provide valuable (albeit initial) insights as to whether (Belgian) companies are prepared for more stringent regulation in the domain of business and human rights. In other words, it tells us something about their ‘UNGP-readiness’ given upcoming regulatory initiatives at the national and EU-level, but also in terms of their ability to respond to changing societal expectations on business and human rights in general.
Despite its clear strengths – chiefly in terms of feasibility, replicability, and comparability – the CHRB methodology has some drawbacks. For once, it centres exclusively on formal policies and procedures and does not foresee primary data-collection. This focus is in tune with the operations of large (multinational) companies, who can develop and implement such formal strategies.
- While the study does not contemplate extensive primary research on the specific challenges on SMEs, it will devote a separate section to them. This section will provide a concise overview of the existing literature on SMEs and corporate social responsibility (CSR) (which can generate insights into barriers and opportunities for SMEs to engage in Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD). In addition, it will present short case studies of SMEs that are developing a more systematic approach towards human rights.
- A literature review and selected interviews with key informants will complement other data collection efforts to obtain an overview on how Belgian companies engage with the UNGPs, including a macro assessment of relevant policies, initiatives at the sectoral level, and institutional support structures and capacities.
Additional information can also be contributed by contacting the team at: email@example.com.
Pillar 3 – Access to remedy
1. The team will collect mainly legislative and regulatory documents as well as case law to assess pillar III, with the aim of identifying barriers/limitations that rightholders or victims encounter to obtain:
- Effective access to justice. These are the legal, financial, administrative, or procedural barriers or gaps to the use of judicial and non-judicial mechanisms to get remedy. In particular:
- Whether rightholders have access to legal aid and assistance.
- Whether Belgium has allocated resources and implemented programs to train administrative and judicial authorities on addressing business-related human rights abuses.
- Whether Belgium supports victims in collecting evidence against businesses.
- Whether victims can lodge claims for business-related human rights abuses in third countries caused by businesses headquartered in Belgium.
- Whether other stakeholders (e.g. UNIA or Myria, NGOs, and associations of victims) are able to lodge legal claims in cases of business-related human rights abuses with a significant social impact.
- Whether rightholders or victims can lodge collective complaints before judicial authorities.
- Effective remedy: The information needed is the following:
- Which remedies can victims obtain in Belgium for business-related human rights abuses?
- Do these remedies satisfy the parameters of international human rights law?
- Whether victims are confronted with corrupt administrative or judicial officers.
2. The team will also collect information from other non-legal sources such as policy documents, reports of relevant enforcement agencies or from CSOs, recommendations, and surveys, academic journals, and resource centres and newspapers to complement the regulatory information, related to the following issues:
- Concrete actions realised by Belgian authorities to provide suitable mechanisms of access to remedy for rightholders or victims. The main data refer to the following aspects:
- Whether Belgian authorities have implemented concrete policies aiming at guaranteeing access to effective remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses.
- Whether Belgian public bodies have realised actions from the first NAP (2017)
- Whether Belgian authorities provide reinforced protection of vulnerable/marginalised communities from Belgium and from third countries.
- Whether Belgian authorities have taken steps to prevent retaliatory actions against claimants.
- Whether Belgian authorities support multi-stakeholder initiatives, or (sectoral) business organisations to implement operational-level grievance mechanisms that can provide satisfactory remedy for victims.
3. The team would like to collect empirical evidence related to other gaps or obstacles identified in practice by stakeholders, rightholders or victims to get effective access to remedy. Therefore, additional concrete information can be contributed by contacting the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This part will assess the policies taken by Belgium to support compliance with international and regional human rights standards. It will cover:
Horizontal and vertical policy coherence
For this task, the team will review relevant documents that were produced in the context of the National Action Plan on business and human rights and in other settings, and that cover the following actions taken by the Belgian state:
- Publication and communication of written commitments to business and human rights.
- Development of clear divisions of responsibilities.
- Provision of guidance material and training to help clarify the roles of different business departments in promoting and protecting human rights.
- Provision of specific information on the protection of human rights and how this relates to international and regional obligations and commitments.
- Supporting responsible entities or offices with adequate resources.
- Aside from the review of documents, other sources can be considered, such as SDG-related reports.
Policy coherence in state agreements with business enterprises
This part will use a similar methodology as in other activities of pillar I, but will focus specifically on:
- Binding and non-binding international, European, and national regulatory frameworks on human rights clauses in agreements between the state and businesses.
- Human rights considerations and responsible contracting in state-business agreements in Belgium and host states.
- Increasing synergies between state policies on business and human rights and other topics (e.g., policy promotion of human rights-based sustainable development).
Conflict-affected and high-risk areas (CAHRAs)
The team will first of all assess the role of the Belgian state to ensure that companies operating in conflict affected and high-risk areas (CAHRAs) are not involved in human rights abuses. The team will research the extent to which Belgium’s current practices, legislation, regulations, and enforcement measures address the risk of companies’ involvement in gross human rights abuses. Belgium’s role in sectoral initiatives will also be assessed. The team also analyses the extent to which Belgium’s assistance to companies helps them address the heightened risks of violations.
Data will be gathered through a literature review of laws, regulations, policies, guidelines, as well as initiatives at the sectoral level. Interviews with key informants will complement this data collection. Additional information can also be contributed by contacting the team at: email@example.com.
Secondly, the team will assess the efforts of Belgian companies to comply with the UNGPs in CAHRAs. Companies that operate or are based in Belgium, but have a business relationship with entities operating in CAHRAs, are expected to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts. The team will specifically look at the following economic sectors that can have operations in CAHRAs:
- Diamonds and precious metals
The arms sector will be examined in more detail, identifying binding and non-binding regulatory, and policy frameworks, as well as implementation and enforcement gaps. A sample of 10 Belgian companies will be assessed against the UNGPs.
Desk-based research will be used to analyse available public documents published by companies, trade unions, and multistakeholder initiatives, as well as CSO reports and media reports on Belgian companies operating in CAHRAs. Interviews with key stakeholders will complement the data collection. Additional information can also be contributed by contacting the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.