Paris, 10 February 2014 – The French National Assembly will debate today on the orientation and programming Law on Development and International Solidarity policy. As such, this draft bill would allow significant progress regarding the regulation of multinational companies’ activities in Southern countries. However, the French government might reduce the impact of this bill by suppressing some essential provisions.
However, we would like to remind the French government that at the Conferences on Development and International Solidarity many organisations pointed out the need to provide a better legal framework for multinational companies’ activities in Southern countries in order not to infringe on their right to development. This is a sine qua non condition. In its absence, all development aid efforts and discussions regarding France’s commitment to a fairer globalisation, will be of no help.
Our organisations acknowledge the work that Members of the French National Assembly have done so far. This draft bill on development actually allowed France to eventually show its ambitious vision regarding the legal framework for multinational companies’ activities abroad – unlike the first draft, which was not giving appropriate emphasis to corporate social and environmental responsibility.
In spite of the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance’s fierce opposition, the deputies of the Foreign Affairs Committee managed to include the duty of care in the draft bill. The duty of care requires multinational companies to take into account and to prevent the negative impact of their activities on human rights, the environment, and workers’ rights.
If the government were opposed to this addition, it would clearly show that it disowns the ambitions it had publicly proclaimed before. Indeed, we are concerned that the French government will propose today in plenary session amendments for the deletion of the duty of care, which would make this founding law meaningless.
It is worth recalling that France already committed itself at an international level to due diligence (for the UN) or duty of care (for the ISO standard) by voting in favour of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (in 2011), the review of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (in 2011), and the ISO 26000 standard providing guidance on social responsibility. Other Governments (Spain, Denmark, the United Stated, Canada, etc.) already offer solutions to implement this principle. By preventing the actual implementation of the duty of care, the French government disowns France’s signature, to the detriment of human rights and environment.
This relentless fight for the acknowledgment of the legal liability of parent companies towards their subsidiaries and their subcontractors abroad has to be pursued beyond the debates on this draft bill. Some members of the French Parliament have taken initiatives in this direction , which are worth being taken into account in the coming months.
Signatories (members of the Forum Citoyen pour la RSE):
Friends of the Earth – France
Collectif Ethique sur l’Etiquette
Human Rights League
Terre des Hommes France
Sophia Lakhdar, Director of Sherpa, +33 (0)1 42 21 33 25 – communication[@]asso-sherpa.org
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 http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/ta-commission/r1762-a0.asp (link only available in French)