In March, the ILO Governing Body adopted the revised “Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy” (MNE Declaration). This is the most extensive update of the MNE Declaration since it was negotiated in 1977.
An ad-hoc Working Group of representatives of Governments, workers and employers, which the GB established in March 2016, led the revision of the MNE Declaration. Renate Hornung-Draus (Germany), Hiroyuku Matsui (Japan), Mthunzi Mwabada (South Africa) and Ed Potter (USA) represented the employers’ group. Following two meetings, the Working Group agreed upon a revised text - by consensus - that ensured three important aims:
- The revised MNE Declaration has been brought in line with other internationally-recognized standards and developments, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs);
- It deleted provisions that are no longer relevant; and
- The text is more readable to its intended audience.
The revision process did not change the voluntary, promotional, and guidance-serving nature of the MNE Declaration. No new obligations are created for MNEs, especially in relation to their suppliers and contractors. Instead, the new text recognizes the different roles and responsibilities of governments, enterprises and social partners regarding corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices.
Furthermore, the revised text does not establish a new mechanism to mediate, settle and/or provide remedy for disputes that may arise. Instead, the new Annex II encourages tripartite-appointed “national focal points”* to promote the MNE Declaration at the national level. It also includes a section on “Company-union dialogue”, whereby the ILO may support or facilitate dialogue between MNEs and trade unions upon joint request. The dialogue process and its content would be strictly confidential and it would not be used for any binding procedure.
(* The term “national focal point” is deliberately in lower caps because it is not intended as an official title that would clash with the OECD’s “National Contact Point”.)