The Importance of National Human Rights Institutions from the Perspective of Business and Human Rights and the Examination of Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey in this ContextBetül Karagedik
Attention is increasingly being given to the functions that can be undertaken by national human rights institutions with respect to the field of business and human rights. National human rights institutions are encouraged by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) to be active in the area of business and human rights. The duties that can be assumed by these institutions are specified by the Edinburgh Declaration. Also, these duties are discussed in all three pillars (protect, respect, and remedy) of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the UNGPs). Thus, the UNGPs stipulates that national human rights institutions should act not only to ensure access to remedy but also to promote the state’s duty to protect human rights and the responsibility of companies to respect human rights. Additionally, the draft texts and optional protocol of the legally binding instrument on business and human rights give various roles to national human rights institutions. National human rights institutions around the world have already commenced research on human rights violations caused by business enterprises as well as by states. In this context, the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey should act effectively to prevent businessrelated human rights abuses and to expand awareness of the field of business and human rights in Turkey, based on the mandates given by Law No. 6701. The institution should thus engage in comprehensive activities in the context of the UNGPs’ three pillars in parallel with comparable developments overseas.
Ulusal İnsan Hakları Kurumlarının İş Dünyası ve İnsan Hakları Perspektifinden Önemi ve Türkiye İnsan Hakları ve Eşitlik Kurumu’nun Bu Bağlamda İncelenmesiBetül Karagedik
Ulusal insan hakları kurumlarının iş dünyası ve insan hakları alanında üstlenebileceği işlevlere dair dikkatin son yıllarda giderek artmakta olduğu gözlenmektedir. Ulusal insan hakları kurumları GANHRI tarafından iş dünyası ve insan hakları konusunda aktif olarak faaliyet göstermeye teşvik edilmektedir ve Edinburgh Deklarasyonu ile kurumların yerine getirebileceği görevler düzenlenmiştir. Devletin insan haklarını koruma görevi, şirketlerin insan haklarına saygı gösterme sorumluluğu ve çözüm yollarına erişim olmak üzere üç unsurdan oluşan, BM İş Dünyası ve İnsan Haklarına dair Rehber İlkeler’in üç unsurunda da ulusal insan hakları kurumlarının gerçekleştirebileceği işlevlere atıf yapılmıştır. Ayrıca iş dünyası ve insan haklarına ilişkin bağlayıcı belge hazırlığına dair yayınlanan taslak metinler ve taslak ihtiyari protokol, ulusal insan hakları kurumlarına çeşitli roller vermektedir. Nitekim dünya üzerindeki ulusal insan hakları kurumları, artık devletlerin sebebiyet verdiği insan hakları ihlalleriyle birlikte iş dünyasının neden olduğu ihlaller hakkında da çalışmalar yapmaya başlamıştır. Bu çerçevede, Türkiye İnsan Hakları ve Eşitlik Kurumu, 6701 sayılı Kanun tarafından verilen yetkilerine dayanarak Türkiye’de iş dünyası ile bağlantılı insan hakları ihlallerinin önlenmesi ve iş dünyası ve insan hakları konusundaki farkındalığın yükselmesi için etkili olarak faaliyet göstermelidir. Kurum dünyadaki güncel gelişmelere paralel olarak BM Rehber İlkeleri’nin üç unsuru bağlamında kapsamlı çalışmalar yapmalıdır.
National human rights institutions, which started to be established in the 1990s, have the aim of protecting and promoting human rights. Recently, much emphasis has been placed on the special and important role of NHRIs and on insisting that their activities should extend to the field of business and human rights. In this context, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) encourages NHRIs to work effectively on business and human rights. The Edinburgh Declaration, adopted at GANHRI’s 10th International Conference, specifically highlights the importance of NHRIs and the functions they can perform in the area of business and human rights. The potential of NHRIs in this context is also emphasized in the UNGPs. The functions that NHRIs can perform are addressed in all three of the UNGP’s pillars: the state duty to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and access to remedy. These functions are also mentioned in the draft texts and optional protocol of the legally binding instrument on business and human rights, which is still in preparation.
The Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (TİHEK), Turkey’s NHRI, is both a national human rights institution and an equality body. The institution also functions as a national prevention mechanism. Turkish legislation and its implementation seem to have been unable to achieve the desired standards for promoting in the field of business and human rights. Therefore, TİHEK should follow contemporary developments elsewhere to operate more effectively in the area of business and human rights. To prevent business-related human rights violations in Turkey, TİHEK should use its authority and undertake its duties creatively and effectively. In our study, TİHEK’s mandate in Law No. 6701 was examined in light of the “protect, respect, and remedy” pillars of the UNGPs. In this context, TİHEK can undertake different functions in terms of all three pillars. Specifically:
a- In terms of the state’s duty to protect human rights:
1- It can investigate business-related human rights violations in Turkey. It can then share recommendations on preventing similar violations with the competent authorities.
2- When a national law that may impact business and human rights is being drafted, it can share legislative proposals with the relevant authorities to enhance protections and to prevent business-related human rights violations.
3- It can address issues pertaining to business and human rights in its annual reports and include case studies on the subject of business-related human rights violations, their causes, and solutions.
4- It can monitor and evaluate current developments overseas related to business and human rights and report its observations and suggestions to the authorities.
b- In terms of corporate responsibility to respect human rights:
1- It can raise awareness among stakeholders about the field of business and human rights through mass-media.
2- It may publish special reports focusing on business-related human rights violations, which may address the causes of violations and suggest solutions.
3- It can liaise with business representatives and/or small, medium, and large enterprises to offer guidance about the fulfillment of human rights due diligence obligations in their business activities.
4- It can collaborate with civil society organizations working in the field of business and human rights, Turkey’s OECD National Contact Point, and Global Compact Turkey.
c- In terms of access to remedy:
1- It can offer a state-based, non-judicial grievance mechanism within the meaning of the UNGPs, as it has a mandate to handle complaints about alleged violations of non-discrimination. To facilitate access to this remedy, however, the relevant law should be amended to give TİHEK the authority to handle all complaints pertaining to human rights, including cases in which applicants do not allege a violation of prohibition of discrimination.
2- It has the mandate ex officio to examine, research, make decisions, and follow the results of business-related human rights violations, regardless of whether or not these constitute a violation of the prohibition of discrimination.
3- It can inform those who apply to the institution with alleged violations of non-discrimination about appropriate administrative and legal processes and assist them to seek remedy. In terms of facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights violations, it should also handle complaints about human rights violations that lie beyond the scope of the prohibition of discrimination and should offer guidance to all applicants.