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September 25, 2014
White House Announces Anticorruption Agenda for Business
    by Robert Kropp

The Obama administrations says it will develop a National Action Plan “to promote and incentivize responsible business conduct, including with respect to transparency and anticorruption.”

In 2011, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, authored by Professor John Ruggie, were endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

"In order to meet their responsibility to respect human rights," the Guidelines state, "Business enterprises should have in place…A policy commitment to meet their responsibility to respect human rights; a human rights due-diligence process…and processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute. Business enterprises need to know and show that they respect human rights."

Earlier this year, “the UNHRC called on all Member States to develop National Action Plans (NAPs) to promote the implementation of the UNGPs within their respective national contexts,” according to a report entitled National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights, coauthored by the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR). ICAR is a coalition that promotes legal frameworks to ensure corporate respect for human rights.

The report includes a National Action Plans (NAPs) Toolkit, which “provides a roadmap for governments and other stakeholders on how to design and implement a process to develop, implement, and review a NAP on business and human rights that is consistent with the principles required for a human rights-based approach.”

In response to the UNHRC's call for the development of NAPs by member states, the Obama administration announced this week a number of actions that it says it will take “to promote transparency and stem corruption worldwide.” The actions include:
1. Pursuing corrupt actors and the proceeds of corruption, by using the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other legal instruments to bring corrupt actors to justice;
2. Working with US businesses, “to ensure that private actors maintain their international brand as transparent and accountable partners”;
3. Preventing the abuse of anonymous shell companies, by such means as proposed legislation “to facilitate law enforcement investigations and enhance transparency”;
4. Improving transparency in the extractives industry;
5. Working with other countries to promote anticorruption, transparency and open government; and
6. Galvanizing global efforts to promote open government principles in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a “multi-stakeholder initiative in which governments make concrete commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies.”

At a meeting of the OGP at the United Nations this week, President Obama said, “We intend to partner with American businesses to develop a national plan to promote responsible and transparent business conduct overseas.”

“Corruption is not simply immoral,” he continued. “From a practical perspective, it siphons off billions of dollars from the public and private sectors that could be used to feed children or build schools, or build infrastructure that promotes development. It also promotes economic inequality. It facilitates human rights abuses. It fuels organized crime, and terrorism, and ultimately instability.”

“Passing anti-corruption laws is necessary,” the President insisted.

According to the ICAR report, the US Government Approach on Business and Human Rights, published in 2013, called for promotion of “the rule of law, respect for human rights, and a level playing field by encouraging responsible business behavior and inviting the participation of business in venues that advance best practices.”


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