National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights: An Initial Analysis of Plans from 2013-2018

Three years after the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), the UN Human Rights Council called on all Member States to develop National Action Plans to support implementation of the UNGPs.* This call came in the wake of similar developments at the European level.** The Organization of American States has encouraged its Member States to implement the UNGPs,*** while the African Union is currently drafting a policy framework on business and human rights. The UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, established in 2011, strongly encourages all states to develop, enact, and update NAPs on business and human rights. The G20 leaders have articulated their support for NAPs. Civil society organisations have also added their support to NAPs.

By 20 November 2018, 21 states had published NAPs.**** At least 11 states are developing a NAP and there are 15 countries in which non-state initiatives are working towards a NAP. 18 of the 21 states that have published NAPs are members of the Council of Europe. There are 3 NAPs from states in the Americas. 2 African states and 4 Asian states are currently developing NAPs. States with NAPs contribute to 45.6% of global GDP and account for 43.6% of global imports (based on 2017 figures).

This makes it important to review NAPs and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of current NAPs in implementing the UNGPs and enhancing protections for rights-holders against business-related human rights abuse.

By studying all the published NAPs, a team from the Danish Institute of Human Rights has identified both positives and a number of areas of concerns regarding both process and content related issues.

Stakeholder participation in the development process. All states held stakeholder and rights-holder events during their NAP development processes and all but one process involved both business and civil society. The extent of stakeholder and rights-holder involvement varied considerably as, for example, 8 states took active measures to involve special interest groups and vulnerable groups (e.g. indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities) and 8 states publicly shared timelines on their NAP development process.

National baseline assessments. 6 NAPs were informed by a national baseline assessment (NBA) designed to identify gaps in protections and inform the prioritisation of actions in the NAP. Of the 4 additional states that committed to producing an NBA in their NAP, none have yet completed them (although some commitments have no deadlines and others are still within their deadlines).

NAP content. The majority of NAPs are structured to follow the three pillars of the UNGPs or the 31 guiding principles. All but 1 NAP explicitly address business operations domestically, and all but 2 explicitly address business operations abroad. 17 NAPs commit the state to engage with other states to share good practice and/ or help other states develop NAPs. Many NAPs address issues affecting vulnerable groups of rights-holders, but certain groups receive less attention than others, including migrant workers, persons with disabilities, and indigenous peoples.

A recent mapping exercise by the Danish Institute for Human Rights to apply a gender lens to business and human rights noted that little attention has been paid to gender in processes to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to date. As National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights (NAPs) are key tools in the implementation of the UNGPs, which also increasingly seek alignment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is essential to significantly strengthen the focus on the rights of women and girls in NAP development processes and their subsequent implementation.

Progress reports. 15 NAPs commit states to provide follow-up reports on the implementation of NAP commitments. 5 states have published such reports to date;

Accountability. Effective accountability is enhanced when action points in NAPs are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART), however the action points in NAPs are often not fully SMART. 9 NAPs assign responsibility for actions to named entities, 6 include dates for some or all actions, 4 NAPs include explicit indicators or dates by which the actions are to be completed. Zero NAPs contain a budget covering all actions, although 1 NAP refers to providing staff and budget necessary for monitoring.

The full analysis and the raw data is available at

The Danish Institute will continue to work on NAPs in 2019 to expand this analysis. We would welcome engaging with others on the topic, so please contact us if you are interested in this topic.


Written by Daniel Morris, Danish Institute for Human Rights


* Human Rights Council Res. 26/22, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/RES/26/22, at 2 (15 July 2014)

**See, e.g., A renewed EU strategy 2011–2014 for Corporate Social Responsibility, COM (2011) 681 final (Oct. 25, 2011),; Resolution on the Review of the EU’s Human Rights Strategy, EUR. PARL. DOC. 2062 (INI) (2012),; Council of Europe, Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Apr. 16, 2014),

***Organization of American States, Resolution Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, OAS AG/RES. 2887 (June 14, 2016) (XLVI-O/16)

****The UK has published an updated NAP, so there is a total of 22 NAPs.

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