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The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are recommendations for responsible business conduct with regard to human rights, employment and industrial relations, the environment, anti-corruption, consumer protection, science and technology, competition and agriculture. The OECD Guidelines provide a framework for the implementation of due diligence by companies (see “What is due diligence?”).
They are one of the founding international instruments of corporate social responsibility. They are not binding rules, but the governments that adhere to them undertake to encourage companies established on or from their territory to comply with a set of principles and standards aimed at ensuring proper conduct, wherever they operate.
As of 01.01.2021, there are 49 governments adhering to the OECD Guidelines. These governments come from all regions of the world and account for 85 % of foreign direct investment.
The original version of the OECD Guidelines dates back from 1976.
Since then, the OECD Guidelines have been revised five times. The latest revision in 2011 has significantly strengthened the instrument including:
- the development of a new chapter on human rights (Chapter 4);
- the strengthening of the mediation process;
- a new and more comprehensive approach to the notion of due diligence.
This revision also helped to align chapters of these Principles into line with other international standards and conventions. For example, the chapter devoted to the environment (Chapter 6) has integrated principles and objectives set out in the Rio Declaration, the Agenda 21 and the Aarhus Convention.
A National Contact Point (NCP) is a relay for the OECD Guidelines in adhering States.
The mission of an NCP is to enhance the effectiveness of the Guidelines by conducting promotional activities, responding to inquiries about the Guidelines and providing mediation/conciliation services in complaints to the NCP. In the latter case, the NCP can offer its intervention to facilitate a dialogue between a company and any other parties that would bring a complaint of non-compliance with the OECD Guidelines by the company.
Each State has to establish a National Contact Point and is free to establish its NCP as it wishes. However, this choice must meet four criteria: visibility, accessibility, transparency and accountability.
Yes, Belgium has a National Contact Point since 1980. The establishment of a NCP is an obligation for countries that have subscribed to the OECD Guidelines.
In Belgium, the NCP is composed in a tripartite way bringing together a total of 15 organisations including:
- three employer organisations (FEB, Agoria and Comeos);
- three trade union organisations (ACV, FGTB and CGSLB);
- six federal public services (Economy, Environment - Health, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice and Employment);
- the three regions (Wallonia, Brussels-Capital and Flanders).
The composition of the Belgian NCP intends to reflect the social dialogue and to ensure a balance of views when dealing with any claim of non-compliance with the Guidelines by a company or organisation.
The chairmanship and secretariat of the NCP is provided by officials from the Directorate General for Economic Analysis and International Economy of the FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy.
Any individual or legal entity (NGOs, trade unions, etc.) may approach the National Contact Point (NCP) and file a complaint against an organisation for alleged violations of one or more chapters of the OECD Guidelines. The notifier must prove his or her interest in lodging this complaint.
This complaint is also referred to as "specific instance".
A specific instance refers to a complaint made to a National Contact Point alleging of a supposed violation of the OECD Guidelines by a company.
The Annex 3 of the rules of procedure of the National Contact Point mentions the elements to be communicated so that the complaint (specific instance) can be dealt with within a reasonable period of time by the NCP.
As a notifier, you must at least be able to produce the following elements:
- your identity by designating a contact person, an organisation name (if other than individual), your address, telephone number and email;
- an introduction to the case introducing the context, the problems raised and their location;
- an explanation of your interest to contact the NCP;
- the contact details of the company or organisation that is the subject of the complaint;
- the list of chapters and paragraphs about the violation claimed in the complaint based on the 2011 edition of the Guidelines;
- information relating to other actions already taken directly with the company or other bodies with a view to resolving the problems mentioned.
This list is neither exhaustive nor even mandatory. It should not constitute an obstacle to filing a complaint with the Belgian NCP.
The National Contact Point follows a procedure in accordance with the one established by the OECD for this type of complaint, namely the Implementation Procedures of the OECD Guidelines. This procedure is detailed in the NCP's internal regulations and in its Annex 2.
The process and its steps are shown in the following diagram:
As part of the process of a complaint (specific instance), the role of a National Contact Point (NCP) consists of providing a platform for dialogue and a place of exchange between the parties involved in order to find a solution to their dispute. The primary role of the NCP is not to establish whether the violations alleged by a party are true. Rather, it must encourage dialogue between the parties and ensure optimal conditions so that this exchange can be as constructive as possible. At the end of the procedure, the parties can reach an agreement including solutions to the situation exposed and / or develop action plans for the future.
The National Contact Point maintains regular contact with companies and national federations to raise awareness of what corporate social responsibility involves throughout their supply chain. This is why the NCP regularly organizes multi-stakeholder events and round tables with sectoral approaches. The NCP also contributes to events organized by third parties by providing its expertise.
Due diligence is a business-specific approach designed to prevent social, environmental and governance risks associated with their operations. This approach can also be extended to the activities of their subsidiaries and their business partners (subcontractors and suppliers). It is defined by articles 10, 11 and 12 of the chapter of the General Principles of the OECD Guidelines.
The concept of "due diligence" requires a management system capable of identifying risks throughout the supply chain and reducing their negative impacts.
You can reach the Belgian National Contact Point (PCN) via its secretariat:
FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-employed, and Energy
Rue du Progrès 50
Tel.: +32 2 277 81 63 or +32 2 277 86 51