1) Promote Awareness and Encourage Implementation of the Guidelines
The USNCP is committed to its obligation to further the effectiveness of the Guidelines by undertaking promotional activities to raise awareness of the Guidelines among diverse stakeholders, including representatives of business, labor unions, NGOs, the general public, academia, and international organizations.
The USNCP offers itself as a resource to all of the above stakeholders, as well as to U.S. government agencies and U.S. embassies around the world. The USNCP welcomes the opportunity to meet with groups or individuals and to speak at internal meetings and public conferences, including in academic settings. The USNCP is available to participate in person, by video conference or by other means. Please contact the USNCP at USNCP@state.gov with any questions.
Have a good story to tell about implementing the Guidelines? Please email the USNCP about it!
2) Facilitate Practical Application of the Guidelines – the “Proactive Agenda”
The May 2011 update of the Guidelines included a provision that the OECD, adhering governments, and stakeholders would work together on a proactive agenda. The objective is for all partners to “look over the horizon” at potential challenges and, on a demand driven basis, collaborate on devising solutions, consistent with the principles of the Guidelines, to support MNE efforts to address challenges at an early stage.
In contrast with Specific Instances, which often retrospectively address issues arising out of the behavior of specific enterprises, the proactive agenda is intended to prospectively encourage responsible behavior by enterprises through constructive collaboration with stakeholders with the aim of reducing the number of future Specific Instances on those topics.
The Guidelines call on NCPs to maintain regular contact with stakeholders in order to:
- Consider new developments and emerging practices concerning responsible business conduct;
- Support the positive contributions enterprises can make to economic, social and environmental progress; and
- Participate in collaborative initiatives to identify and respond to risks of adverse impacts associated with particular products, regions, sectors or industries.
3) Offer Specific Instance Mediation
As a part of its core function, the USNCP addresses issues relating to implementation of the Guidelines, raised in the form of a Specific Instance, with regards to the business conduct of an enterprise operating or headquartered in the United States. The office of the USNCP handles such Specific Instances in accordance with its procedures, which are based on the OECD Guidelines, the Procedural Guidance for NCPs and the Commentary on the Procedural Guidance for NCPs.
In this work stream, the USNCP’s primary function is to assist affected parties, when appropriate, in their efforts to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution through the offer of mediation services. The USNCP does not make a determination as to whether the enterprise that is subject to the Specific Instance has acted consistently with the Guidelines nor does the USNCP have legal authority to investigate, prosecute or adjudicate issues submitted under this process.
Acceptance of the Specific Instance is in no way an acknowledgement of or determination on the merits of the claims presented, but merely an offer to facilitate neutral, third-party mediation or conciliation to assist the parties in voluntary, confidential and good faith efforts to reach a cooperative resolution of their concerns. Entering into such mediation or conciliation in no way implies that the parties will reach agreement. In mediation, the parties are responsible for arriving at their own solution, and the process is designed to create an environment for cooperative problem solving between the parties.
Melike Yetken and Briana Wagner comprise the Office of the USNCP in the Economic and Business Affairs Bureau at the U.S. Department of State.
The Office of the USNCP also consults with a broader Interagency Working Group (IWG) of U.S. government experts, which includes but is not limited to representatives from the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The working group also includes Department of State officials from the Office of the Legal Adviser; the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; regional country desk officers; and officers at U.S. missions abroad, as appropriate. The USNCP Office also frequently meets with other NCPs to share experiences and encourage best practices internationally.
The USNCP Office is impartial and equitable when handling a complaint. The USNCP Office will prioritize transparency, set and follow timelines, follow predictable procedures, and make itself visible and accessible to stakeholders.
The USNCP will contribute to resolving issues that arise in relation to the implementation of the Guidelines. It will operate in an efficient manner and in accordance with applicable law, the standards in the Guidelines and the following principles:
- Transparency: As a general principle, the activities of the USNCP will be transparent. Any sensitive business information disclosed during the Special Instance process will be protected.
- Accessibility: The USNCP will facilitate access to its function by business, labor, NGOs and other members of the public. The USNCP will respond to all legitimate requests for information, and seek to deal with specific issues raised by parties concerned in an efficient and timely manner.
- Impartiality: The USNCP will ensure impartiality in the resolution of Specific Instances.
- Predictability: The USNCP will ensure predictability by providing clear and publicly available information on its role in the resolution of Specific Instances, including the offering of mediation, the stages of the Specific Instance process with indicative timeframes, and the potential role the USNCP can play in monitoring the implementation of agreements reached between the parties.
- Equitability: The USNCP will ensure that the parties can engage in the process on fair and equitable terms, for instance by providing reasonable access to sources of information relevant to the process.
- Dialogue: The USNCP will offer a forum for discussion and assist the business community, labor organizations, other non-governmental organizations and other interested parties concerned to deal with the issues raised. The USNCP will seek to resolve the issues in dispute through dialogue and mediation.
- Stakeholder Advisory Board: In January 2012, the State Department established a Stakeholder Advisory Board (SAB), whose function is to promote and facilitate the implementation of the OECD Guidelines and to encourage the use of the NCP Specific Instance process as a means to resolve disputes and promote responsible business conduct (RBC). The SAB is a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and is led by vice chairs representing business and civil society pillars.
- Interagency Working Group: The USNCP Office consults regularly with subject matter experts through an active interagency working group, which includes representatives from the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, General Services Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The working group also includes Department of State officials from the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Office of the Legal Adviser; the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; regional country desk officers; and officers at U.S. missions abroad, as appropriate.
- Other NCPs: The United States works closely with other country NCPs on a range of matters, including the Specific Instance process. In Specific Instances involving more than one NCP, the Guidelines recommend that the host country NCP (i.e., the country in which the issues have arisen) take the lead, while consulting with the NCP of the home country (the country where the NCP is headquartered). The USNCP follows this approach.