2015 Democracy and Human Rights, Economic Development, Public Administration Evaluation

Business and Human Rights in Development Cooperation – Has Sweden Incorporated the UN Guiding Principles?

Sandra Atler, Rasmus Kløcker Larsen

In recent years there has been an increased focus on the role of business and private sector activities in international development cooperation. Meanwhile, there are well documented challenges in implementing policy coherence to address conflicts of interest between the State’s development objectives, the State’s trade objectives and the private sector’s business objectives.

This report explores the ways in which the Swedish State has integrated business and human rights norms into some of the institutions that are tasked with international development mandates and also are engaging with business in some manner and therefore may face policy tensions. The authors examine if the institutions The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU), the Swedish Trade and Invest Council (Business Sweden), Swedfund International AB (Swedfund), and the Swedish Export Credit Corporation (SEK) have de necessary policies and procedures in place to prevent corporate activities from harming human rights. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights constitute a guiding framework for the analysis.

The result was presented during the seminar Business and Human Rights in Development Cooperation – is Sweden on the right track?

Main findings

  • The results show examples of good practice, where human rights principles have been ensured, but also a number of gaps where there is room for further improvements.
  • Most cases of good practice appears to be due to internal work in the institutions and not in response to specific requirements posed by the State ministries to implement the UNGPs.
  • Only one of the five institutions (Swedfund) was able to disclose selected requested operational procedures and how they were implemented.
  • No agency or company was able to disclose a full, relevant HRDD report.
  • State-owned and state-controlled companies perform better than state agencies.

Swedish ministries, agencies and State-owned or controlled companies should as soon as possible ensure to build on and realise the commitments in the NAP, the PGD and the commitments within the respective institutions to ensure that Swedish development aid funds are never associated with corporate related human rights harm.

Rasmus Kløcker Researcher, Centre for Sustainable Development
Sandra Atler, Consultant, Enact Sustainable Strategies