Several international and transnational initiatives have been adopted in recent decades to improve the observance of human rights by businesses in general and transnational enterprises in particular. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (“the Guidelines”) are prominent among those of an inter-governmental character.
According to the OECD, the Guidelines “are the most comprehensive set of government-backed recommendations on responsible business conduct in existence today. The governments adhering to the Guidelines aim to encourage and maximize the positive impact MNEs can make to sustainable development and enduring social progress”. Furthermore, there is the duty of adhering states to set up National Contact Points (‘NCPs’), which have as a main objective “further[ing] the effectiveness of the Guidelines” by, among other things, handling complaints on an alleged breach of the Guidelines by a transnational corporation.
In the featured article, Dr. Juan Carlos Ochoa-Sanchez analyzes from the empirical and the normative perspective the roles and powers of the NCPs, regarding complaints on an alleged breach of the Guidelines by a transnational corporation. It does so through an examination of relevant OECD instruments, the regulations and practice of Brazil’s, Mexico’s, Norway’s, the United Kingdom’s and the United States of America’s NCPs, and many relevant theoretical and empirical studies. While Ochoa-Sanchez’ work demonstrates the particular importance of the function of NCPs of handling these complaints, it finds that the NCPs case studies and the Australian have fundamentally different conceptions of their roles and powers regarding such complaints. He, then, proposes an interpretation of these matters based on a systematic understanding of relevant OECD instruments and broader normative considerations. When doing so, he demonstrates that these differences are not well justified in normative terms. In addition and when addressing the main arguments against the proposed view in this study, this work provides new analysis on the distinction between soft and hard law in the field of corporate social responsibility, in light of the case of the Guidelines.
About the Author
Juan C. Ochoa Sanchez has eleven years of work and research experience in companies and sustainability, particularly regulatory and governance aspects, international law, international investment and trade, and several areas of comparative law. He has worked and conducted research on these fields at leading universities in four countries and at important international organizations. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations, Specialization in International Law, from the University of Geneva, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.
He is currently an independent consultant and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He wrote this article during his work as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Oslo, Faculty of Law, the Norwegian Centre for Human rights, where he worked until April 2015. He was a member of the Research group on Companies, Markets, Society and the Environment. The featured work benefited significantly from his active membership to this research group.
 OECD Council, Amendment of the Decision of the Council on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Section I, para. 1, in OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, p. 68. See also Procedural Guidance, attached to ibid., Section I (hereinafter “Procedural Guidance”).