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The European Commission to develop Human Rights guidance for ICT sector

Last week, the European Commission (DG for Entreprise & Industry) finalised the selection of three business sectors that will be the focus of a new, year-long project to develop sector-specific guidance on the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which forms part of the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The UN Guiding Principles were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011.

One of the selected sectors is ICT, and the two others are employment & recruitment agencies and oil & gas.

Together, these sectors face a wide range of significant human rights challenges that could benefit from detailed guidance for companies. The guidance will also be valuable to businesses from other sectors facing similar human rights related issues

The activities envisaged for the development of human rights guidance for the ICT sector will contribute to the implementation of the European Commission’s No Disconnect Strategy on Internet freedom. The selection of these sectors was based on objective criteria and rigorous analysis carried out by Shift and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB). Careful consideration was given to submissions made by companies, industry federations, NGOs and private individuals.

The guidance developed through this project will be based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and will address the particular contexts and challenges faced by each of the three sectors in implementing the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.

The European Commission identified the development of sector-specific guidance as one of the priority actions in its recent communication on corporate social responsibility.

What are the next steps?

Extensive consultations with enterprises and all concerned stakeholder groups are planned as part of the project process. Shift and IHRB will coordinate this process on behalf of the European Commission. The development of the guidance is due to be completed by the end of 2012.

Telefónica considers this EC project crucial, and it is perfectly aligned with Telefónica’s main Sustainability objectives.

Telefónica is currently in the process of performing an assessment across the Company of the impact of our activity in all the 25 countries where we operate on Human Rights issues. The objective of the Project is to ensure that we are implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the 25 countries where we operate effectively.

We are very conscious that the ICT sector plays an increasingly prominent role in the World today and that it has the potential to facilitate and / or limit Human Rights in many areas as the holding of customers personal information, content restrictions or physical presence in the market.

As a line of action of the Global Project, Telefónica is part of the ‘Industry Dialogue on Telecommunications’ together with a number of  telecommunications operators and vendors that have come together to address the  issues of privacy and freedom of expression as they relate to the  telecommunications sector. Companies involved, the team, include Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Deutsche TelekomFrance Telecom/Orange, Millicom, Nokia Siemens Networks, Tele2, TelefonicaTelenor, TeliaSonera and Vodafone Group. The team was ‘called to consultation’ by the Commission during the selection process of the sectors for the project. Telefónica, as part of the team, is very satisfied with the selection of ICT as one of the chosen sectors and is willing to contribute within  the limits of the team's joint efforts.

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Lourdes Tejedor / @madrid2day

Telefónica Public Policy & Telefónica España Regulatory teams