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Human rights are the top priority

Governance structure for human rights due diligence

Human rights are an integral part of GIZ’s values and work. We promote human rights at many different levels within the company, doing everything within our power to advance them.

Graphic: GIZ: Human rights due diligence

Our human rights expertise 

National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP)

We have been working actively since 2018 on implementing the four core elements of the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights. These are: 

Policy statement – a core NAP element

The Management Board adopted the GIZ Orientation on Human Rights back in 2012. It shows the contribution we make to human rights in cooperation with our partner countries and assigns us a special responsibility.

The orientation refers to all of the human rights obligations of the Federal Republic of Germany and recognises these as the normative foundation for GIZ’s actions. Moreover, GIZ underscores its own corporate responsibility for human rights. GIZ has joined the UN Global Compact and aligns its actions with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The orientation also spotlights our efforts and our responsibility in project work. On behalf of the German Government and other commissioning parties, we implement projects that aim to improve the human rights situation in our partner countries. In other areas of international cooperation, we make substantial indirect contributions towards securing human rights through our advisory and training work.

There are major shortcomings in the implementation of human rights in some of the countries in which we work. As part of our commissions, we therefore support these countries in moving towards compliance with international standards and bringing about improvements in respecting, protecting and guaranteeing human rights. We refer explicitly to these aims in negotiation processes while at the same time taking account of the individual context and advising our cooperation partners accordingly. We are sensitive to difficult human rights situations, which we examine, monitor and address in our work. In consultation with our commissioning parties, we pay careful attention to the way that we work and the results that we achieve. Our Safeguards+Gender Management System is applicable to all commissioning parties and business areas. It uses a standardised procedure to review any unintended adverse impacts of our projects on human rights.

The GIZ Orientation on Human Rights must be observed by all employees working in Germany and abroad. It applies to all of our organisational units and serves as a guide for our actions inside and outside the company. It is part of our understanding of sustainable development and reinforces existing rules, procedures and activities. At the same time, it demonstrates to our commissioning parties, business partners, partner institutions and the public at large the importance that GIZ attaches to human rights.

GIZ Orientation on Human Rights

Photo: GIZ: GIZ staff discussing and learning
Human rights within the company: GIZ staff discussing and learning about human rights (© GIZ)

Risk analysis – a core NAP element

At project level, we use the Safeguards+Gender Management System when designing our projects to identify at an early stage any unintended adverse impacts on human rights they may have. At the same time, we develop measures and approaches to prevent or mitigate these effects.

In 2019, the Sustainability Office conducted a risk analysis within the company in order to assess any further human rights risks. To this end, we initially focused on two aspects. We examined employment conditions in GIZ’s offices abroad and the methods used for purchasing materials, equipment and services in Germany and in the field. This involved considering two specific issues:

  • human rights risks at the supplier end, with an emphasis on the procurement of materials, equipment and services,
  • human rights risks for staff working in support roles in country offices.

The analysis identified a need for action in both areas. Human rights have so far played only a limited role in procurement, with the country offices only applying the guidelines sporadically to date. In addition, there has not yet been a sufficiently systematic analysis of the countries in which national staff are exposed to risks, for instance due to a complete lack or insufficient provision of social security.

GIZ is aware of its responsibility to its staff and the employees of its suppliers. Based on these findings, we will take a range of measures to close the gaps. The Sustainability Board has therefore decided on the following:

  • Establish governance: We will set up a cross-organisational governance structure to systematically manage and improve the human rights due diligence process. The structure will also coordinate the measures designed to improve the current situation.
  • Harmonise regulations and policies: We will check the regulations in the area of procurement and personnel for any loopholes and close them accordingly.
  • Adapt risk management processes: We will improve the management of human rights risks on an ongoing basis.
  • Boost prevention: We will take measures and introduce processes to proactively prevent and mitigate risks, for example relevant training and awareness-raising campaigns.
  • Develop sustainable results monitoring systems: We will use specific indicators to evaluate the results of our measures on an ongoing basis.

‘Doing good – GIZ should think not only in terms of risk but also of generating opportunities and positive impacts on human rights and should communicate both aspects courageously.’

Andrea Kämpf, researcher at the German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR) (© Andrea Kämpf)

Measures – a core NAP element

Even before the risk analysis, we had already implemented numerous risk reduction measures. These include the Code of Conduct, business partner screening, ILO-Core Labour Standards, risk management and training

  • Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct: GIZ’s ethical principles and values are set out in a Code of Ethics, which all staff must adhere to. Its purpose is to highlight the company’s values and convictions and steer the actions of both our own workforce and all those we work with. This means that we are guided in our conduct by universal ethical values and principles, in particular integrity, honesty, respect for human dignity, openness and non-discrimination. We reject corruption and bribery. Supplementing the Code of Ethics, our Code of Conduct includes specific rules designed to prevent corruption and deal with conflicts of interest.

  • Business partner screening: Business partner screening (BPS) is an integral and mandatory part of risk management at GIZ. In order to be successful, GIZ must operate responsibly when delivering its services. It therefore undertakes to exercise extreme care and examines the risks associated with working with private sector cooperation partners, commissioning parties and bodies providing grants. To this end, business partner screening is a standard part of all cooperation arrangements and activities with companies and public benefit organisations involving third-party funding. The aim is to highlight any possible risks before a project begins. If it emerges that the planned cooperation entails potential risks, we integrate risk mitigation measures into the strategy of the future project. As part of the process, we also review human rights aspects.

  • ILO Core Labour Standards: In contrast to manufacturing companies, GIZ does not usually source raw materials. A large proportion of our procurement involves materials, equipment and services. The integrity and social standards set out in the General Purchase Conditions (GPC) and General Terms and Conditions of Contract govern the steps we take to comply with social criteria related to sustainable procurement. They are an integral part of every invitation to tender and therefore also of every GIZ contract. By agreeing to the GPC and the Terms and Conditions, bidders guarantee compliance with the ILO Core Labour Standards, which include a commitment to eliminating forced labour and child labour. In the event of infringements, GIZ explicitly reserves the right to seek damages, impose penalties and terminate the contract without notice. In 2019, GIZ developed an e-learning course for its service providers that looks at corporate sustainability, including information on human rights.

  • Risk management: Risk management is based on standardised processes and formats that cover both the regular reporting process and ad-hoc reporting. We also take account of human rights risks.

  • Training: GIZ communicates its human rights standards and processes in a variety of training courses. Altogether, 1,967 members of the workforce (seconded field staff and employees based in Germany, development workers and integrated experts) took part in introductory events during 2019. They included a two-hour module on key issues of sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda. During this module, attendees learned about the GIZ Orientation on Human Rights, the human rights grievance mechanism and the Safeguards+Gender Management System. GIZ held a large number of training courses, information events and consultations for staff in Germany and the field on the Safeguards+Gender Management System, including the human rights safeguard. The vast majority of GIZ’s workforce is made up of national staff in partner countries. It is up to the country offices to offer introductory events and training.

Risk management at GIZ: minimising risk, averting damage
GIZ Code of Ethics
General Purchase Conditions (GPC)
General Terms and Conditions of Contract

Grievance mechanisms – a core NAP element

Internal grievance mechanisms exist in the form of the Central Staff Council, the equal opportunity commissioners and the disabled persons’ representation. The Central Staff Council’s task is to represent employees’ interests at company level. It is made up of six delegates from the three staff councils in Berlin, Bonn and Eschborn. It also monitors occupational safety issues at company level. Staff who have a grievance can contact the Central Staff Council. In cases related to gender equality or a disability, they can also consult the equal opportunity commissioners or the disabled persons’ representation. 

External human rights grievance procedure

GIZ responds immediately and appropriately to concerns that any of its actions may have an adverse impact on human rights. Responsibility for following up information of this sort lies with GIZ’s Compliance and Integrity Unit. All information is treated confidentially in accordance with the basic principle of protecting whistleblowers, and the informants may remain anonymous to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in any way. The procedure serves as an early-warning system, helping to identify and remedy any problems. Individuals with confidential tip-offs can contact GIZ’s whistleblower portal.

The Compliance and Integrity Unit initiates the following steps as soon as information of this sort is received:

  • It examines information received via the whistleblower portal and issues confirmation of receipt.
  • If the facts of the case appear plausible, the Compliance and Integrity Unit forwards this information to the Sectoral Department team responsible for human rights, which examines and assesses it from a human rights perspective. The informant is notified within two weeks that an investigation has been initiated.
  • The Compliance and Integrity Unit follows up information comprehensively and notifies informants of the outcome of the investigation. If it deems the outcome to be inappropriate or insufficient, it can call for remediation.
  • The unit examines whether rules need to be drawn up or measures taken to rule out the possibility of negative impacts on human rights in future.

Whistleblower portal
Sustainability Programme 2016–2020

Graphic: GIZ: SDG 5 Gender equality
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 10 Reduced inequalities
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 16 Peace, justice and strong institutions

GRI standard 412 (412-1, 412-2); UNGC 1, 2; The Code 17