The report recognizes that up until recently, individual States had the duty to protect human rights. However, "there is increasing legal recognition (...) that private individuals and legal persons, including businesses, have responsibilities." This development, the report notes, is evident from case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The report provides important background information on international instruments that are pertinent to this issue, current legal relief available to victims of human rights abuses, and a comparative overview of other countries’ mechanisms to allocate corporate responsibility. The report concludes that "despite (...) positive steps taken by some governments, the current international framework for governing businesses in relation to human right is extremely weak. It is almost entirely based on a mixed bag of soft law principles, voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives and toolkits, without any effective judicial mechanisms to ensure that businesses respect human rights.
The summary of the report states:
With globalisation, large multinational companies have faced charges that they are violating human rights, especially in developing countries: child labour in the textile industry, environmental disasters caused by the oil industry, or breaches of the right to privacy by telecommunication companies are all recent examples. Yet such alleged abuses often take place outside Europe, and bringing them before European courts is usually difficult.
Council of Europe member states should start by investing ethically, refusing to work with corporations associated with abuses, and insist that firms fully respect human rights standards when they carry out government contracts – especially if the work involves classic state functions which have been “privatised”, such as law enforcement or military activities. More generally, they should introduce laws to protect individuals from corporate abuses of human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Committee of Ministers, for its part, could prepare studies – and eventually a recommendation to Europe’s governments – on corporate responsibility in the area of human rights. It could even set up a system for assessing the social responsibility of businesses, leading to a Council of Europe “label” for the best. In the meantime, the Council of Europe should co-operate with other international organisations already working in this field, and develop partnerships with the business community to promote its standards.
In its concluding remarks, the report notes that the Council of Europe, due to "its vast institutional knowledge and experience in the field of human rights, may be in the best position to begin developing a new framework or guidelines for businesses." In addition, the report urges the Council not only to take advantage of what is already available (e.g. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises), but also to welcome other, more concrete mechanisms, including a new convention on human rights and business.
On the basis of the report, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted a Resolution 1757 (2010) and Recommendation 1936 (2010) on human rights and business.