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Have your say! Help a new UN body ensure respect for human rights by business

GENEVA (4 November 2011) – A new United Nations expert body* charged with the promotion of respect for human rights by business of all sizes, in all sectors, and in all countries, is inviting governments, companies, trade unions, international agencies, national human rights institutions and NGOs to share their thoughts to help it establish its work programme.

The UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises will take into account proposals by all relevant actors in advance of its first session (16-20 January 2012), during which its five independent experts will determine the Group’s key thematic priorities and activities. Let them know what you think at wg-business@ohchr.org. Deadline for submissions is 8 december 2011.

The new expert body started its activities this week focusing on a set of internationally accepted UN guidelines, which provide for the first time a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to business activity. The UN Framework and Guiding Principles on business and human rights outline what States and business enterprises should do to ensure that human rights are respected by business, and to ensure access to effective remedies for those whose rights have been adversely affected by business activity.

Besides promoting and disseminating these Guiding Principles, the Working Group must ensure that they are effectively implemented by both governments and business, and that they result in improved outcomes for individuals and groups around the world whose rights have been affected by business activity. How best to achieve this complex task? Share your views at wg-business@ohchr.org.

The new expert body is charged by the Human Rights Council with identifying and promoting good practices and lessons learned on the implementation of the Guiding Principles, advise governments on the development of domestic legislation relating to business and human rights, building the capacity of all relevant actors to address business-related human rights impacts, and working to enhance access to effective remedies for those whose human rights have been affected by businesses. They will also conduct country visits and identify and promote good practices.

The Working Group will also guide the work of a new annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, which will provide an arena for the discussion of trends and challenges in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on human rights and business, including challenges faced in particular sectors, country contexts and in relation to specific human rights and business issues and rights-holding groups.

(*) Mr. Michael Addo, Ms. Alexandra Guaqueta, Ms. Margaret Jungk, Mr. Puvan Selvanathan and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga. See below for each expert’s bio.

ENDS

The United Nations Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council on 17 June 2011, and its members appointed on 30 September 2011. The Working Group comprises five independent experts of balanced geographic representation. Collectively, these experts bring diverse skills and experience on the advancement of business respect for human rights across a wide range of countries, issues, and sectors.

Learn more about the Working Group’s mandate, log on: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx

Check the Guiding Principles on business and human rights: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G11/121/90/PDF/G1112190.pdf?OpenElement

Human Rights Council’s resolution establishing the Working Group:
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/G11/144/71/PDF/G1114471.pdf?OpenElement

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Lene Wendland (Tel. +41 22 928 9299 / email: lwendland@ohchr.org) or write to wg-business@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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MEMBERS OF THE WORKING GROUP:

Michael Addo
Michael Addo is a Senior Lecturer in international human rights law at the University of Exeter. He holds a PhD and LLM and is qualified as a lawyer and advocate at the Ghana Bar. He has authored and edited several books including one of the earliest collection of essays on Human Rights Standards amd the Responsibility of Transnational Corporations (Nijhoff 1998) as well as many other journal and conference publications in this field.

Alexandra Guaqueta
Alexandra Guaqueta holds a M.Phil./D.Phil. International Relations with expertise on global governance and is currently attached to the School of International Studies at Flinders University. Ms. Guaqueta’s has extensive academic and practical expertise particularly on the issue of business and human rights in conflict affected areas. She led the work in Cerrejon (Colombia) on piloting rights-compatible Grievance Mechanism guidelines.

Margaret Jungk
Margaret Jungk holds a PhD and Masters in International Relations and Political Science with a focus on human rights. She is the Founder and Director of the Human Rights & Business Department at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, which was the first dedicated unit on Human Rights and Business in a National Human Rights Institution worldwide. She has over a decade of experience advising multinational companies on mainstreaming human rights into business operations.

Puvan J Selvanathan
Puvan Selvanathan advises multinational companies on global sustainability strategy, with a focus on the Palm Oil sector. He is an Architect by profession, holds an MBA and is now completing his DBA in Corporate Sustainability. He has been involved for over 10 years in developing the Malaysian business community’s understanding of ethics, good governance and corporate responsibility. In his current role he is engaged in establishing human rights principles in companies in the large-scale agricultural sector.

Pavel Sulyandziga
Pavel Sulyandziga holds a degree in economics and works on the issue of protection of indigenous rights in the context of business. He has worked in government agencies and community organizations. He was a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He is currently a member of the Public Chamber of Russia (an elected statutory body of civil society of Russia), and chairs the Working Group on the development of remote areas of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation.

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