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Business must respect human rights for truly sustainable development – UN expert body on Rio+20

GENEVA (28 June 2012) – A 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, expressed concern that the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, failed to explicitly mention that business should respect human rights in the drive to a green economy and sustainable development.

“Businesses will play a major role in developing the green economy and human rights safeguards are necessary to ensure that policies and business plans intended to advance environmental or development goals do not negatively impact people, communities and their livelihoods,” said Puvan Selvanathan, who currently heads the five-strong UN Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises.

“Inclusive, equitable and sustainable development can only become a reality when human beings are the central concern and their rights are realized and respected,” Mr. Selvanathan stressed. “Human rights must be internalized in both principle and practice, especially in the transition to a green economy.”

For the Working Group, internalizing human rights means at a minimum implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (see below), a set of internationally accepted guidelines, which provide a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to business activity.

“States need to send clear and coherent messages that companies should respect human rights as the world creates a green economy, by exercising due diligence and ensuring access to effective remedies for those whose rights are adversely affected by business activity,” Mr. Selvanathan underscored.

Besides promoting and disseminating these Guiding Principles, the Working Group ensures 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.

The UN Working Group called on States and business to work with it, civil society and other stakeholders, on ensuring that the path to sustainable development set up at Rio+20 is undertaken, while protecting and respecting human rights.

(*) Michael Addo (Ghana), Alexandra Guaqueta (Colombia / USA), Margaret Jungk (USA), Puvan Selvanathan (Malaysia) and Pavel Sulyandziga (Russian Federation).


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 2011 to promote and disseminate the UN Framework and Guiding Principles on business and human rights, and to ensure that they are effectively implemented by both governments and business, and that they address the situation of individuals and groups around the world whose rights have been affected by business activity. Learn more, log on: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx

Check the Guiding Principles on business and human rights:  http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf

Formore 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, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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