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Mongolia: Unclear responsibilities between government and business and weak enforcement threaten to leave human rights on the sidelines, says UN human rights expert group

ULAANBAATAR (17 October 2012) – The UN expert Working Group on Human Rights and Business today welcomed the inclusion of human rights in the new Government’s action plan. However, it called on the Government of Mongolia to further clarify the respective roles and responsibilities of Government and business with regards to human rights. The Working Group also called on the Government to strengthen the enforcement of laws to ensure greater accountability and compliance by business enterprises, and access to effective remedies for affected individuals. Further, the Working Group called on companies, across all sectors, to ensure that they meet the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, including through compliance with national laws and regulations and international standards on the environment, human rights, occupational safety and labour.

Without more clarity on their respective roles, “companies and government will continue to finger point at each other ‘to do something’, obscuring who exactly has responsibilities for what, and human rights risk falling in the gap in between,” Ms. Jungk said at the end of the first official country visit* of the UN expert Working Group. The Working Group is charged by the UN Human Rights Council to support efforts to prevent and address adverse impacts on human rights arising from business activities, using the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights* unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council in 2011.

Ms. Jungk called on companies, as well as national and local Government, to ensure that those who are impacted by business activities can participate in key decisions that affect them, and have access to information on a timely basis. The expert further recommended that community engagement be made an essential component of all stabilization agreements made with international investors and welcomed the Government’s intention to strengthen community engagement provisions in the new Minerals law it will submit to Parliament next year.

The Working Group expert welcomed efforts by the Government to assess the overall collective environmental and social impact of mining at a national level, and called for this assessment to incorporate human rights considerations. She further encouraged the Government to carry out similar exercises in other economic sectors. In this regard, she encouraged stakeholders to carefully consider the forthcoming final conclusions and recommendations of the recent conference on Mining and Human Rights in Mongolia, co-organised by the National Human Rights Commission.

Ms. Jungk referred to a number of draft and recently adopted laws that could strengthen the Government’s role in preventing and addressing adverse impacts of business activities. These include the law on Environmental Impact Assessments, the Conflict of Interest Law, the Procurement Law, as well as proposed revisions of the Labour Law. She encouraged the Government to ensure that these draft laws follow international best practice in incorporating human rights standards. She further encouraged the Government to give priority to its efforts to strengthen access, and remove obstacles, for ordinary citizens to obtain effective remedy when their human rights are affected by business activities.

Finally, the member of the Expert Working Group echoed the suggestion of all the stakeholders that she met, and urged the Government to “to prioritize the strengthening of human resources and technical capacity of state entities charged with the monitoring and enforcing laws regulating business activity.”

During her ten-day visit to Mongolia, Ms. Jungk held meetings with senior Government officials at the national and local level, business representatives, trade unions, the National Human Rights Commission, civil society organisations, individuals from impacted communities and other stakeholders, and visited Tsogtsetsii and Khanbogd soums in Ömnögovi aimag.

The findings and lessons learned from the Mongolia country visit will be discussed at the Forum on Business and Human Rights** in Geneva on 4-5 December 2012. A comprehensive report containing conclusions and recommendations will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013.

(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12674&LangID=E

ENDS

The Working Group was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011. The five members are Mr. Michael Addo, Ms. Alexandra Guáqueta, Ms. Margaret Jungk, Mr. Puvan Selvanathan (current Chairperson-Rapporteur) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga. The Working Group is independent from any government or organization. It reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly.
Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx

Read the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights:
English: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx
Mongolian: http://www.un-mongolia.mn/web/publications/HR_PUB_11_3_Inter%20EN.pdf

Learn more about and register for the 2012 Forum on Business and Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/ForumonBusinessandHR2012.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Mongolia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MNIndex.aspx

For additional information and media inquiries, please contact Ms. Estelle Askew-Renaut on: +41 79 509 0557 or +41 22 928 9292 or write to wg-business@ohchr.org

You may also contact the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Mongolia,
A. Tsetsegmaa on +976 11 327585 ext 113, email: tsetsegmaa.amar@one.un.org and
P. Jargalsaikhan on +976 11 327585 195, 99135393, email: jargalsaikhan@undp.org

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