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The impact of businesses on human rights in Latin American and the Caribbean – First regional debate

BOGOTA / GENEVA (26 August 2013) – More than 400 representatives from global, regional and domestic businesses, industry associations, Governments, international and regional bodies, trade unions, civil society, indigenous peoples and others will join the first Latin American and Caribbean regional forum on the impact of businesses on human rights. Business representatives in mining, oil and energy, food and drink, banking and finance, and agribusiness will be present at the dialogue session to meet face-to-face with local communities, NGOs and public sector officials.

The multi-stakeholder regional forum, organized by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, together with the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Government of Colombia, will take place in Medellín, Colombia, from 28 to 30 August 2013.

“Such a large regional gathering on business and human rights has no precedent. The Latin American and Caribbean forum will bring together for the first time a wide range of stakeholders, some of them with contrasting points of view, to openly discuss how governments and businesses are moving to address the impacts of business activities on human rights in the region,” said Pavel Sulyandziga, who currently heads the five-strong UN Working Group of experts.

The Regional Forum is designed to disseminate the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights*, the world’s authoritative standard for preventing and addressing the risk of negative human rights impacts linked to business activity. The UN Guiding Principles outline what States and business enterprises should do in practice to prevent and address impacts and to ensure access to effective remedies for those whose rights have been adversely affected by business activity.

“The role of domestic and foreign enterprises in society has been a heated topic in the region. Inequality and poverty have added to historical grievances and distrust of business. But conflict is not the answer,” said Alexandra Guáqueta, the Spanish-speaking member of the UN Working Group.

“The region needs jobs as well as social and economic inclusiveness. The UN Guiding Principles provide a solid platform to align business activities with human rights and sustainable development. Latin American culture has never questioned human rights. The region has a unique opportunity to become a champion on business and human rights, bolster its competitiveness in the global market, and respond to social needs,” she added.

“The Principles give businesses predictability in what is expected of them,” Mr. Sulyandziga said. “They also provide other interested parties, including civil society and investors, the tools to measure progress where it really matters most – in the daily lives of people.”

This first regional gathering will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss challenges in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles in particular sectors and operational environments, and in relation to specific rights and groups, such as indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants.

In Latin American, as in other parts of the world, dozens of domestic and foreign investments in the extractive industry, agribusiness and tourism have been blocked due to social opposition and uncertainty over health and environmental impacts. “A new social contract, which takes into account the realities of 21st century globalization, is needed,” noted Michael Addo, the third member of the Working Group attending this first Regional Forum.

“This is a dialogue among the key economic and political actors driving global corporate accountability. Our role in the UN Working Group is to provide a safe environment to solve problems and innovate,” Ms. Guáqueta said.

The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Forum follows last year’s global dialogue at the first annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, which brought together over 1,000 registered participants from more than 80 countries. Its results will feed into the next global forum to be held also in Geneva from 2 to 4 December 2013.

The event will be open to the media. For press accreditation, please contact: Regionalforumbhr@ohchr.org / amparo.diaz@undp.org / oswaldomalo@presidencia.gov.co

The UN Working Group will hold a press conference together with the co-organizers of the Regional Forum at Hotel Dann Carlton, Medellín, on 28 August at 11.00am – 11.30am.

(*) Read the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (English/Spanish): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

ENDS

The Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. Its five members are: Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga (current Chairperson-Rapporteur), Ms. Alexandra Guáqueta (Vice Chair), Ms. Margaret Jungk, Mr. Michael Addo, and Mr. Puvan Selvanathan. The Working Group is independent from any government or organization. It reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly. Log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx

Learn more about the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Forum on businesses on human rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2013LACRegionalForumBusinessandHumanRights.aspx

Learn more about the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, to be held in Geneva from 2 to 4 December 2013:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2013ForumonBusinessandHumanRights.aspx

For additional information and media requests in English (including interviews with Working Group members), please contact John E. Grova (+ 47 918 85 260 / wg-business@ohchr.org / bhrconsultant@ohchr.org). For inquiries and requests in Spanish, please contact Taryn Lesser (+41 (0)79 752 0481 ) / wg-business@ohchr.org / tlesser@ohchr.org.

OHCHR Colombia Public Information Coordinator, Diana Losada (Phone: +571 658 3300 / Mobile: 310 2709465 / DLosada@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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