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Statement by the President of the Human Rights Council at the opening session of the annual Forum on Business and Human Rights

3 December 2013

Honourable Chair,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Working Group members,
Distinguished delegates and participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to be opening the second annual Forum on Business and Human Rights this morning.

At the outset, allow me also to recall that today we are celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is estimated that persons with disabilities are about 1 billion worldwide, and yet they are still often 'invisible' in society. Therefore, when discussing any human rights issue, including business and human rights, it is imperative that the views and contributions of persons with disabilities are included.

First, I would like to offer a warm welcome to Mr. Makarim Wibisono, Executive Director of the ASEAN Foundation, who has graciously accepted the important task of being the chair of the second annual Forum.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to the members of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, to the distinguished representatives of Member States, the UN system and mechanisms, international and regional organizations, national human rights institutions, trade unions, business associations and enterprises and non-governmental organizations, academics and other experts.

I welcome affected stakeholders and representatives of impacted communities, who, in some cases, have faced considerable challenges in travelling to this important meeting to share their first hand experiences and perspectives on the impact of business activities on human rights.

Through its Special Procedure mechanism, the Human Rights Council has led the international community’s work on the business and human rights agenda for almost 10 years, and in 2011 reached unprecedented consensus on the issue with the unanimous endorsement of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

This annual Forum was established by the Council in the same resolution that endorsed the Guiding Principles and established the Working Group. The Forum offers a unique opportunity for the international community to bring together all relevant stakeholders to the business and human rights debate to exchange information, challenges, good practices and lessons learned with regard to implementing the Guiding Principles and addressing the adverse impacts of business-related activities on human rights.

The overwhelming and continued interest in the Forum – witness the turnout here today of over 1,700 accredited participants, which exceeds even last year’s participation - is testament to the continuing interest in the issue, and underlines the pivotal and unique role of the United Nations in the business and human rights agenda.

The Council is grateful to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for organizing this event and to the Working Group for guiding the preparations of the Forum. 

I would like to congratulate all involved for having contributed to such a comprehensive and wide-ranging programme to meet the aims of the Forum as set by the Council.   With some 20 plenary sessions and over 25 side events, this is truly a successful collaboration.

I am grateful to the partners and donors who have provided not only substantive and organizational support, but also financial contributions. Your support enabled the expansion of the Forum to cover many relevant and crucial issues, and enable a wide range of stakeholders to take part in the proceedings. These voices from around the world are essential to ensuring that deliberations are informed by the practical experience of all actors.

I wish you successful and rewarding substantive and action-oriented discussions.

With those words I would like to hand the floor over to the Chair, Mr. Makarim Wibisono, and once again thank him for his acceptance of the nomination.

Thank you very much for your attention.