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Human rights must lead Azerbaijan’s future development agenda – UN expert group

BAKU (27 August 2014) – Human rights and open dialogue should be at the heart of Azerbaijan’s economic development, the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights concluded at the end of a 10-day visit to the country.*

The experts noted that Azerbaijan had significantly reduced poverty through increased oil and gas revenue in recent years. In addition, its laws and regulations have gradually been brought into line with international human rights standards.

“Free and vibrant social dialogue is critically important to the promotion of business and human rights. It allows different views to be aired to ensure well-informed policymaking,” said human rights expert Pavel Sulyandziga, member of the Group’s delegation.

“It is a matter of concern to me that a number of prominent civil society actors were placed in pre-trial detention just before our visit and that human rights organizations face problems with accessing bank accounts and registering,” Mr. Sulyandziga added. “The Government must ensure that the legitimate and peaceful activities of human rights defenders are not obstructed”.

The experts looked at current initiatives, opportunities and challenges to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Azerbaijan. The Guiding Principles, endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, provide authoritative guidance on how to prevent and address adverse impacts on human rights of business activities.

“The laws of the country are a sound basis for human rights to be protected, respected and promoted. To achieve this all actors - Government, business and civil society – should adhere to the prescribed rules and regulations,” said Puvan Selvanathan, the other member of the Working Group’s delegation.

“Business can contribute positively and should do so responsibly. Collaborating more effectively with civil society and Government will ensure sustainable and equitable growth as Azerbaijan transitions from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy”, Mr. Selvanathan added.

The Working Group will present its final observations and recommendations from the visit in a report to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.

(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement:
English: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14965&LangID=E 
Azerbaijani: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/WGSubmissions/2014/StatementEndMissionAzerbaijan_AZ.doc

The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. The five members are Mr. Michael Addo (Ghana), Ms. Alexandra Guáqueta (Colombia), Ms. Margaret Jungk (USA), Mr. Puvan Selvanathan (Malaysia) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga (Russian Federation).

The Working Group is independent from any government or organization. Its members serve in their personal capacities. They are not UN staff members and do not receive a salary for their work. The Working Group 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   

Check the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx 

UN Human Rights, country page – Azerbaijan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/AZIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Ulrik Halsteen: +994 50 2570782 / +41 22 917 9323 (after 27 August) / wg-business@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN mandates:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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