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G7 leaders’ commitment to human rights in supply chains must be followed by action – UN expert group

GENEVA (12 June 2015) – The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights welcomes the commitment made by G7 leaders this week in Germany to promote labour rights, decent working conditions and environmental protection in global supply chains.

The declaration from the G7 leaders’ summit highlighted unsafe and poor working conditions among the top challenges facing the world economy. It expressed strong support to the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights* as a way to overcome challenges.

“We welcome this unprecedented show of commitment from the highest level in some of the world’s major economies to improve business conduct in supply chains,” said human rights expert Michael Addo, who currently heads the expert group. “Now, this commitment must be translated into concrete action to ensure transparency and accountability.”

The Working Group is urging all states and business groups and companies across the world to put into practice the Guiding Principles strongly supported by the G7 leaders, as the globally agreed standard for addressing human rights challenges in business activities. Adopted by the UN’s member states in 2011, this standard consists of three ‘pillars’, which all governments and companies are expected to implement.

Under the ‘State Duty to Protect,’ the Guiding Principles recommend how governments should provide greater clarity of expectations and consistency of rule for business in relation to human rights. The ‘Corporate Responsibility to Respect’ principles provide a blueprint for companies on how to know and show that they are respecting human rights. The ‘Access to Remedy’ principles focus on ensuring that where people are harmed by business activities, there is both adequate accountability and effective redress, judicial and non-judicial.

“We are pleased that G7 leaders also express support for the development of effective national action plans to implement the UN Guiding Principles,” Mr. Addo noted. “Both Governments and companies must take action to avoid negative impacts on human rights in global supply chains.”

Access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights harm is a core aspect of the UN framework, and the experts also welcomed the explicit commitment by G7 leaders to strengthen mechanisms for providing access to remedies and lead by example in this area.

“It is encouraging that the G7 nations are committed to putting this issue also on the agenda of the G20. It is critical that all major economies in the world get behind this movement,” Mr. Addo said. “G7 leaders must now ensure words are followed by meaningful action, to the benefit of workers and communities affected by business operations around the world.”

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

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. Michael Addo (current Chairperson-Rapporteur), Ms. Margaret Jungk (Vice Chair), Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga, Mr. Dante Pesce and Mr. Puvan Selvanathan. It reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly. For more information visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx 

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For additional information and media requests, please contact Ulrik Halsteen: +41 22 917 9323 / 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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