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UN experts call on G20 leaders to protect human rights in global supply chains

GENEVA (28 March 2017) - As G20 members meet in Geneva to prepare a ministerial declaration for more inclusive global economic growth, an open letter* from a group of UN experts stresses that sustainable supply chains can be achieved only if human rights are protected and respected.
Global supply chains have contributed positively to economic and social development, but are also linked to significant negative human rights impacts, the letter from the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights underlined.

“All too often, global supply chains are associated with human rights violations and abuses such as unsafe working conditions, child and forced labour, livelihoods destroyed by toxic industrial wastes, land seizures without compensation, and persecution of those who speak up against such abuse,” said Michael Addo, who currently heads the UN Working Group.

“This reality starkly highlights that for supply chains to become socially sustainable, human rights must be respected and protected,” Mr Addo stressed.

Noting how the activities of companies in global supply chains directly affect the lives of millions of people, both in the workplace and in communities, the Working Group underline the enormous potential of global supply chains to realize sustainable development if governments and companies acted together to uphold human rights.

“The G20 represents 85 percent of global economic output, 75 percent of world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population, and includes both major ‘developed’ and ‘emerging’ economies. G20 leaders are therefore uniquely placed to address the human rights risks and impacts associated with global supply chains. They also have a unique responsibility to demonstrate leadership on this critical issue for our time,” Mr. Addo emphasized.

The UN experts clarified that G20 commitments and action to promote sustainable supply chains must be founded on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,** the world’s agreed standard for preventing and addressing the adverse impact of business on human rights.


(*) Read the letter and the full list of recommendations here:

(**) Read the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights:

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 current members are: Mr. Michael Addo (current Chairperson), Mr. Surya Deva, Mr. Dante Pesce, Ms. Anita Ramasastry and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga. Learn more.

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 human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Working Groups report to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly.  Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.     

For additional information please contact the Working Group Secretariat: +41 22 917 9323/ wg-business@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Bryan Wilson, UN Human Rights -   Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9826 / Mediaconsultant1@ohchr.org)  

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