GENEVA/PARIS (21 June 2018) – A group of UN experts is urging States to use their trade, finance and investment incentives to promote business respect for human rights.
“Now is the time for global policy makers to take the reins in driving change to promote business respect for human rights through responsible trade support, in compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” said Anita Ramasastry, Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
“Export and trade promotion services are an important part of States’ economic development strategies, yet scant attention has so far been given to the significant adverse human rights impacts that may be linked to such State support,” said Ms Ramastry.
The experts pointed to the wide range of assistance provided by States for businesses engaged in trade and export. They noted that those services often included selecting companies for participation in trade missions, export promotion and marketing for companies through trade and commercial officers in embassies overseas.
Advocacy by senior government officials on behalf of companies bidding for major overseas projects was also often provided, as well as political risk insurance, guarantees and support at major trade shows.
“Export credits, in particular, account for huge amounts of funds, and much more must be done to prevent negative human rights impacts of State-backed development projects,” Ms Ramasastry said.
The Working Group is presenting its conclusions on 21 June at the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct in Paris and to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 22 June.
At the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Working Group will lead discussions focusing on how States can drive positive change. The Working Group has welcomed the new OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct launched at the Forum, aimed at getting corporations to respect human rights in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles.
The Working Group will present its report* to the Human Rights Council on 22 June 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland.
* See also the executive summary (“economic diplomacy” as a tool for States to promote corporate respect for human rights)
The UN 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: Ms Anita Ramasastry (current Chairperson), Mr. Michael Addo, Mr. Surya Deva, Mr. Dante Pesce (current Vice-Chairperson) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga.
The Working Group and Special Rapporteurs 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.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 (resolution 17/4), provide the authoritative global standard for action to safeguard human rights in a business context, clarifying what is expected by governments and companies to prevent and address impacts on human rights arising from business activity.
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This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.