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New migration pact highlights key role of business in protecting migrants, say UN experts

GENEVA (20 December 2018) – UN experts today welcomed a call in the recently adopted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) for States to partner with business to protect the rights of migrants and to ensure they share economic benefits they generate.

"For the first time, the vast majority of UN Member States recognise that a cooperative approach is essential to facilitate the overall benefits of migration, while addressing its human rights risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination. It could not be more timely," said Dante Pesce, who chairs the UN Working Group on business and human rights, Ms. Urmila Bhoola, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and its consequences,and Felipe González Morales, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

The experts welcomed the GCM’s emphasis on genuine public-private partnerships, based on shared values and responsibilities, to facilitate the economic contribution of migrants while protecting them from human rights abuses.

"Migrant workers all over the world are too often subjected to unethical recruitment processes, indecent work conditions and lack of social protection. In fact, these challenges are among the most critical that our societies face," the experts said.  

These challenges require governments to immediately start to implement the agreement, they said. For example, States can strengthen labour inspections and take effective measure to ensure that employers do not confiscate passports and identity documents of migrant workers.  "To foster responsible business practice, governments should use regulation and policy to promote business respect for the rights of migrant workers. They should also lead by example, including in operations of State-owned enterprises and in public procurement."

Private sector employers must also respect the rights of migrants, act collectively and engage in key activities designed to identify solutions towards ensuring the GCM objectives are met in practice. For example, the GCM asks States to work with employers to ensure that migrant workers are provided with written contracts and are made aware of how to access effective complaint and redress mechanisms, in a language they understand.

"Sound and comprehensive State regulations of occupational health and safety protections and fair remuneration for millions of migrant workers in low-wage sectors, combined with adequate human rights due diligence by companies to prevent abuses of migrant workers across their supply chains are concrete examples of shared action toward the situation of migrant workers," the experts said.

The experts noted that the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights clarify what is expected of States and business enterprises. They welcomed the GCM’s reiteration that the Guiding Principles apply in situations affecting migrant workers and that they must be implemented to protect migrant workers against exploitation and abuse, both in their countries of origin and destination.

The GCM is the first, inter-governmental agreement prepared under the auspices of the United Nations to cover international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.  It was adopted in Marrakech, Morocco on 10 and 11 December 2018 and presented at the General Assembly on 19 December. It includes 23 objectives for better managing migration at local, national, regional and global levels.


The UN experts: Mr. Surya Deva (Vice-Chair), Ms. Elżbieta Karska, Mr. Githu Muigai, Mr. Dante Pesce (Chair) and Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; Ms. Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and its consequences; Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and Ms Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Independent experts 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. 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. They 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 further information and media requests, please write to wg-business@ohchr.org or contact Ulrik Halsteen (+41 22 917 93 23).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (jlaurence@ohchr.org)

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. 

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.