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Human rights must be bedrock of "Globalization 4.0", UN experts tell Davos leaders

GENEVA (22 January 2019) – As global leaders meet in Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF), United Nations experts stressed the critical importance of human rights to the Forum’s central theme of “Globalization 4.0: Shaping  a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

“Business and political leaders at Davos must ensure that the Fourth Industrial Revolution works for the most disadvantaged or marginalised individuals and communities, rather than merely for the rich and powerful. That will be possible only if efforts to reshape globalization are built on the bedrock of human rights for all,” said Surya Deva, Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

“We are concerned that the responsibility of all business enterprises to respect human rights throughout their operations appears to be absent from discussions at Davos on how to reshape globalization. Unless this element is fully integrated, ‘Globalization 4.0’ will repeat the failings of the previous versions of globalization,” Deva added.

The experts called on Governments and business leaders to work together to harness the potential of new technologies to achieve sustainable and inclusive development, recalling that:

  1. Business respect for human rights is critical to make globalization work for all and a global authoritative framework already exists in the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.*
  2. A growing number of businesses are showing how to respect human rights in practice by conducting human rights due diligence and by establishing remediation mechanisms, while Governments and investors are starting to play a more active role in incentivising responsible business conduct.** 
  3. Responsible business conduct that avoid human rights harms in itself makes an important contribution to sustainable development.


* The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), 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. The UNGPs have been integrated into a number of other standards, such as the ILO Tripartite declaration of principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy (MNE Declaration) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

** See the executive summary of the Working Group’s report to the UN General Assembly of the Working Group taking stock of business and government action to advance corporate human rights due diligence, as well as the Working Group’s thematic page on corporate human rights due diligence.

The UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (known as the Working Group on Business and Human Rights) was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011 to promote worldwide dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Working Group also guides and chairs the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. The Working Group is composed of five independent experts, of balanced geographical representation. Its current members are: Mr. Surya Deva (Chairperson), Ms. Elżbieta Karska (Vice-Chairperson, Mr. Githu Muigai, Mr. Dante Pesce, and Ms. Anita Ramasastry. The Working Group is 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.

For additional information and media requests please contact:Jeremy J Laurence, Media Officer, at +41 22 9179383 /Jlaurence@ohchr.org or the Working Group/Forum Secretariat at: +41 22 917 9323 / wg-business@ohchr.org).

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