Argentina must uphold human rights protections in business activities even amid economic crisis: UN experts
28 February 2023
GENEVA / BUENOS AIRES (28 February 2023) – Even amidst a macroeconomic crisis, Argentina has an obligation to ensure respect for human rights in the context of business activities, UN experts said today.
“Argentine authorities must ensure human rights protection in all business activities, especially at a time when these are viewed as a potential solution to the country’s economic problems,”the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights said in a statement at the end of an official visit to the country.
The experts warned that failures in this respect would mean that Argentina was not fulfilling its obligations under the international human rights treaties it has ratified.
“Argentina must not forget that people, communities and the environment need to come first. Strengthening the economy by causing irreparable damage to peoples’ health and biodiversity is not a viable way forward,” said Pichamon Yeophantong, chairperson of the Working Group.
“Argentina has numerous constitutional human rights protections, has ratified a large number of relevant international conventions and, in general, has adequate laws and regulations,” the experts said. “However, we have identified a significant gap in the implementation and enforcement of legal and regulatory frameworks across the board,” they said.
“Argentina needs to urgently address these systemic problems,” the experts said.
During the visit, the experts met with representatives of government, civil society, trade unions, Indigenous Peoples, and private and State-owned companies to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
Recognising promising policy developments by the State, in particular the incorporation of a gender perspective and social inclusion, the experts said that the human rights protection of some groups within the country still lags behind. According to the experts, these inequalities have been accentuated by the overexploitation of natural resources, with serious impacts on human rights that must be addressed.
“The invisibility suffered by Indigenous Peoples and Communities, historically excluded and discriminated against and who have systematically had higher poverty rates and less access to health and education, is alarming,” said Fernanda Hopenhaym.
During their visit, the Working Group said they witnessed the impacts on the rights to health, a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, water and sanitation, participation, access to information, subsistence, and development.
“Major barriers to accessing justice and the weakness of certain State institutions, makes affected individuals and communities feel hopeless,” they said. The experts urged Argentine authorities and businesses to strengthen efforts to prevent these negative impacts and guarantee access to remedy. “When appropriate, reparations must be made considering the cumulative socioeconomic and ecological impacts that these communities have been suffering," they said.
The Working Group visited the provinces of Neuquén, Catamarca and Chaco, and held meetings with different actors, including from the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, and from the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Jujuy, La Rioja, Misiones, Río Negro, Salta, San Juan and Tucumán. They also received written reports from other provinces.
A final report on the Working Group’s visit, including findings and recommendations, will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2023.
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 human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Working Group reports 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.
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.