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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN Global Compact Private Sector Forum

21 September 2020

Video message by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet
21 September 2020

I am pleased to address this Private Sector Forum.

Coupled with the climate emergency, COVID-19 is the gravest global threat in generations.

This is a time of global disruption and transformation, which reminds us of the essentiality of multilateral, multi-sector cooperation.

In that regard, I welcome the “Statement from Business Leaders for Renewed Global Cooperation”.

It is paramount that you strengthen your engagement with the multilateral system, through representative organizations. We must all create a conducive global environment for decent work, investment, and sustainability.

I recognise that we are living times of uncertainty, a time when most companies are facing complex challenges and difficult decisions.

Business policies, operations and decisions must have human rights at their core. At all times. 

Human rights due diligence can help identify, assess and address risks generated by global challenges, as well as to shape a relevant response, individually and in collaboration with other stakeholders.

The pandemic is a human tragedy that has exposed and exacerbated deep and disturbing inequalities, as well as systemic discrimination throughout our societies.

We cannot ignore these challenges.

Everyone must have access to a safe and affordable vaccine, universal health coverage, social protection and other fundamental rights.

We have a duty, and at the same time a great opportunity, to build back better.

How we recover and rebuild from the pandemic will largely depend on global solidarity and multilateral action, with the involvement of all sectors of society.

The private sector plays a critical role.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights guide businesses – and governments - towards a sustainable social and economic recovery based on human rights and in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

It is encouraging to see that more and more companies are recognising their human rights responsibilities, in relation to their activities and their value chains, even in times of crisis.

But we need to move further and faster – with concrete steps.

This the time to deliver on commitments. To translate them into practice.

The actions we take now can lay the foundations for a new social contract, one that is more just and inclusive, one that can make us more resilient to future crises.

And greater resilience will also require strong, capable institutions.

Building back better means strengthening our commitment to human rights and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

It means investing in health and education, social protection, strong institutions and sustainable infrastructure, while directing the economic recovery along a more sustainable and carbon neutral trajectory and closing the digital divide.

And it demands global solidarity.

The commitment of the private sector to human rights and good governance will be essential to overcome this crisis and to build the just and prosperous world we want. 

Thank you.