24 October 2016
I am delighted to open the second session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations, and other business enterprises, with respect to human rights.
I congratulate Her Excellency Ambassador María Fernanda Espinosa on steering your inaugural session last July, as well as your discussions in the interim period on the scope, nature, form and content of the proposed legally binding instrument.
Business entities have vast and growing impact on peoples' lives – from working conditions, to how and what we consume, and the surveillance and ownership of our personal data. They affect gender relations within society, our environment, our neighbourhoods and access to land and other resources. This impact on human rights can be positive – but experience demonstrates that when businesses pay insufficient attention to human rights issues, they will often infringe on people’s human rights.
The need for the victims of business-related human rights abuses to be able to access remedy cries out for much more attention. My Office fully supports all constructive efforts to ensure accountability and access to effective remedies.
The Accountability and Remedy project which we have set up can complement other efforts aimed at preventing business-related human rights abuses – including at the international, regional and national level, and within companies.
I also note that our recent report on Improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse was followed up in the Human Rights Council by a strong resolution, adopted by consensus. I hope its guidance and recommendations will be of use to your discussions.
I welcome your embrace of civil society voices, and the constructive engagement of States, business representatives and trade unions in your discussions. Each of these diverse voices brings an important perspective to the challenge of identifying effective ways to prevent and redressing business-related human rights abuse, and of ensuring greater accountability and remedy.
We share the goal of ensuring better protection of human rights in the economic sphere. You have our full support, and I wish you success in your deliberations.