Thursday, May 9, 2013

US companies discuss guiding principles on business and human rights with the UN Working Group

I wonder if the implementation of article 24 was part of the discussion at this meeting that took place on April 29, 'hosted jointly by the UN Global Compact and BSR as part of an information-gathering visit to the United States by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights'. You can read a preliminary report of their one week visit (April 22-May 1) in the US here. It does contain a few criticisms.

U.S. Companies Discuss Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

(New York, 29 April 2013) – United States companies examined the challenges and opportunities of implementing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights at a roundtable convened today at UN Headquarters. The discussion was hosted jointly by the UN Global Compact and BSR as part of an information-gathering visit to the United States by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
In the two years since the Guiding Principles were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, businesses in the U.S. and around the world have worked to incorporate the Principles into their operations domestically and throughout their value chains.
Approximately 50 executives representing the U.S. business community – in sectors ranging from information technology (IT) and manufacturing to financial services – candidly shared their perceived strengths and weaknesses on human rights, which helped the UN Working Group to identify obstacles and ideas to better support U.S.-based companies as they tackle these issues moving forward.
Discussions demonstrated that, while challenges exist in implementing the Guiding Principles, proactively embedding a human rights lens can also lead to new business opportunities and help identify risks that otherwise would not be discovered.
On the occasion of the roundtable session, expert representatives of the UN Working Group commented on the wide-ranging significance of the Guiding Principles. “The Guiding Principles are relevant to all businesses,” said Michal Addo. “Not just because they present an agreed-upon minimum standard, but because they are about the impact businesses have on people’s lives.”
Puvan J. Selvanathan, also an expert representative of the UN Working Group, stated, “The task at hand – translating the Principles into Practice – is immense, but also presents a historic opportunity. I urge companies and other stakeholders to share with us their experiences and best practices.”
About the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
The Guiding Principles provide an authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impact on human rights linked to business activity. They establish the “Responsibility to Respect” as the minimum global standard on human rights for all business enterprises wherever they operate. The Guiding Principles were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011.
Relationship of the Guiding Principles to UN Global Compact Commitments
As a global standard, the Guiding Principles provide conceptual and operational clarity for the two human rights principles championed by the Global Compact. Principles relating to the responsibility to respect human rights are of particular relevance to the commitment undertaken by Global Compact participants. Principle 1 calls upon companies to respect and support the protection of human rights; and Principle 2 calls upon businesses to ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses. In addition to respect for human rights, participants in the Global Compact have committed to support the promotion of human rights. More information is available here.


Marie Wibe
Policy Advisor, Human Rights
UN Global Compact

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