16.07.2015 | UN Human Rights

UN experts

Corporations must contribute to sustainable development by respecting human rights

GENEVA – The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights this week urged Governments across the world to ensure that corporations do not undermine sustainable development, and called for greater transparency and accountability for how businesses address human rights risks and impacts.

“States must set a clear vision for connecting the increasing role of the private sector and businesses in development with accountability and agreed standards for business practices aligned with human rights,” the independent expert group said in a letter to lead negotiators as they enter the final stages of negotiating the ‘Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.’

Last week, two key outcome documents were made public after months of negotiations: the draft Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, being held in Addis Ababa from 13 to 16 July 2015; and the final draft outcome document for the UN Summit in New York in September 2015.

“The goals are ambitious, as they must be, calling for ‘a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity,’ ‘free of poverty, hunger, disease and want,’ and ‘free of fear and violence,’” said Margaret Jungk, who currently heads the Working Group, applauding the Agenda and its message about the need for all parts of society to contribute.

In their letter, the experts highlight that the draft outcome documents stress the critical importance of engaging all relevant stakeholders, including business and the private sector, in implementation of the new Agenda. However, they caution that business activities can also undermine respect for human rights if not properly regulated.

“It is critical to ensure that recognition of the increased role of business in development is coupled with adequate accountability,” the human rights expert said.

“A simple way of addressing this in the draft outcome documents would be to reference the UN Guiding Principles on Business on Human Rights, the authoritative framework to prevent and address adverse human rights risks and impacts of business activities, agreed to by UN member states in 2011,” Ms. Jungk added.