On International Human Rights Day, EU and UNDP Sign Partnership Agreement to Address Human Rights Issues in Business Operations in Asia

December 10, 2019

UN and EU flags

On International Human Rights Day, the European Union (EU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a partnership agreement to jointly implement the four-year programme, “Business and Human Rights in Asia: Enabling Sustainable Economic Growth through the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework” (B+HR Asia). Valued at USD 6.1 million, (i.e. 5,5 million EUR), this joint initiative will promote the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in six countries: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Kanni Wignaraja, Assistant Secretary General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific, noted that, “Through this partnership with the EU, we will address human rights risks and abuses in business operations while helping to enhance business contributions to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.” She added that, “I am particularly excited to see SDG 16 on Peace and Justice reflected in the project’s focus on access to remedy, especially given the alarming number of attacks against environmental and human rights defenders in South and Southeast Asia.”

The B+HR Asia programme will support policy development on the UNGPs, raise awareness and knowledge of the UNGPs among a variety of stakeholders, providing guidance to government, business, and civil society actors on human rights due diligence processes and human rights impact assessments. This EU-UNDP initiative also aims to mitigate risks and address human rights abuses of vulnerable groups, including migrants, women and Indigenous Peoples, working in high-risk industry sectors.

Hilde Hardeman, Director, Head of the European Commission's Service for Foreign Policy Instrument, noted that, "Promoting and protecting human rights are guiding principles in all the EU’s policies, inside the EU, and abroad. With this new programme in Asia, the European Union is further stepping up its action to enhance human rights in business operations, mitigate risks and address human rights abuses.” Ms. Hardeman also stated that, “Working in partnership with UNDP on Business and Human Rights is a reflection of the confidence the EU has in multilateral approaches to solving complex, global challenges.”

Driven mainly by bilateral interventions in the above six Asian countries, the EU and UNDP partnership will complement the ongoing support, since 2017, provided by the Government of Sweden to the regional project, “Business and Human Rights in Asia: Promoting Responsible Business Practices through Regional Partnerships.”