Your Excellencies, Professor Ruggie, distinguished guests,
Please allow me to begin by thanking His Excellency, Minister Annen, for hosting this event and by congratulating the Federal Republic of Germany for recently assuming the Presidency of the European Council. I would also like to thank Professor Ramasastry and Professor Pesce, Chair and Vice Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights for convening such an impressive group of stakeholders to discuss the future of Responsible Business
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a shattering impact on livelihoods and jobs; up to 100 million persons could be pushed into extreme poverty and 400 million people could lose their jobs.
Despite commendable examples of businesses acting responsibly during the pandemic by respecting their workers’ labour rights, for some businesses the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the tendency to ignore human rights standards.
UNDP is responding to these challenges through our network of 170 country offices and by leading in the UN system on the socio-economic response to COVID-19. Our response recognises that we can only ‘build back better’ from this crisis through a comprehensive approach to human rights and responsible business practices. Fortunately, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provides a sound basis for such an approach.
Since their adoption in 2011 we have seen the development of 20 National Action Plans, businesses introducing human rights due diligence processes, and victims seeking redress for human rights violations.
While it is heartening to see progress in parts of Europe, Asia and Latin America, we still have a long way to go. Migrant workers are subject to intensified exploitation due to COVID-19, and women face discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, human rights defenders face unacceptable reprisals.
UNDP’s contribution and plans
UNDP has been working on advancing the business and human rights agenda since 2016 when we started a regional programme in Asia, built around the participation and partnership of governments, businesses, Civil Society organisations, National Human Rights Institutions, trade unions and other stakeholders.
Our work has been strongly aligned with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, ILO and the OECD.
Our collaboration will now grow. Last week, UNDP launched a Global Initiative on Business and Human Rights building on our achievements in Asia, which will incrementally expand to the rest of the world.
The Global Initiative will have four main fronts:
1. Supporting governments in developing and implementing National Action Plans;
2. Strengthening access to justice for victims of business-related human rights abuses;
3. Advising corporations on how to address human rights risks; and
4. Enabling peer-learning for government officials, businesses, civil society and national human rights institutions.
We are honoured to partner with the Working Group and OHCHR, to chart the lessons learned since the adoption of the Guiding Principles and accelerate their implementation. Over the coming 12 months we will be hosting regional consultations, which will guide the development of a joint Roadmap for the Next Decade of Business and Human Rights.
Our network of five regional offices and 170 country offices will be leveraged to ensure all relevant stakeholders, including representatives of vulnerable and marginalised groups, are consulted on the way forward.
UNDP believes that the elaboration of this Roadmap should be guided by the goals set in the 2030 Agenda and the Secretary General’s Call to Action for Human Rights.
Summing up and extending thanks
In implementing our business and human rights programmes, UNDP has received generous support from the European Union, and its member states Sweden and Germany, for which I would like to thank Commissioner Reynders and His Excellency Annen.
I would also like to thank the European Union and its member states, including Germany, for their leadership in promoting responsible business practices, including originating the idea of National Action Plans and current proposals to introduce mandatory human rights due diligence.
The development of the Global Roadmap will be in the vein of these pioneering efforts. It will embody the tenets of participation and partnership that UNDP believes are crucial to ensuring responsible business practices for the 2030 Agenda. We look forward to working closely with you in this important effort to realise the Sustainable Development Goals.