Business and Human Rights National Forum 2022 - Opening remarks
November 18, 2022
Opening Remarks by Ms. Elaine Conkievich
UNDP Mongolia Resident Representative
Business and Human Rights National Forum 2022
18 November 2022
Your Excellency, Mr. Amarbayasgalan, Minister and Chief Cabinet Secretary
Your Excellency, Ms. Axelle Nicaise, Ambassador of the European Union to Mongolia,
Ms. Bayasgalan S, Secretary General of Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
UNDP Mongolia is pleased to co-organize the National Forum on Business and Human Rights in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and Cabinet Secretariat of the Government of Mongolia in partnership with the European Union and the Government of Japan.
Today’s forum brings much-needed spotlight on human rights issues in Mongolia’s businesses and provides the opportunity to collectively discuss the importance of establishing an overall guidance and proper mechanisms to address adverse human rights impacts and prevent possible risks of future violations.
Today’s National Forum is a part of the broader efforts by UNDP with our partners to strengthen the human rights, gender equality, rule of law and environmental dimensions in socio-economic sphere in Mongolia.
Human rights are fundamental and universal. They are inherent to each and every woman and man, girl and boy, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. Yet, though we all know this, there are countless many who still struggle to be able to exercise their rights, or worse have their rights violated, highlighting the urgency of the situation.
While Mongolia is making efforts to diversify its economic growth, prevent further environmental degradation, and promote women’s empowerment and gender equality, it is important that these efforts are sustainable and inclusive and particularly are geared to supporting women, while also not negatively impacting women nor men’s health or wellbeing.
According to the National Statistics Office, women in Mongolia are paid 17% less than men across sectors and women employment is 16% lower than men. Women are leading only 24 of the TOP-100 enterprises of Mongolia as of 2021. Gender equality is a basic human right which needs to be actively promoted, which means understanding the different needs of women, and men, in the business sector.
With regards to the environment, in Ulaanbaatar where 60%+ of the population resides, nearly 90% of soil samples are contaminated and the air is deeply polluted threatening health of millions, in particular children and pregnant women. In rural communities, thousands of others are afflicted by growing environmental pollution, pasture degradation, desertification, and depletion of drinking water resources.
Irresponsible and careless business practices have contributed to these threats to Mongolia’s wellbeing. But all is not lost, businesses can and are able to champion solutions by not only mitigating but also preventing potential risks of human rights infringements in their operations by putting in place responsible practices and proper guidelines and monitoring their implementation regularly.
To support this, in 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which you will hear more about today. These are a set of guidelines for governments and businesses to prevent, address and remedy adverse impacts of business activities on human rights.
The principles are now being widely adopted by nations around the world and Mongolia has also embarked on the development of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now joined by the Cabinet Secretariat. One main progress to date, has been completion of a National Baseline Assessment on Business and Human Rights in Mongolia with the UNDP’s technical assistance in partnership with the European Union
Development and approval of National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights would be an instrumental step for Mongolia toward establishing the necessary legal and policy framework. This framework would set clear guidelines for businesses to follow and implement in respect to human rights as well as strengthening of remedy mechanisms for human rights violations.
To conclude, I would call upon leaders, experts, and development partners here today to strongly advocate for human rights in your respective fields to ensure human rights are respected and protected and no one is left behind in our collective pursuit for greener and sustainable future we want, and we need.
UNDP Mongolia remains committed to working with all our partners and stakeholders to ensure successful implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Mongolia including through finalization and implementation of the National Action Plan.
Thank you for your commitment to the principles of Business and Human Rights and wishing everyone a good Forum today.