Rights holders at the centre: Strengthening accountability to advance business respect for people and planet in the next decade
11th Forum on Business and Human Rights
November 28, 2022
Excellencies, distinguished delegates of the Members of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a pleasure to be with you today on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme.
Even since we last convened this Forum, new and evolving threats and crises have endangered decades of progress on human rights, the rule of law, justice, and security.
Amid this perfect storm of colliding crises, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights remain a powerful guide.
Earlier this year, UNDP completed a series of regional baseline studies on business and human rights in Asia Pacific, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
The results should be a call to action for us all.
Twenty-one million people are estimated victims of forced labor worldwide.
Violence, intimidation and retaliation against Human Rights Defenders, Indigenous Peoples and communities protecting their land is on the rise.
Even in developed economies, gender pay-gaps remain a common practice – in some places women are making 30 percent less for equal work.
These results illustrate that despite its promise, the conduct of meaningful and effective Human Rights Due Diligence processes is a practice still confined to a small number of multi-national enterprises in developed countries.
While abuses continue in high numbers, remedies for human rights and environmental harms arising from business activities generally remain weak or inaccessible.
And yet, against this background we have encouraging evidence of progress.
New policy initiatives from Governments have begun and are progressing in the right direction, including with UNDP support:
- Processes to draft National Action Plans have started this year in Nepal, Ghana, Mozambique and Mexico, while same processes are nearing completion in Vietnam, Indonesia and Mongolia.
- In Peru and Thailand, existing plans are already being implemented at decentralized level.
- Japan adopted the Guidelines on Respecting Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains, thanks to the able leadership of, Special Advisor to Prime Minister Gen Nakatani as we heard from himself just now.
National Action Plans and guidelines continue to play a critical role to keep the needle moving in the right direction in a smart mix with mandatory norms.
In this regard, I look forward to the entry into force of the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act soon and the finalization of the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.
Going forward, greater ambition and faster pace must remain our imperative.
This will not happen unless we agree to take a more decisive steps, take greater risks, convince more and larger parts of society to become agents for change.
Consumers, media and youth must be mobilized to provide the bottom-up pressure. Civil society actors can more actively advocate in public debate to hold corporations accountable.
Capacity building on human rights due diligence must become available to small and medium size companies.
Stronger alliances must be forged with peacebuilders and environmental experts to support companies facing complex situations where human rights considerations are intertwined with hostilities or harms to the planet.
UNDP is keeping this ambition well in mind as we approach another year of support to UNGPs implementation in 27 of our field operations, on five continents.
With generous support from the Government of Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and the EU, we will pursue new strategies in partnership with OHCHR, ILO, OECD, UNICEF among others.
The road ahead will no-doubt present all of us with more hurdles and unexpected challenges, but if we increase our ambition and place people at the center of our efforts, we can weather this storm together.