Closing Remarks delivered at the UN Global Forum on Business and Human Rights 2021

Posted December 1, 2021

Responsible business practices are crucial for realizing the 2030 Agenda

UNDP Photo

Remarks as delivered.

In response to the question: What are your reflections from the point of view of the United Nations and more specifically of UNDP on the progress made in the first decade of implementation of the UNGPs and the priorities going forward?

Distinguished members of the Working Group, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to begin by congratulating the UN Working Group and OHCHR for staging the 10th edition of the Forum – a true milestone. I would also like to thank two outgoing members of the Working Group, Surya Deva, Anita Ramasastry, and Dante Pesce, who recently left, for their tireless leadership and service. We look forward to continued cooperation with their successors and the Working Group. 

This year’s Forum looks ahead to the Next Decade of Business and Human Rights. However, the Next Decade is already upon us.

Since we marked the 10th anniversary of the UNGPs in June, Germany and Norway have adopted laws requiring companies to carry out human rights due diligence. The Human Rights Council, citing the UNGPs, adopted a resolution recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

These actions indicate that the Roadmap’s calls for more mandatory human rights due diligence legislation, and for a just transition based on human rights and environmental agendas, are beginning to be put into effect.

Still, much more remains to be done. We need to improve policy coherence at country level. To date, 25 states have adopted National Action Plans, including Thailand and Pakistan with UNDP’s support. But we must intensify our efforts beyond Europe and Asia.

We need to make the UNGPs a buzzword beyond Geneva, New York and Brussels. Fledgling programmes in Tunisia and Sierra Leone are a start; we intend to expand programming to more countries worldwide.

We need to spur state and business action through peer learning. I’m pleased to announce that UNDP and OHCHR will organise a Regional Forum in Africa in May 2022. We need to focus on access to remedy. NHRIs, legal aid systems and judiciaries must receive more support, or the UNGPs risk becoming a ‘toothless tiger’.

UNDP is committed to increasing the pace of the implementation of the UNGPs with key UN and other multi-lateral actors.

Indeed, responsible business practices are crucial for realising the 2030 Agenda and for pursuing the three directions of change prioritized by our Strategic Plan for 2022-2025.

First, achieving structural transformation through a green transition requires businesses to respect the right to a healthy and sustainable environment. This is why we are training businesses to carry out human rights and environmental due diligence.

Second, leaving no one behind entails a rights-based approach to victims of business-related abuses. Accordingly, the UN is supporting civil society to provide them with access to remedy.

Third, building resilience means strengthening responses to crises and to conflict. Hence, we are developing a toolkit for businesses to carry out heightened human rights due diligence in conflict-affected areas.

The implementation of the UNGPs is already integrated in UNDP’s Global Programme on Rule of Law, Security and Human Rights.

We will continue to bring together stakeholders, just as we convened nine UN agencies at this year’s Regional Forums in Asia and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In 2022, we will partner with OHCHR and the African Union to organise a Regional Forum for Africa.

Our efforts would not be possible without our development partners, the Government of Sweden and the EU, who have provided longstanding support to our efforts to implement the UNGPs. These partnerships, and those we are developing with other governments, will enable us to scale up our Business and Human Rights programme from Asia across the world.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The task ahead of us all is not an easy one. However, the level of commitment displayed once again in this Forum encourages us to confront the challenges, one by one, guided by the Roadmap and its key message – that we have to do more, and we have to do it together to ensure the UNGPs fulfil their promise.