Responsible business conduct in times of war: how government, business, and the public sector can foster sustainable recovery of Ukraine's economy

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international conference on business and human rights was held in Kyiv.

December 27, 2023
Photo: Andrii Krepkykh / UNDP in Ukraine

Kyiv, December 27, 2023 – The Ministry of Economy of Ukraine, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine and the Government of Japan, organized an international conference in Kyiv dedicated to the economic recovery of Ukraine based on human rights values.

The event, "Recovery of Ukraine based on responsible business conduct: values and standards," engaged over 100 representatives from government, businesses, civil society organizations, academia, human rights defenders, and international experts. Participants discussed the most pressing problems of implementing the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights, OECD standards of responsible business conduct, as well as challenges, barriers, and opportunities for responsible business and the implementation of human rights due diligence standards.

During the event, Jaco Cilliers, UNDP Resident Representative in Ukraine, said that business plays one of the key roles in the recovery of Ukraine. "Human rights, gender equality, and non-discrimination must be at the core of all socio-economic solutions and recovery plans. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide a clear concept for this, the implementation of which will bring numerous benefits for the sustainable economic recovery of Ukraine, ensuring that no one is left behind," he said.

Welcoming participants Deputy Minister of Economy Volodymyr Kuzyo noted that the recovery of Ukraine is a common goal for Ukrainian society, authorities, business, and international partners. It should be grounded in the principles of responsible business conduct. "Ukraine's recovery plan should leverage its potential to ensure corporate sustainability and responsible business conduct as an overarching principle of the European legal order. This principle is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, OECD standards, and is reflected in numerous EU regulatory initiatives. The National Contact Center's role, operating within the Ministry of Economy and implementing the OECD Guidelines, should be further strengthened," he said.

UNDP Business and Human Rights Specialist Sinisa Milatovic said that the recently approved EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive draft, if enacted, will serve as a powerful legislative instrument to motivate companies to evaluate their impact on human rights and the environment, both directly and within their supply and value chains. “Consequently, it is crucial for Ukrainian businesses to be aware of these trends now, to effectively prepare for the upcoming regulatory shifts in the EU,” he said.

During the event, participants discussed how the standards of responsible business conduct contribute to a human-oriented, fair, and sustainable recovery of Ukraine, and how to integrate these standards into the recovery process. They also explored the next steps that the government, authorities, businesses, and civil society can take for a sustainable and resilient recovery of the country based on human rights values.

The conference was held in partnership with the civil society organization Social Action Center, the Yaroslav Mudry National University of Law, the European Business Association, the UN Global Compact Network in Ukraine, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, and the Kyiv School of Economics.

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