Address by Dafina Gercheva, UNDP Ukraine Resident Representative, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, 19 June 2021

June 22, 2021

This month, June 2021, marks the tenth anniversary of the unanimous endorsement of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) by the Human Rights Council.  A decade ago, the adoption of these principles was a major step forward in addressing business-related human rights abuses.  But steps forward in the right direction do not always take us to where we need to be.  That is why we must stay vigilant and ensure that human rights are observed in all business activities everywhere in Ukraine.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights call on all governments to protect human rights, and request that all businesses of every size, shape and sector respect them.  It furthermore appeal to both business and Government to provide access to remedy and remediation for rights violations.   

I believe the Government of Ukraine is working towards this goal, and I commend it for integrating business and human rights into the new National Human Rights Strategy for 2021-2023. We stand ready and look forward to working with the Government to support the implementation of this strategy.

Last year, UNDP published the results of a third wave of surveys to measure changes in perceptions and knowledge on human rights in Ukrainian society.  The study revealed that 17 percent of Ukrainians had witnessed labour rights violations, and 15 percent had witnessed non-payment of salaries. These human rights violations are most likely to occur in the informal sectors, where according to official statistics, 3.5 million people were employed in 2019. The types of abuse in the shadow economy include forced labour, numerous forms of discrimination, unequal pay, unequal treatment, unsanitary and unsafe working conditions, and little to no social protection.

When crimes like these happen – and they are crimes – the impact extends beyond the victims and hurts all Ukrainians. For example, they cause many people to migrate abroad in search of decent jobs and improved living conditions. Because of this, the population of Ukraine is projected to drop from 43.7 million in 2020 to 35.2 million in 2050 – a 19.5 percent decline.

I believe a more widespread respect for human rights in business could reverse this trend.  The European Union is the country’s most important export market, but has yet to be fully explored and developed. In doing so, it will be important for Ukraine to be in step with EU efforts to fully embrace the Guiding Principles, including the mandatory human rights due diligence procedures.  This will bring significant benefits in the form of decent job creation and sustained and sustainable economic growth that will keep more Ukrainians in their home country.

In conclusion, I would like to stress the need for us to work closely together and support Ukraine to further the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  UNDP stands ready to continue working with the public and private sectors in this effort to “build forward better” and accelerate sustainable development and responsible business conduct  in a way that leaves no one behind.