First ever Human Rights Checklist for Business launched

The new booklet summarises existing international law, treaties and codes on human rights relevant to business, and will help those in the bidding for contracts in Iraq ensure they do not become guilty of human rights abuses during the critical rebuilding period.

The six-page Amnesty International publication, The Human Rights Responsibilities of Companies, is a quick and easy guide to implementing human rights policies. It includes pointers to existing law on child labour, workers' trade union rights, working with sub-contractors, and ensuring security arrangements do not lead to torture, ill-treatment or curtailing of freedom of expression.

Peter Frankenthal, Amnesty International UK Business and Human Rights Manager, said: 'Companies are already well aware of the risks of being associated with human rights abuses - in the diamond extraction and sports goods manufacturing scandals for example. For those who want to implement human rights policies in their operations however, the plethora of treaties, conventions, codes and guidelines make it difficult to know where to start. Amnesty International's booklet can help companies take the first steps.'

Around half the Global Fortune 250 companies now produce social and environmental reports. Particular pressure has mounted on companies in the UK to assess their human rights impacts following the Association of British Insurers' call on companies it represents to disclose social and ethical risks so as to assess their value.

In response to this The Human Rights Responsibilities of Companies has been produced in consultation with governments, other NGOs and the business community. It is based on work recently undertaken by the UN Sub-Commission on human rights.

Peter Frankenthal continued: 'Companies now expect to be scrutinised for their human rights practice. Having a rigorous human rights policy in place is the only way to prepare for unforeseen human rights issues which might arise in countries where human rights are routinely violated. The materials now exist for businesses to set new international standards of leadership in human rights practice.'

Background

Media reports in the UK and the US have named companies who have put in bids for Iraq reconstruction contracts with the US Agency for International Development (USAID). These bids are for contracts to repair ports, airports, schools and health services, and are for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Human Rights Responsibilities of Companies can be downloaded online . It is also available direct from Amnesty International on 020 7417 6382.
A longer version is available online at: www.umn.edu/humanrts/links/businessresponsibilitycomm-2002.html

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