UN: Corporate responsibility breakthrough

Following several years’ research in this area by an expert Sub-Commission at the UN, and further discussion at the UN over the last few weeks, this formal request was made by the UK government on behalf of Japan, Norway, Sweden, Australia, South Africa, Hungary, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mexico, Belgium, Ireland, and the Czech Republic.

All members of the Commission then agreed the ‘Decision’ that the Office of the High Commissioner will produce a report on business responsibilities.

Specifically these countries have asked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to compile a report setting out the scope and legal status of all existing initiatives and standards on business responsibilities with regard to human rights, including the UN Norms for Business (1).

Amnesty international UK Media Director Lesley Warner said:

“This timely move adds to the impetus on business and governments to ensure that companies respect and protect human rights throughout their global operations.”

Amnesty International welcomes the Commission’s acknowledgement of the need to strengthen standards and implementation mechanisms on the responsibilities of business with regard to human rights.

The human rights organisation urges the OHCHR to draw on the Norms and their related Commentary as a principal source in the identification and assessment of existing standards relevant to business.

In the Decision agreed today, governments at the Commission requested the OHCHR to consult all relevant stakeholders, including business, governments and civil society, in compiling the report.

Amnesty International intends to contribute to the preparation of the report and expects that these consultations will be conducted openly and transparently.

Lesley Warner concluded:

“The Norms are already being ‘road-tested’ by a group of leading companies and we hope the Office of the High Commissioner will benefit from the experience of these companies when writing the report.

“We urge all companies to review and develop their own human rights policy frameworks with reference to the UN Norms, as some have already begun to do, and to engage positively in the compilation of this report.”

1. The Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

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