Global Agenda Council on Human Rights 2012-2013
Globalization presents challenges for the protection of human rights, including the need to address the social consequences of a globalizing economy. There is growing acknowledgement of human rights standards as rules for a globally operating ethical market and increasing attention on the human rights responsibilities of business entities.
Business can make a contribution to the realization of human rights by creating employment, providing sustainable goods and services, creating value and contributing to revenue through tax. However, poor business practices and inadequate regulation can impact negatively on human rights.
International organizations and civil society groups are engaged in efforts to hold corporations accountable for human rights violations.
In June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which clearly define the responsibilities of all relevant actors to protect human rights and provide access to effective remedies for victims of abuses. As the authoritative focal point on business and human rights, the UNGPs clarify responsibilities and solve inconsistencies among business codes that add transaction costs to actors. They offer a “new governance model” that harnesses 21st-century decentralized governance to shape both business and state conduct on this important issue.
The increasing scrutiny of companies has resulted in improved efforts on their behalf to safeguard human rights throughout their operations. Over 301 companies worldwide now have an explicit human rights policy, and many more refer to human rights in their codes of conduct. Many companies are realizing that human rights, far from being a burden on business, can be a powerful tool for developing stakeholder relationships and building long-term value.
- Of the world's 100 largest economic entities, 51 are now corporations and 49 are countries.
“There has been a real sea change in the understanding of the human rights impacts businesses can have.”
Mary Robinson, Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice
“Today, half of the world’s 100 largest economies are private companies… The global business community has grown in power and influence, and so must its responsibility for protecting human rights.”
Melike Yetken, Section Chief, Business and Human Rights, US Department of State, USA
“Global corporations have an enormous impact on human rights – in their employment practices, in their environmental impact, in their support for corrupt regimes or their advocacy for policy changes.”
The Human Development Report 2000
Website of UN Working Party on Business and Human Rights
Institute for Business and Human Rights
Global Business Initiative on Human Rights
OECD Guidelines for Human Rights and Multinational Enterprises Global Compact
DIHR – Danish Institute for Human Rights, Human Rights and Business Project
The Global Agenda Council on Human Rights has chosen as its primary strategic goal to promote the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
It will initiate dialogue among multiple stakeholders to explore the implications of the UNGPs for specific sectors and to gain wider support for this agenda. It will seek to identify and disseminate good practice, share lessons and strategies from frontline sectors, and offer guidance on how human rights should be protected and respected in different business contexts.
The Council also aims to make human rights and business issues “conversant” with other pressing global challenges, such as environment and population growth, and to address the question of how human rights issues should be worked into corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability and corporate ethics strategies, and into other discourses that drive the overall approach of business in this field.
The Council will focus on defining follow-up steps on major global initiatives related to business and human rights; determining challenges and opportunities by sector and region in implementing the Guiding Principles as well as integrating the issue of human rights with other agendas.
Research Analyst: Karen Wong, Global Agenda Councils, firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Manager: Eimear Farrell, Associate Director, Faith, Ethics and Human Rights & Global Leadership Fellow, email@example.com
Forum Lead: Martina Gmür, Senior Director, Head of the Global Agenda Councils, firstname.lastname@example.org