Statement on transnational corporations and HR

Mr. President,

I have the honor to speak on behalf of Argentina, Ghana, Russia and my own country Norway.

We would like to start by thanking the Working Group for their efforts to engage all stakeholders and support the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

We welcome the report of the working group, which underlines the need for all UN agencies and programmes to further embed the Principles throughout their activities in order to improve policy coherence for inclusive and sustainable development. We also agree with the conclusion in the report by the OHCHR on the need for a global fund to enhance the capacity of stakeholders to implement the Principles. The report underscores how a lack of capacity within States, civil society and business enterprises is a continuing barrier to the effective implementation of the Principles. If the UN is to strengthen its support to individual states and other stakeholders, we believe there is a need to strengthen international cooperation in capacity building.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have continued to gain ground the last year. Six states have issued National Action Plans during the last years, and more than 20 states in all regions of the world, have committed to or are in the process of developing one. Surveys indicate that a growing number of companies are taking steps to implement the Principles. The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that 85 % of a large global sample of business leaders believe human rights was a concern for business. The Human Rights Resource Centre have found that 34 of 50 top companies around the world have a human rights policy. This is an evidence of the real universality of the Principles and their authoritative role in promotion and protection of human rights only four years after their endorsement by the Council. We encourage all states to take appropriate steps for their implementation, in accordance with their priorities and circumstances.

We also call on all businesses to support the development of national action plans to implement the Principles. We will not achieve progress in this field without the engagement of business. Global implementation of the Principles will also contribute to more predictability and transparency for businesses that are operating abroad.

We are very pleased to see the increasing and significant role of the annual Forum for Business and Human Rights, as the largest global gathering of governments, business and civil society to discuss challenges and solutions in this field.

While there are many examples of improvements, the need for application of human rights in the economic sphere is massive. We need to close the implementation gap, between existing norms and international obligations and realities on the ground, and step up our collective efforts to prevent and address violations of human rights caused by business activities. We note the reported high number of submissions on alleged abuses linked to business activities from several special procedures. We support their assertion as to the important and legitimate role of trade unions, civil society organizations and human rights defenders in raising awareness of the human rights impacts and risks of some business enterprises and activities.

Against this background, we welcome the status report by the OHCHR on the Accountability and Remedy project. This timely project aims at developing practical recommendations and guidance for States on how to achieve a fairer and more effective system of domestic law remedies in cases of business-related human rights abuses, including in cross border cases. The early findings demonstrate the potential of the project to explore practical ways to increase access to judicial remedy for victims. We call for states positive engagement in the project, be it through the on-going global on-line consultations relating to the way that legal systems respond to allegations of business involvement in severe human rights abuses, or in dialogue and expert meetings in the autumn. We look forward to the final recommendations and guidance in the OHCHR report next summer.

Mr. President,

The challenges in this field are massive and complex, and involving a very high number of players. The very concrete challenges in this field requires a smart mix of policies and regulation, engagement by all stakeholders, and a step-by-step, knowledge based approach. The Human Rights Council should continue to send a strong and unequivocal message to business, States, civil society, international organisations and other stakeholders on the need to step up the concrete and practical implementation efforts in this field, turning political ambitions into realities now