Joint statement on business and human rights

Mr. President, 

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

This session marks the fifth anniversary of the endorsement by the Human Rights Council of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Through its endorsement the Council established a global standard for action and accountability to prevent and address business-related human rights abuses.

In many ways we can look at significant progress. The Guiding Principles have been widely recognised by States, business and other stakeholders. The business and human rights field has proliferated. 10 States have issued National Action Plans during the last years, and around 20 states in all regions of the world, have committed to or are in the process of developing one. A growing number of companies are taking steps to implement the Principles. The Guiding Principles have been integrated in a number of domestic, regional and international processes and frameworks.

However, as we all recognize, legal and practical barriers to remedies for business-related human rights abuses may leave those aggrieved without opportunity for effective remedy. In some cases the situation is made worse by intimidation of victims, witnesses, and their legal representatives. Concrete and systematic action by States to make remedy a reality is still much needed.

The OHCHR report on the Accountability and Remedy Project marks the conclusion of a two-year effort to address barriers to access to remedy in business and human rights cases, with a focus specifically on domestic judicial mechanisms.

The Core Group has been pleased to see the thorough process of research and consultations that OHCHR has undertaken, including by comprehensive analysis of challenges and legal frameworks in in all regions. We thank the OHCHR for their accomplishments.

By offering advice on how States can address these common and specific barriers, the OHCHR report helps us to move beyond statements to concrete action to ensure that remedy becomes more than a lofty goal.

The core group aims to support the uptake of the advice of the report by a resolution in this session dedicated to improving accountability and access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses. The resolution points to the challenges and calls on stakeholders to use recommendations and advice of the report in their actions to implement the UN Guiding Principles.

The advice in the report is a resource to assist States achieving enhanced accountability and access to remedy,in a manner that is appropriate for their respective legal structures, resources and other factors. It should not be regarded as a prescriptive or exhaustive list of actions required to achieve this objective. Regardless of the diversity of viewpoints on the best strategies in the realm of business and human rights, the recommendations by OHCHR represent a ‘baseline’ of policy objectives that States can use as desirable objectives and strive towards independently.

We also believe it offers a valuable base for other stakeholders, including business, civil society, non-governmental organisations, national human rights institutions and the Working Group for Business and Human Rights in their work for change and improvement. We call on all States to engage constructively in the consultations of the resolution and join consensus on the way ahead.

Thank you.