17 November 2015 at 9.00 am
Assembly Hall, Palais des Nations
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be with you today on behalf of the Presidency of the Human Rights Council to open the Fourth Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. The President, Ambassador Joachim Ruecker would have very much liked to be here, but is currently on mission in New York.
I would like to warmly welcome all distinguished participants and, in particular Ms. Diana Chavez, who has kindly accepted the important task of chairing this year’s Forum. She has extensive experience in this field, including from her current functions as Executive Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Support Center of the UN Global Compact. She will certainly contribute to making this Forum a success.
The Human Rights Council established the annual Forum on Business and Human Rights in 2011 to promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights, and to discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business on Human Rights.
The fact that the level of interest and participation in this Forum has grown year on year, since the first forum three years ago, clearly shows the growing importance of the business and human rights agenda.
The Human Rights Council plays a critical role for advancing this issue globally, and the unanimous endorsement of the Guiding Principles in 2011 was nothing less than groundbreaking. As the Council reaffirmed last year (in its resolution 26/22), the Guiding Principles “established an authoritative framework to prevent and address adverse human rights risks and impacts of business activities.”
With regard to recent activities of the Council, let me just note that earlier this year, from 5 to 19 July, the Open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights held its first session. You will find a summary of deliberations in the draft report available on the OHCHR website. Her Excellency, Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations in Geneva, was elected Chairperson-Rapporteur, and I am pleased to see that she is also amongst the speakers at this Forum.
The inter-governmental process aims to elaborate a human rights treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The first session of the inter-governmental working group included a panel focusing on the linkages between the treaty initiative and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These linkages will undoubtedly be explored further also during this Forum.
The business and human rights agenda covers a vast array of themes and human rights issues. The rich programme of the Forum shows the complexity of this agenda. Yet, one overarching concern underlies all discussions, namely the need to close the “governance gap” between corporate influence and accountability, so as better to prevent business-related human rights abuse and ensure access to effective remedies for victims when harm occurs.
The Forum is an ideal venue for such deliberations, given the way it brings together, on an equal footing, all stakeholder groups: States, business, non-governmental organizations and affected individuals and communities.
I wish you all an engaging, inspiring and fruitful Forum, and without further ado, I would like to hand you over to the distinguished Chair for her opening remarks.