17 November 2015
Welcome to the fourth United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights. I regret that my schedule couldn’t permit me to be in Geneva for this important gathering, but I look forward to following your discussions via web-stream.
This Forum creates a unique space for multi-stakeholder dialogue, so that we can overcome entrenched positions and find practical solutions to effect change.
In doing so, the Forum aims to accelerate the momentum created when the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were endorsed by the Human Rights Council four years ago.
The Guiding Principles provide authoritative guidance on what existing international human rights standards require of both States and businesses, to prevent human rights abuses in the economic sphere, and to provide redress when harm occurs.
There has been notable action spurred by the UN Guiding Principles in a short space of time. A growing number of States are developing national action plans on business and human rights, and today more than two thirds of the world’s 50 largest companies have a specific human rights policy.
However, we continue to see business-related human rights abuses. And we need more active and more principled action by both Governments and businesses.
This is also the message of the new global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Importantly, it recognizes that the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide a framework for accountability as the private sector is encouraged to take a more active role in meeting global development goals.
The role of business in the global development agenda is just one of the issues this Forum will address. Another is the fundamental question of how to ensure proper access to effective remedies for victims – including prospects for a legally binding treaty on human rights and transnational corporations.
My Office will also continue working on the Accountability and Remedy Project, to overcome barriers in domestic legal systems for victims seeking remedy, and ensure that perpetrators of business-related human rights abuse are held to account.
All of us can generate change – sometimes through steps that are simple, and which may seem small. I encourage you to use the Forum to exchange ideas, experiences, and innovative approaches to find the practical solutions that you can apply.