High-level meeting on Business and Human rights at UN Human Rights Council

FIDH advocates the Human Rights Council to strengthen national, regional and international legal frameworks on business and human rights and to ensure the adequate prevention and remediation of corporate-related abuses, as highlighted in FIDH briefing paper.

High-level meeting on business and human rights
On 4th of June 2014, FIDH – in collaboration with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) – convened a high-level meeting in Geneva, with the participation of distinguished representatives from UN permanent missions of African, Arab, Latin American and European countries.

This meeting was an opportunity to discuss the needs and options within the Human Rights Council for enhancing international standards with regard to the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and ensuring redress mechanisms for those affected by corporate-related human rights abuses.

Moderated by Geneviève Paul, Head of Globalisation and Human Rights for FIDH, the meeting counted on the participation of speakers from the academia, the business sector and civil society experts :

 Regine Barth, Head of Environmental Law & Governance Division, Öko-Institute in Germany, presented the conclusions of the EU-funded IMPACT project, which look at assessing the impact of voluntary CSR activities in the EU countries. Conclusions of the study highlight the limited impact of voluntary measures, the role regulation can play in flagging potential risks for companies as well as the interconnectedness between regulation and voluntary commitments. The study demonstrates how companies have tended to go beyond regulatory requirements even in sectors with strict regulation.

The question should be "What kind of regulation and how much voluntariness?" rather than "Voluntariness OR regulation?"

 Bertrand Swiderski, Sustainability Director for the Carrefour Group, one of the world’s leading retailers, highlighted the importance of dealing with social and environmental issues in a non-competitive way. Mr. Swiderski insisted on the importance for Carrefour to operate in countries with robust legal frameworks to ensure respect for human rights, recalled the need to create a level-playing field for businesses and the Group’ support for international regulation on these matters.

We need international standards because working conditions must not be a matter of competition”.

 Carlos Lopez, Senior Legal Adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, the importance to address governance gaps as identified by Professor John Ruggie and to ensure the international architecture could better address the negative impacts of economic globalisation. M. Lopez insisted on the need for an institutional forum within the UN to discuss, together with all stakeholders, the need to strengthen international law and standards on business and human rights.

« An internationally binding framework is necessary to close two gaps : the accountability gap and the remedy gap ».

 Debbie Stothard, FIDH Secretary-General, insisted on the urgency to act, particularly in a global context of increased of alarming harassment, attacks, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings of land and environmental rights defenders acting harm occurring as a result of business activities. Recognizing the valuable contribution of the United Nations Guiding Principles and the work of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Ms. Stothard insisted on the complementarity of between the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights and further enhancement of standards.

#bindingstandards can be impetus for national legislation: these are both mutually reinforcing dynamics towards #corporateaccountability

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