Full Statements from Stakeholders

We asked a range of stakeholders from around the world to share what they felt were the key achievements of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights over the last five years, as well as the challenges that still remain. Their responses are provided in full below.

 

Key Achievements of the UNGPs in the past 5 years: 

"The UNGPs have distilled and catalyzed an understanding of business’ role in society that focuses on impacts on people. They mark a significant shift away from voluntary philanthropy that is disconnected from a company’s core business, and toward a standard of conduct focused on how companies make their money, not how they spend it. For the first time, the UNGPs firmly establish that companies’ responsibility to respect human rights extends through their business relationships, with implications for all tiers of their value chains."

Caroline Rees, President & Rachel Davis, Managing Director, Shift

 

"The main achievement of the UN Guiding Principles has been the clarity it has provided about international human rights standards and the distinct but complementary roles and responsibilities of both governments and companies. There is now a common standard that businesses, governments and civil society alike understand and accept. Companies embracing their responsibility to respect have been grappling with the challenge of full and effective implementation. And by restating the role of governments, the UN Guiding Principles have brought the state back into action and made clear states cannot abdicate their duties" 

- Institute for Human Rights and Business

 

"The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are beginning to change the direction of travel of companies.  No longer can they ignore the human rights context of their operations, whether it be Apple selling products containing cobalt from DRC, where abuses of artisanal miners are rife, or Formula 1 holding a grand prix in Azerbaijan where political opponents and human rights monitors are languishing in prison."

- Peter Frankental, Economic Relations Programme Director, Amnesty International UK

 

"For an organization like Cividep India which focuses on workers' rights in the global apparel, electronics, leather and tea/coffee supply chains, UNGP provides an overarching framework to hold companies accountable to the working conditions. Though national companies in countries like India are yet to invest substantially in complying with the guiding principles, some global brands have begun acting upon it and that is welcome."

- Gopinath Parakuni, General Secretary, CIVIDEP India

 

“Business can only flourish in societies in which human rights are respected, upheld and advanced. The UN Guiding Principles  provide much needed clarity on roles and responsibilities for State and Business and increase awareness of the challenges and opportunities we all face. They help drive internal and external dialogue and action, wherever in the world we operate. They are a roadmap for proactive engagement and give invaluable guidance across our value chain."

- Rachel Cowburn-Walden, Global Senior Manager for Social Impact, Unilever

 

"Five years on from the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles, we have seen a significant increase in investor awareness and attention to human rights. The PRI-coordinated engagement on human rights in the extractives sector, which uses the UN Guiding principles as a framework, has seen an unprecedented level of investor support - with 51 investors with assets under management of $7.3 trillion engaging with 32 companies to improve their policies, practices and disclosure on human rights.” 

- Fiona Reynolds, Managing Director, Principles for Responsible Investment

 

"We see the UNGPs as another voluntary approach adopted by UN, which is to ensure that companies voluntary commit to respect human rights violations. Yet 5 years on, we see that companies are still engaged in operations and projects that violate these rights, and there is no efficient enforcement mechanism nor an instrument for redress for affected people. The UNGPs have not brought us any closer to getting access to justice and stop corporate impunity."

- Lucia Ortiz, Economic Justice International Program Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International

 

"If it wasn’t for a clear understanding of the role of governments to PROTECT, for companies to RESPECT, and for civil society actors and workers' representatives to ensure ACCESS TO REMEDY, then the UK’s Modern Slavery legislation – and in particular its Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) clause – would not have seen the light of day. Neither would it be as credible in the eyes of key stakeholders, in particular companies, MPs and civil society organisations that had been advocating for stronger legislation on corporate transparency and accountability for several years. What tipped the argument was a letter to the Prime Minister, signed by all of the major UK brands and retailers (as well as trade unions and NGOs), that called for stronger legislation to help them prevent and address modern slavery in their own operations and supply chains. They argued that this was essential to create a level playing field that would enable responsible businesses not to be undercut by unscrupulous ones.  

 

ETI was proud to play an influential role in this: drafting that letter to the Prime Minister, convening meetings with companies, trade unions and NGOs, working closely with other key stakeholders, briefing Ministers, MPs and Peers, engaging with the media etc. It resulted in a form of legislation and statutory guidance that is now cited as an international model of good practice."

- Cindy Berman, Head of Knowledge and Learning, Ethical Trading Initiative

 

"The UNGPs opened the door to having serious political discussions on business and human rights. It’s now time for the EU and Member States to translate their public commitments into effective plans, which challenge old recipes based on voluntary measures."

- Jerome Chaplier, Coordinator, European Coalition for Corporate Justice

 

"I think the most important achievement​ is that UNGPs are now being widely discussed with both governments and business. As the Qatar Forum has demonstrated, the issues can be pressing for the host country. Nevertheless, Qatar has showen the readiness to discuss these issues in an open format."

- Sergey Solianik, Consultant, Crude Accountability

 

"The UNGPs have shifted the conversation from whether business have human rights obligations to whether businesses are doing enough to prevent, mitigate and redress violations associated with their operations. The glass is half full not half empty."

- Rose Kimotho, Programme Manager for East Africa, Institute for Human Rights and Business

 

"Over the past five years, the UNGPs have facilitated an unprecedented level of engagement, dialogue, creative thinking, and multi-stakeholder processes that have contributed to the normalization of the notion that businesses have human rights responsibilities, and States have legal duties to ensure that these responsibilities are being met."

- Sara Blackwell, Legal and Policy Coordinator, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)

 

"Human Rights, and in particular the provisions of the UNGPs, have become an integral aspect of the wider business responsibility discourse." 

- Viraf Mehta, Former Chief Executive, Partners in Change

 

Key Challenges Going Forward: 

"Looking ahead, we must continue unapologetically to hold companies to account for human rights abuses connected to their business, and ensure that there are real consequences for those who don't take their responsibility seriously. At the same time, we need to build a positive agenda for companies to engage with their stakeholders in devising new solutions to systemic problems, and to be appropriately recognized and rewarded when they do so. We need both approaches if we are to speed up and scale up the necessary changes in how business gets done."

Caroline Rees, President & Rachel Davis, Managing Director, Shift

 

"The major challenge five years on remains the absence of effective remedies for grave human rights abuses involving companies. While company-provided grievance mechanisms are important and disputes are best resolved early and amicably, some impacts are too grave, their scale too high. Those require accountability, and that has yet to be achieved."

 - Institute for Human Rights and Business

 

"States are proceeding at a glacial pace to develop their action plans to implement the Guiding Principles, lacking the will to close the accountability gaps that enable companies to get away with abuses. Despite the widespread violations that businesses cause or contribute to, prosecutions are a rarity while effective remedies for victims are conspicuously lacking." 

- Peter Frankental, Economic Relations Programme Director, Amnesty International 

 

"Most workers in global supply chains are very vulnerable, being migrants, women or unorganized and therefore access to remedy is a big challenge. If remedy is not to remain elusive and human rights violations have to cease, the National Action Plans of countries, including those of the manufacturing ones, need to be scrutinized closely and critiqued. Global brands need to do much more in conjunction with their suppliers to uphold fundamental rights at work and communities' right to unpolluted environment."

- Gopinath Parakuni, General Secretary, CIVIDEP India 

 

"We think the UN members should engage in the UN treaty process for binding rules for business (resolution 26/09), as affected people and communities around the world desperately need international binding standards that companies will be accountable to. They should adopt binding rules to provide access to justice for victims of TNCs Human Rights violations and define sanctions to stop corporate impunity. This UN Treaty should be built on the perspective and needs of the victims of human rights violations and not on business perspective."

- Anne van Schaik, Accountable Finance Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe

 

"Now, five years on, the key challenge for the UNGPs remains effective implementation, both legislatively and regulatively. At the country level, the good will created by the voluntary process of creating a National Action Plan on business and human rights will diminish if governments do not follow through on their commitments to implement binding changes, such as legislate new norms, enforce regulations, and hold themselves and companies accountable for violations in the courts of law."

- Benjamin Cokelet, Founder and Executive Director, Project PODER

 

"While the UNGPs is an excellent framework, putting it into practice in sustainable ways, and having strong evidence to demonstrate its value will be one of the biggest challenges in the next five years. Companies are better at understanding that they need to conduct human rights due diligence, but less clear about what to do about labour rights risks when they are found, and how to provide effective and adequate remedy for workers. ETI has just released a new Due Diligence Framework that is aimed at building a path for long-term change in business practices and increasing workers’ access to their rights. We believe collaboration and multi-stakeholder approaches are critical in operationalising the UNGPs, and will seek to demonstrate good practice by piloting this approach in specific supply chains, countries and industries."

- Cindy Berman, Head of Knowledge and Learning, Ethical Trading Initiative

 

"The UNGPs opened the door to having serious political discussions on business and human rights - but it’s now time for the EU and Member States to go beyond public commitments and show political will. Ensuring that business is held accountable for how it impacts human rights means delivering action-oriented plans with more teeth, which challenge old recipes based on voluntary measures."

 - Jerome Chaplier, Coordinator, European Coalition for Corporate Justice

 

"The main challenge for UNGPs implementation in Central Asia will be the overall worsening of the human rights situation due to the strengthening of authoritatrian tendencies and also reduction of foreign investments inflow to the region, which will result in lowering of standards by authorities in order to attract companies."

- Sergey Solianik, Consultant, Crude Accountability

 

"Who shall be the champion? I feel the UNGPs have no real champion and that's why they are faltering. They have not evolved beyond an idea into something concrete and even within the UN body, they have not found a home. OHCHR is great, but it is not well known and often poorly resourced."

- Rose Kimotho, Programme Manager for East Africa, Institute for Human Rights and Business

 

“One of the main challenges of the UNGPs is that its implementation has not prioritized extraterritorial responsibilities of states of origin of transnational companies.” [Translated from Spanish]

- Proyecto de Derechos Economicos, Sociales y Culturales (PRODESC)

 

"Going forward, a key challenge in terms of sustained faith in the facility of the UNGPs will be in demonstrating tangible outcomes on the ground in terms of human rights protections in the context of business. While principles and processes are vehicles toward change, it is people and actual practice that should remain at the centre of what drives the business and human rights movement."

- Sara Blackwell, Legal and Policy Coordinator, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) 

 

"Des propositions de témoignages relatifs à un défi pour les principes directeurs qui pour nous demeure le non respect de l'engagement des entreprises de protéger, respecter les droits de l'Homme des communautés et leur apporter une réparation adéquate

-          Un chef du village de Bonikro de la localité de HIRE/Région du Lôh Djiboua)  rélève : « Il nous ont délocalisés ici sans nous accorder un centimètre d’espace de plus. Conséquence, nous ne pouvons pas construire d’autres bâtiments. Nous sommes obligés de dormir à plusieurs dans chaque pièce. Nous n’avons plus d’intimité dans nos foyers »

-          Une Dame soutient que les engagements pris par NEWCREST afin de leur permettre de créer des activités génératrices de revenus n’ont malheureusement jamais vu le jour. Les veuves de BONIKRO et de BANDAMANKRO se sentent marginalisées dans le processus de dédommagement des plantations laissées par leurs défunts époux

-          Un jeune du village (Localité de HIRE/Région du Lôh Djiboua) témoigne de ce qui suit : « Les jeunes gens du village que Newcrest avait promis d’employer sont laissés pour compte à ce jour au profit des employés venus soit des autres contrées de la Côte d’Ivoire, soit de la sous - region alors que nous sommes des voisins directs de la mine. »

- Pedan Coulibaly, Coordinatrice Nationale de la Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH), Coordinatrice du Comité de Suivi des Recommandations de l'EPU, Membre Fondateur du Centre Féminin pour la Démocratie et les Droits Humains en Côte d'Ivoire (CEFCI)

 

"Key Challenge - uptake by small and medium enterprise of the UN Guiding Principles."

- Viraf Mehta, Former Chief Executive, Partners in Change

 

"Although the UNGPs recognize the huge impact of transnational corporations and other enterprises on human rights, to the extent of addressing them or calling upon them independently of the states as duty bearers of human rights, the UNGPs are too voluntary and need more effective mechanisms for implementation.

In countries of the South, with weaker legal frameworks, weaker enforcement, less transparency and accountability, this voluntary commitment is almost absent, international corporations generally behave here differently and much worse  than they do in their original countries.

We have noticed a flourishing of initiatives connecting business and HR. Corporates may use this as window dressing. We have international companies who are members in more than one of these without being reflected on their commitment to human rights."

- Ragia Elgerzawy, Health and Environment Officer, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights 

Looking ahead, we must continue unapologetically to hold companies to account for human rights abuses connected to their business, and ensure that there are real consequences for those who don't take their responsibility seriously. At the same time, we need to build a positive agenda for companies to engage with their stakeholders in devising new solutions to systemic problems, and to be appropriately recognized and rewarded when they do so. We need both approaches if we are to speed up and scale up the necessary changes in how business gets done.