A group of UN experts has urged states to use their trade, finance and investment incentives to promote business respect for human rights.
“Now is the time for global policymakers to take the reins in driving change to promote business respect for human rights through responsible trade support, in compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” said Anita Ramasastry, chairperson of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
“Export and trade promotion services are an important part of states' economic development strategies, yet scant attention has so far been given to the significant adverse human rights impacts that may be linked to such state support.”
The experts pointed to the wide range of assistance provided by states for businesses engaged in trade and export.
Those services often included selecting companies for participation in trade missions, export promotion and marketing for companies through trade and commercial officers in embassies overseas, according to a UN press release issued in Geneva yesterday. Advocacy by senior government officials on behalf of companies bidding for major overseas projects was also often provided, as well as political risk insurance, guarantees and support at major trade shows.
“Export credits, in particular, account for huge amounts of funds, and much more must be done to prevent negative human rights impacts of state-backed development projects,” Ramasastry said.
The working group presented its conclusions yesterday at the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct in Paris and it is scheduled to do the same to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva tomorrow.
At the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct, the chair and vice chair of the working group will lead discussions focusing on how states can drive positive change.
The working group has welcomed the new OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct launched at the Forum, aimed at getting corporations to respect human rights in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles.
The working group will present its report to the Human Rights Council today in Geneva, Switzerland.