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UN rights body to do more work on business standards Print

UN rights body to do more work on business standards


By Frances Williams - 14.4.2005

The  United Nations  Commission on Human Rights is next week expected to give the go-ahead for further work on the human rights responsibilities of business, which activists hope will lead to greater accountability for violations by companies.

The UK, Argentina, Nigeria, India and Russia, with the support of 30-40 other nations, yesterday presented a resolution to the current commission session calling for the UN secretary-general to appoint a special representative to "identify and clarify" human rights standards applicable to multinationals and other business enterprises.

The sponsors hope the resolution will be adopted by consensus, though several key countries, including the US, Japan, Pakistan and Egypt, have not made their position clear.

Campaigners are disappointed that the draft resolution made no reference to the need to strengthen international standards and implementation, contained in a resolution approved by last year's commission.

But diplomats involved in the discussions said it was more important to go "step by step". For the same reason, there is no mention of the controversial draft "UN norms" for business, an attempt to codify companies' human rights obligations under existing international law, which sparked strong objections from business groups last year.

Under the terms of yesterday's draft resolution, the special representative would make an interim report to the commission next year, with a final report and recommendations in 2007.
One key area of the proposed mandate includes reviewing the undefined notions of “complicity" and "fear of influence". The aim would be to clarify when companies could be held complicit for human rights violations - for instance, human oil companies have been accused of complicity in abuses such as forced displacement in Sudan - and to what extent they have responsibility for protecting human rights outside their direct operations.
Employer groups say governments, not companies, are responsible for upholding human rights.

 
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