Brief Introduction To Human Rights And Business

The relationship between business practices and international human rights standards is a significant area of human rights which has relatively recently been acknowledged following an increase in the number of private enterprises on a global scale. On 21 March 2011, The Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, formulated Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework. In June 2011 the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed these Principles. These Principles are formulated on the following:

  • (a) States existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • (b) The role of business enterprises as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights;
  • (c) The need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached.”

In addition, The UN Global Compact, launched at the initiative of the UN Secretary General in 2000 is “a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. By doing so, business, as a primary driver of globalization, can help ensure that markets, commerce, technology and finance advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere.”

Overall, the Global Compact pursues two complementary objectives:

  1. Mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world
  2. Catalyze actions in support of broader UN goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The UN Global Compact advocates for business enterprises to promote and implement the ten principles which relate to human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. These principles are founed on:

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • The International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
  • The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
  • The United Nations Convention Against Corruption
  • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and
  • Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
  • Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  • Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
  • Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour;
  • Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
  • Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
  • Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility
  • Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies. Anti-Corruption
  • Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.