On Monday, April 30, 2012 at the State Department, representatives of major multinational corporations from a wide range of industry sectors attended a workshop on implementing the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The workshop focused on best practices and key challenges in respecting human rights in business operations. This is an important step toward collaboration to find joint solutions to human rights challenges in the face of an ever more complex global economy. The U.S. State Department will convene similar consultations with civil society later this year.
The workshop was co-hosted by Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner, and Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez. In an opening address, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Maria Otero laid out the Department’s approach to working with businesses to contribute to global prosperity, while ensuring they operate in a manner that protects against human rights abuses. The approach emphasizes:
- Maximizing the contributions of private sector innovation to meet global challenges and improve human welfare.
- Exploring new ways for government and business to work together to further shared goals and address challenges in complex environments.
- Establishing clear guidelines and reliable processes so that businesses can do their part in respecting human rights.
Former UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights John Ruggie and the Shift Project facilitated the workshop, which furthered public-private efforts to strengthen businesses’ human rights policies and practices.
The Guiding Principles are the first global set of guidelines on business and human rights endorsed by the UN, and provide an important framework and focal point for corporations, states, civil society and other actors as they work to strengthen their respective approaches to business and human rights.