Human Rights Norms for Business

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered at on 23 March 2005.

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Photo of Ms Debra Shipley Ms Debra Shipley Labour, Stourbridge

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what role the Government envisages for the UN Human Rights Norms for Business in clarifying the responsibilities of multinational corporations with regard to human rights.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Trade) (also Department of Trade and Industry), Minister of State (Department of Trade and Industry) (Trade) (also Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

While there is merit in clarifying minimum standards for business in relation to human rights, we believe that future action on this agenda should take into account the many codes and initiatives which exist in this field, rather than focussing exclusively on the draft norms. These include the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, the International Labour Organisation Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and the UN Global Compact. This approach is in line with the recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on this issue.

Through the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights, a number of multinational companies have been road-testing" the draft norms, using the content to inform their codes of practice. This process will continue until December 2006. In addition, the FTSE4Good benchmark takes the draft norms into account in its assessment of companies' performance. And some potential investors consider the draft norms in their requirement for human rights impact assessments".

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