What Is the Role of Financial Institutions to Promote Human Rights?

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Pierre Albouy
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

Although, at times, the financial sector may seem situated a long way away from human rights violations on the ground, they play an important role in the chain of events which impact the protection of human rights of many people.

“A growing number of financial institutions are seeking to integrate social and human rights criteria in their lending operations,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Zeid also emphasized the importance of pledging to standards and principles in guiding the work of the financial sector to prevent and mitigate human rights risks.

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The UN Human Rights chief made his comments during the Business and Human Rights Forum.

The Forum, which is in its fifth year, brings together business executives, NGOs, activists and others to discuss ways to embed human rights in the world of business. This year, one of the focuses was on finding a way to harmonize the work of financial institutions with human rights.

There has been a growing mobilization within the financial sector to enhance their commitment to promoting human rights and actively fighting derogations and violations, particularly in the public sector.

By including the assessment of human rights risks beyond the existing social, environmental and labour risks, such institutions can encourage the companies they invest in to uphold holistic human rights standards in their business practices.

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Rakesh Raman