Zeid Calls On Business Leaders to Stand Up for 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

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday called on business leaders gathering at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos next week to use their influence to stand up for human rights and prevent rights violations in countries where they operate.

Responsible business relies on stability – sound institutions, the smooth functioning of justice, sustainable development and public confidence in their personal safety, Zeid said, stressing that human rights lie at the core of such long-term stability.

“Companies need to take a clear, unequivocal stance that they will not tolerate links to human rights abuses anywhere in their operations and supply chains – and to have systems in place to ensure such abuses are actively prevented and promptly addressed,” Zeid said.

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“Many companies have also taken action to defend and promote human rights. We have seen banks withdrawing funding for projects where human rights violations have occurred, for example.”

“Business actors can be powerful advocates for human rights – for the empowerment of women, for equal rights regardless of race, nationality or sexual orientation, for the rights of all to adequate housing, to an adequate standard of living, to education, healthcare and more.”

Zeid commended the steps taken by some leading companies to take a stand against media outlets peddling hate speech and xenophobic content and called on others to show similar leadership and to join in the fight for the global values that are currently under threat.

Zeid also welcomed the increasing participation by large multinational corporations in the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights and the growing implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

He called on the gathering at Davos to reinforce these principles and for business leaders to pledge to stand up for the human rights of all, to the detriment of none.

The UN Human Rights Office launched in December 2016 a global campaign called “Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today.”

The campaign is an effort to galvanize everyone – private sector, governments, individuals, civil society – to play an active role in standing up to defend the human rights of all, at a time when these hard-won rights and freedoms are facing increasing pressures across the world.

High Commissioner Zeid will attend the Davos meeting from 16 to 19 January.

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