On October 23, 2012, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael H. Posner hosted a discussion with investors on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Guiding Principles). Participants discussed strategies for investment firms to incorporate the Guiding Principles into their regular business practices as well as the use of non-financial factors in decision-making. The workshop was an important step to finding joint solutions to human rights challenges in a complex global economy.
Assistant Secretary Posner addressed the U.S. Government’s approach to the first pillar of the UN “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework, the “State Duty to Protect” human rights, and encouraged investors to think critically about implementing the Guiding Principles. He noted the U.S. Government’s work to date, which includes the issuance of groundbreaking human rights due diligence reporting requirements for U.S. persons seeking to invest in Burma, and the launch of a $500,000 program to help implement the Guiding Principles around the world.
The Guiding Principles are the first set of guidelines on business and human rights endorsed by the UN and provide an important resource for corporations, states, civil society and other actors as they work to strengthen their respective approaches to business and human rights. The principles are organized under a three pillar “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework, providing that states have a duty to protect human rights, businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, and there should be greater access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse.
This was the third State Department-hosted workshop on the UN Guiding Principles this year. The first workshop, held in April, targeted the general business community and focused on respecting human rights in business operations. The second was held in July, and targeted members of civil society, academia, and think tanks. It focused on strategies and priority-setting with regard to U.S. government implementation of the UN Guiding Principles.