Thank you Madam President,
We have moved far since the debate on business responsibilities for human rights started in the 90s. Today, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is the authoritative global standard on the respective roles of business and governments in ensuring companies’ respect for human rights and thus important driver for new and more effective policies on business and human rights.
Norway welcomes the first report of the Working Group on human rights and business. We support the strategy developed by the Working Group and its focus on implementation of the Guiding Principles.
In our view, the main challenges are securing accountability of business enterprises and providing clear and progressive incentives for corporate actors, both domestically and abroad.
Governments, international organisations, the private sector and other stakeholders have all a crucial role to play in developing clear and efficient incentives for implementing the Guiding Principles across different sectors. While there isn’t necessarily a business case for doing responsible business, applying the Guiding Principles has to make sense also from a business perspective.
This requires for instance 1) communication of clear expectations from governments towards corporate actors. Implementation would also be simplified through 2) development of practical tools to address the challenges on the ground. The human rights challenges differ from country to country and from sector to sector. It is therefore crucial to establish sector-specific guidance and guidance on specific countries and contexts when developing implementation strategies.
An important question in this regard is how states can require or encourage businesses to engage in due diligence to prevent, mitigate and remedy adverse human rights impacts. This would also require multi-stakeholder efforts to develop high quality and practical tools and guidance.
Will the Working Group look into possibilities for developing requirements for business due diligence in the area of human rights?
Another key challenge is the need for coherent government policies, across the different government roles as policy maker, owner of business enterprises, public procurer, investor etc.
To this end, Norway has established an inter-departmental group to guide the implementation with an initial task of defining roles and responsibilities between different government bodies. The inter-departmental group is complemented by a multi-stakeholder network, which functions as an advisory group to the government on issues related to CSR. Due diligence is singled out as one of the key issues for consideration this year is issues related to implementation of the Guiding Principles.
We will kindly ask the Working Group to elaborate on the issues of defining clear expectations for business` compliance with the Guiding Principles as well as of ensuring government wide coherence in the field.
Debt service can be an obstacle to development and poverty reduction. Consequently, Norway welcomes the independent expert’s report on guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights.
We find many interfaces between the principles and Norwegian debt relief policy. Norway is a small debtor and our debt relief actions are most important from a normative perspective.
The guiding principles are important at a normative level in the international debt policy endeavour, not least because the principles demand active risk evaluations by the debtors and considerations of how the loans may earn the interests of the poor people of the borrower countries. In article 67 of the report the independent expert is explicit that borrower states should conduct participatory periodic audits of their debt portfolios in accordance with national legislation designed for this purpose. This is an approach we would agree to.
We would like to seek the independent expert’s advice on how the relationship between foreign debt and human rights could be clearly defined. Human rights address the relationship between the state and its people. Consequently, international society may contribute to developing framework conditions, but cannot bear the responsibility for realizing human rights in individual countries. This balance should be reflected in reflected in resolutions on foreign debt and human rights as well, and we appreciate further clarifications by the independent expert in this regard.
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