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Davos: Zeid calls on business leaders to stand up for human rights

GENEVA (13 January 2017) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today called on business leaders gathering at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos next week to use their considerable influence to stand up for  human rights and prevent rights violations in countries where they operate.

“We begin the year full of anxiety about the state of the world: the deeply disturbing increase in divisive behaviour and policies, and outright hatred; the attacks against fundamental human rights, particularly of those already vulnerable; and the continued widespread failure to ensure fair access to resources, prosperity and economic security for all,” High Commissioner Zeid said.

“The hard-won laws and principles of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights are increasingly imperiled, and the business leaders gathering in Davos next week have a key role to play to stem this terrible tide and to insist upon respect for human rights in the States 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. Many companies have already begun taking steps to prevent and mitigate human rights abuses in their operations in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including by setting up ways for people to safely lodge complaints,” Zeid said.

“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.

ENDS

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.  Please visit www.Standup4humanrights.org to learn more. 

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

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 /rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org ) or Liz Throssell  ( +41 22 917 9466ethrossell@ohchr.org )

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