Human Rights Working Group Meets under New Terms of Reference

(Geneva) – The United Nations Global Compact’s Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) met on 28-29 September in Geneva to discuss how to promote respect and support for human rights among the Global Compact’s participant base and in business more generally. The multi-stakeholder group, which is co-chaired by Global Compact Board members Sir Mark Moody-Stuart and Pierre Sane, comprises representatives of business, civil society, trade unions, the UN, and academia. The HRWG was recently relaunched under revised Terms of Reference (TOR) that articulate clearer rules of engagement and accountability measures for the group’s members.

Following UN Human Rights Council’s endorsement of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights implementing the UN Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework, promotion of the Guiding Principles, which elaborate the respect dimension of Global Compact Principle 1 has been included in the revised TOR.

At the Geneva meeting, the HRWG addressed a range of topics across its four work streams on tools and guidance, good practices, special initiatives, and Local Networks, with many working group members volunteering for tasks under one or more of these work streams. Currently under development is guidance on the human rights dimensions of communications on progress (the UN Global Compact’s annual reporting requirement for participants), and good practice notes and case studies covering responses to a wide variety of business and human rights challenges and opportunities. Initiatives with UN Women on women’s empowerment and with UNICEF and Save the Children on children’s rights were also covered and attracted new interest from business representatives. The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (RIO+20) was also discussed as an important opportunity to promote business and human rights as an essential component of social sustainability and thus sustainable development.

The diversity of the UN Global Compact’s large number of participants and stakeholders across the globe as well as its country networks – which now number nearly 100 – were recognized as important vehicles to promote better understanding and implementation of human rights among businesses around the world. The HRWG includes a number of Local Networks representatives and focal points who expressed strong interest in further collaboration. The meeting participants also noted the importance of integrating human rights into curricula for business education, and a new social network for professors of business and human rights was highlighted.

The report of the meeting will be available later in October.