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13 Sep 2017

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Danish Institute for Human Rights, Institute for Human Rights & Business, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, Oxfam International, Shift

Open letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and United Nations Private Sector Forum 2017 Participants

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We urge participants [at the UN Private Sector Forum] to ensure that respect for human rights is an integral part of all actions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)... Between 21 and 48 million people are estimated to work in forms of modern slavery; around 85 million of the estimated 168 million child labourers are in hazardous forms of work; and more than 2.3 million people die annually as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases. Poor communities lose livelihoods, access to healthcare and clean water when land is taken or used without respect for their rights in the name of agriculture, construction, mining and other activities. Ending such abuses would enable these people to live their lives with dignity, with improved access to education, medical care, food, and many other SDG targets. Businesses must put these realities at the heart of how they define their contribution to Agenda 2030. Doing so represents the private sector’s single biggest opportunity to advance human development today.

Business responsibility for respecting human rights is too often viewed only as a matter of compliance and risk management... [which] underestimates the hugely positive development impacts that will be achieved through improved treatment of the millions of workers and communities affected by business activities around the world... Advancing human rights due diligence as a core element of SDG implementation strategies requires strengthened commitments from governments as well as business... We need an upsurge in innovative and collaborative ways of placing respect for the dignity of every person at the core of sustainable development.