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UN experts encourage mandatory human rights due diligence, warning of the human cost of corruption in health-care supply chains

“COVID-19 highlights deadly cost of corruption & the urgent need for companies to respect human rights: UN experts”, 9 July 2020

UN experts today warned of the devastating human cost of corruption, including human rights abuses if governments fail to guard against fraud and bribery in health-care supply chains as they secure essential medicines and personal-protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19. [During the pandemic], [s]ome States have…required companies receiving support to act in line with the Guiding Principles [and]…[o]thers have required rescue funds be used for worker salaries. However, many more States need to take such measures and go further…

The [Working Group’s] report urges: “[r]eforming beneficial ownership laws so that victims of business-related human rights abuses, tax authorities and law enforcement, have information about the ultimate owner of a shell company…, targeted sanctions… [and ensuring]…[p]ublic procurement laws [prevent]…taxpayer funds [being]…given to companies that pay bribes and commit fraud…”. The Working Group [also] emphasized the urgent need for remedy for victims.

The experts called on businesses to ensure they devote additional attention to the Guiding Principles and to integrating respect for human rights into corporate decision-making, alongside anti-corruption compliance programmes. To speed up this agenda, the Working Group encouraged the introduction of mandatory human rights due diligence legislation, as is being developed in various parts of Europe and in the EU itself.