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Post-2015 Development Agenda - the business & human rights dimension

The UN recently adopted new Sustainable Development Goals.

The private sector has been recognized as providing a major contribution to the realization of the new goals.  However the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights as well as NGOs have raised concerns that this private sector dimension currently lacks a strong human rights perspective.

"Private sector financing and public-private partnerships for sustainable development should...be accompanied by mandatory human rights due diligence standards and processes..."

"Rights before profit", June 2015 statement by CESR, Amnesty Intl., AWID

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25 September 2015

Commentary: How to make the SDGs a reality? Create more pre-competitive space

Author: John Morrison, Institute for Human Rights and Business

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)... represent a unique opportunity for greater global prosperity – but only if businesses and governments know when to stop competing and instead start working together... Human rights surely should not be an issue for competition but rather an area where business works with others to achieve positive results. The problem is that many existing approaches to “corporate social responsibility” or “shared value” tend to leap over this baseline in order to promote strategies focused primarily on competitive advantage... we need incentives for many more businesses to work with their competitors as well as with governments, trade unions and civil society to ensure sustainable development strategies seen as legitimate in the eyes of society..

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25 September 2015

Report sets out principles guiding business involvement in implementation of Sustainable Development Goals

Author: Institute for Human Rights and Business

"Business and the Sustainable Development Goals: Mind the Gap – Challenges for Implementation", September 2015

Throughout the consultation and negotiation process leading to the adoption of the SDGs, the private sector has been highlighted as a partner with the potential to contribute in multiple ways to development objectives... The financing needs of the SDGs are enormous and public finance may not be sufficient, but private capital will not offer a panacea...Target-setting without setting the principles on how to reach them can lead to a blind pursuit of targets without regard to consequences. Money will continue to flow to safer areas where returns are assured, rather than to locations where the need is greatest... A shared set of SDG Partnership Principles is needed as part of the SDG implementation process to clarify what constitutes compliance with the SDGs and therefore when it is appropriate to use public funds.

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25 September 2015

UN adopts Agenda 2030, but will governments follow through?

Author: Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)

While the culmination of the SDG process gives human rights advocates much to celebrate , it has failed to deliver on our most fundamental expectation: that of a paradigm change in development. For all the talk of “transformative shifts”, the vision of development underpinning the SDGs remains premised on old models of industrial production and consumption, and export-oriented growth. While there are important commitments in the SDG targets around debt, progressive taxation, illicit financial flows and reforming global economic governance, the agenda does little to alter the structural inequities of the dominant neoliberal economic system...As Salil  Shetty of Amnesty International reminded world leaders in a  powerful keynote speech  today,  “You cannot adopt the Sustainable Development Goals and at the same time attack and arrest  peaceful protesters and dissenters”.  As crucial as  civil society’s  role was in securing human rights commitments on the agenda, it will be even more indispensable in translating these into  action.

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24 September 2015

Civil society calls on world leaders at UN Summit on Sustainable Development to tackle "unjust rules governing finance, taxation, trade and investment"

Author: CIDSE & 50 other signatories

"Public call to world leaders on the occasion of the UN Summit on Sustainable Development", 23 Sep 2015

A group of leading voices has come together to demand greater ambition in tackling social injustices, calling for a new emphasis on notions of well-being, a culture of care and shared prosperity...The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to the statement, seek to respond to many of today’s most pressing challenges, but do not overcome fundamental contradictions in the global economy. They do not tackle the unjust rules governing finance, taxation, trade and investment, the signatories warned, arguing that these are essential elements of the structural transformation that is needed in order to address the root causes of poverty and inequality.  Meanwhile, world leaders were called upon to set limits on natural resource extraction, agree to equitable natural resource-sharing, resist the influence of entrenched interests, and to counter the power of transnational corporations to influence public policy.  They were also urged to renew and redirect finance from dirty energy to decentralized community-based renewable energy production, transform the financial system to support the emergence of sustainable alternatives, reform the systems that exclude the majority of the world from determining global taxation rules, trade agreements, and other areas that have a great impact on them.

Full statement, including list of signatories

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24 September 2015

The B Team Calls for Business Plan to Meet Global Goals

Author: The B Team

On Friday, September 25th the Global Goals for sustainable development will be formally adopted by world leaders after years of intensive consultation...  The B Team is urgently calling for the business community to play a key role in meeting the newly adopted goals by their 2030 timeline in order to accelerate the transition toward a thriving and just net-zero emissions economy... Crucial to the success of this “once in a generation opportunity” is large scale economic transformation, investment, and early, successful action. 

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23 September 2015

Sustainable Development Goals fail to recognise role of business

Author: Ellie Ward, Pioneers Post; Published 16 September 2015

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 associated targets fail to recognise the importance of business as a force for social change concludes a new report by the British Council and Social Enterprise UK (SEUK).... It argues that in order to meet the new set of goals, which are being launched in New York at the end of the month, there needs to be more market-led models which focus on the poorest on the planet, protect the environment and ensure that the benefits of economic growth are more equitable... 

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22 September 2015

NGOs find Sustainable Development Goals do not adequately address private sector's accountability for human rights abuses

Author: Amnesty Intl, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Center of Concern, CIVICUS, FOKUS-Forum for Women and Development, Habitat Intl. Coalition, Housing and Land Rights Network, Instituto de Liderazgo Simone de Beauvoir, Intl. Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Intl. Presentation Association, Ipas, Kepa ry, Minority Rights Group International, RESURJ, Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law, WASH United

"Human Rights Caucus reaction to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development", 23 Sep 2015

As human rights organizations and activists engaged in this process since its inception, we advocated and pushed for human rights to be at the core of the new agenda...Taking as the basis, our demands contained in the Human Rights Litmus Test developed in June 2014, we can assess how far the outcome document passes or fails the test of integrating human rights as the foundation of the new agenda. We can declare partial success in every category...

Test 1: Support human rights comprehensively, taking into consideration their universality, indivisibility and interdependence

Test 2: Ensure full transparency and meaningful participation of all people, especially the most disadvantaged, in decision-making at all levels

Test 3: Ensure human rights accountability of all development actors

Test 4: Guarantee that the private sector respects human rights

Test 5: Combat inequality and end discrimination in all its forms

Test 6: Specifically and comprehensively support girls’ and women’s rights

Test 7: Secure a minimum floor of socioeconomic well-being for all

Test 8: Ensure that any global partnerships for sustainable development are aligned with human rights


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16 September 2015

Companies need to be engaged more on Sustainable Development Goals, says sustainable business council head Peter Bakker

Author: Megan Rowling, Reuters

"Interview-Business yet to grasp role in new UN development goals", 14 Sep. 2015

Business will have a much bigger role to play in achieving new global development targets than it did in meeting previous U.N. goals, but private companies need a stronger case for getting involved, a sustainable business leader said.

Peter Bakker, head of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), said corporations have helped shape the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which range from ending hunger to providing water and sanitation for all.

But most businesses have yet to think through how they can contribute to meeting the 169 targets set out in the SDGs, due to be adopted at a U.N. summit this month... To coincide with the Sept. 25-27 summit, the WBCSD and partners will launch a guide to help companies work out which new goals apply to them, where they could have an impact, and how to measure their progress.

[refers to ABB, Alstom, EDF, Engie, Eskom, First Solar and Schneider Electric]

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29 July 2015

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urges member states to include corporate accountability in final post-2015 development agenda

Author: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

This process...has generated an important final draft oucome document that promises to break down the old silos of the past, integrating attention to the economic, social, environmental and human rights imperatives of sustainable development...The current draft is replete with references to the role of the private sector in the new agenda.  Notably absent, however, is a corresponding level of accountability for private sector actors as well as safeguards and due diligence standards to ensure that private sector harms to human rights, labour, the environment, and sustainable development are prevented and, where they do occur, remedied.  This lacuna is evident with all private sector activities referenced in the draft, including business, trade, investment, and public and private partnrships.  This is a fundamental weakness in the draft, and I strongly urge member states to correct it, including with a reference to the UN's own Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the labour standards of the ILO, and UN treaties in the field of human rights, labour, and the environment.

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20 July 2015

"Unrestrained ‘Privatisation of Poverty-Reduction’ Puts Human Rights at Risk"

Author: Savio Carvalho, Senior Advisor, Campaigning on International Development and Human Rights, Amnesty International

"Unrestrained ‘Privatisation of Poverty-Reduction’ Puts Human Rights at Risk", 16 July 2015

Corporate lobbyists are unusual guests at development meetings, but when the United Nations held its Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa this week to decide who pays for its new “Sustainable Development Goals”, some governments laid out the red carpet for the private sector. 

Unfortunately, the conference failed to agree on any mechanism for making sure the role of companies in development is kept transparent and accountable. 

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