Stakeholders respond to UN Working Group call for inputs for report on corruption, business & human rights

The UN Working Group on Business & Human Rights is conducting multi-stakeholder consultations to prepare for its report to the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2020. 

It seeks to clarify how corruption involving the private sector impacts rights holders in terms of corruption being linked to, causing or contributing to human rights abuses. The report will also examine what measures and good practice can be taken by States, business and civil society to address corruption when it does negatively impact human rights in the context of business related activity, with respect to both prevention of negative impacts as well as in providing access to effective remedy.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre published the Working Group's call for input and this story will follow the developments of this initiative.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre also has a portal of useful tools and resources in relation to corruption, business, and human rights. 

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23 February 2020

Human Rights Watch submits input on corruption & human rights to the Working Group

Author: Human Rights Watch

"Human Rights Watch Submission to UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights Re: Corruption and Human Rights," 21 February 2020

...[W]e hope to describe some of the ways in which corruption impacts human rights, as well as raise three issues for your consideration.

  1. Corruption’s Impacts on a Broad Range of Human Rights

Corruption can severely impact a broad range of human rights. It deprives the public of money to invest in health, education, clean water, housing, and other rights; dangerously undermines essential government functions; and often leads to attacks on judicial independence, freedom of expression, and more...

...Businesses’ Responsibilities as Potential Beneficiaries of Corruption or Related Abuses

Companies need not necessarily participate in corruption to benefit from it or related abuses, raising thorny questions about the extent of their responsibilities. Companies that have business relationships with highly corrupt governments, state-owned enterprises, or politically exposed persons (PEP) are especially at risk of benefitting from corruption, and strengthening corrupt actors, in ways that don’t necessarily fall afoul of anti-corruption laws’ relatively narrow definition of corruption... 

Corruption’s victims include anyone whose rights it has helped undermine. However, legal definitions of victim are often considerably narrower, and it is also not possible to fully trace or document every person whose rights have been harmed by corruption, which can include entire populations, and especially the poor..

...Corporate Influence that May Undermine Rights

Businesses’ human rights responsibilities when attempting to exert political influence remain ill defined, even though this may sometimes harm human rights.

A few concrete examples of how this may arise:

  • What are businesses’ responsibilities when donating to the political campaigns of lawmakers, judges, or others, and pressing them to take a position that harms human rights?
  • What are businesses’ responsibilities when funding scientific research that has bearing on their operations? Human Rights Watch documented how US coal companies funded academic research that produced the only studies that did not find a correlation between mountaintop removal coal mining and poor community health.[10] The companies also opposed a federally funded study on the issue.
  • What are businesses’ responsibilities in whitewashing governments that engage in serious human rights abuses? In some cases, such as public relations firms, the whitewashing campaign is explicit; in other cases, large-scale sports or business events serve a similar purpose.


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