Valerie Cliff: Speech at the Regional Workshop on Business and Human Rights: Moving ahead with National Action Plans in ASEAN

Jun 1, 2017

Valerie Cliff, Deputy Regional Director, UNDP in Asia and the Pacific

June 01, 2017 Bangkok 

It’s a great pleasure  for me to welcome  you, on behalf of UNDP to the Regional Workshop on Business and Human Rights: Moving ahead with National Action Plans in ASEAN. 

It is encouraging to see such extraordinary participation of Government, Civil Society and Business Sector representatives coming from 9 different countries. I am  encouraged  by the high representation   of  National Human Rights Commissions in the region, representatives of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights as well as colleagues from the UN Secretariat and six UN agencies and funds. In fact, I  understand that all  National Human Rights Commissions in ASEAN are represented.

The presence at this Regional Workshop of two of the members of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights honors us validates and reinforces the importance  of this dialogue and follow up processes by member states.  Dr Addo and Mr.  Pesce welcome and we look forward to sharing information with you 

as well as receiving guidance on how to build on the existing momentum.  

When we agreed to have a follow up to the Regional Conference on CSR and Human Rights held in Singapore last November, we didn’t expect the number of those interested in participating to almost double in just a few months. 

Almost 250 participants have registered to this event with around 25% of them representing the private sector.  This tells a lot about the rapidly growing interest, in South East Asia, in  aligning business practices with human rights standards.  

In the last ten years, ASEAN Countries recorded an average level of growth higher than most developed countries and lagging only behind two other Asian nations, China and India. However, this progress has in some cases been accompanied by negative repercussions on the human rights of marginalized and disadvantaged groups and has resulted in an enormous strain on the environment. 

This growing multi-stakeholder community of supporters of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is here today to affirm the principle that economic growth, Human Rights and Environmental Protection are not in contradictory to  each other.  They are actuallymutually reinforcing. A business environment respectful of Human Rights attracts further long-term sustainable investments and manages risks  better.. More investments create opportunities for economic growth which translates into more means for the States to help disadvantaged communities and fulfill their rights.

It is for this reason that the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were expressly recognized as one of  the means of implementing and achieving  the 2030 Agenda. 

The Sustainable Development Goals present a radical new approach to transforming our world: focusing on the integrated pillars of sustainable development and building on a consultation process of unprecedented inclusiveness and partnership. This presents a once in a generation opportunity to put the world on a sustainable path, whilst reaffirming commitment to and strengthen accountability for human rights. 

A first critical step for the successful implementation of the Agenda will be for Member States to put in place a robust monitoring and review framework backed by indicators that are grounded in human rights. In this process led by governments, UNDP will play an important role at country level to convene and facilitate dialogue between governments, civil society, academia and the private sector. 

This step presents a crucial opportunity to operationalize the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and we are committed to support this process while implementing the Regional Program on Business and Human Rights which Bangkok Regional Hub launched last year. 

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge SIDA for partnering with UNDP in the region through this regional programme reaffirming Swedish’s leadership in human rights. The grant will enable UNDP and other partners  to continue working with the National Human Rights Institutions that have traditionally taken the lead in this subject, but also strengthen our partnership with Governments, Civil Society and the Private Sector. 

The Government of Thailand gave a clear signal yesterday in this same conference center to consider the development of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights a priority. We are also very encouraged by similar signals and commitments coming from the Government of Philippines and Malaysia. I believe we will hear more about their plans during a later session today.   

Supporting the development of National Action Plans (NAPs) will be a priority for UNDP and our partners on this initiative in the next few years. We intend to encourage Governments to engage in inclusive multi-stakeholder processes in order to design and implement NAPs. 

No single partner including Governments can be solely responsible  for National Action Plans, but the process to succeed needs to include posyive engagements   from Civil Society Organizations, Private Sector and National Human Rights Institutions. 

Convening and coordinating the role of the UN family, we will also facilitate sharing of expertise and support from sister agencies and funds such as UNWOMEN, UNEP, UNICEF, ILO. We will count on continued partnership with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and OHCHR.  

In our vision, regional cooperation and knowledge sharing through peer learning will also play an essential role. Agreeing on the Regional Framework which will be discussed during the second day of this workshop will be essential to pave the way for developing more coordinated and effective National Plans.  

We look forward to continue partnering with ESCAP, ASEAN CSR Network and the other co-organizers of this event and through our Country Offices, with all the National Institutions present today.

Thank you. 

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