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Human Rights in business - February 2015

Special Meeting on the promotion and protection of Human Rights in business

On Thursday, January 29, 2015, the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) of the OAS Permanent Council held a special meeting to "foster the exchange of best practices and experiences in the promotion and protection of human rights in business," scheduled pursuant to the General Assembly resolution AG/RES. 2840 (XLIV-O/14), entitled "Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Business," and organized with the support of the Department of International Law.

Curso sobre los Elementos Esenciales para la Identificación, Protección, Prevención y Reducción de la Apatridia en las Américas (CAJP, 2015)

The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the OAS and its panelists included representatives of the organs of the inter-American system, governmental and nongovernmental international organizations, and representatives of the member states.

With respect to representatives of OAS organs, the meeting was addressed by the Chair of the Inter-American Juridical Committee and CJI rapporteur on the subject, Dr. Fabián Novak Talavera, who gave a summary of the Committee's report, which describes national and international legislation, as well as business practices, in light of the jurisprudence on this matter. Dr. Novak likewise presented the "Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility Principles in the Americas", which had been adopted by the Committee and submitted to the member states with a view to strengthening progress already made in the region. The document puts forward a shared responsibility approach, with the participation of a number of sectors, including academia, NGOs, trade unions, social organizations, the media, and churches, and with states and enterprises being called upon to comply with concrete obligations. He ended his presentation by offering states the good offices of the Committee in support of any OAS initiative in this field.

Also taking part in the panel were Paulo Vannuchi, the Commissioner in charge of the Unit on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Maryse Robert, Director of the Department of Economic and Social Development of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development; and, Carmen Moreno Toscano, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission of Women.

With respect to the United Nations, the CAJP was addressed by Dr. Alexandra Guaqueta, a member of the United Nations Working Group on business and human rights, who commended the OAS member states for the progress made and explained the origins and evolution of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Speaking from a civil society perspective, Dr. Jorge Caillant, Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDH), underscored the fundamental role of human rights in the juridical and institutional framework of corporate responsibility.

From a business standpoint, Mr. Eduardo García Moreno explained the commitments undertaken by Repsol at various United Nations forums and its respect for the principles enshrined in the United Nations Global Compact, ILO Convention 168 on the rights of indigenous peoples, and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. With respect to the last of these, he pointed to the importance of having clear rules to steer corporate behavior, while enabling enterprises to be flexible in their operations.

For their part, the government representatives at the meeting highlighted the processes under way aimed at drafting and adopting action plans in this area. They also described individual countries' efforts in various areas of national life, such as implementation of the international conventions of the International Labour Organization, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the United Nations. They also mentioned, inter alia, the register of enterprises and private initiatives in labor and environment matters. Some delegations also referred to actions under way internationally to promote new legal frameworks, the organization of seminars, and the dissemination of national plans and experiences.

In his closing remarks, the Chair of the CAJP, Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie, congratulated participants on the range and profundity of their observations.

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