Cluster ID: Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporation and other Business Enterprises and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Human Rights Council 23rd Session
May 30, 2013
As prepared for delivery
The United States Government thanks the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises for its report. We support the work of the Working Group in promoting the dissemination and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles. We were pleased to participate in the State survey summarized in the Working Group’s report and encourage other States to provide information to the Working Group on measures they have taken to implement the Guiding Principles. Such information could then be the basis for a fruitful exchange on best practices.
One set of practices we would like to highlight is that of due diligence reporting in national laws and regulations, which can increase transparency. For example, Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act encourages responsible sourcing of certain “conflict minerals” from the African Great Lakes Region. In a similar vein, upon easing sanctions in Burma, we instituted a set of Reporting Requirements on Responsible Investment, calling on U.S. persons that invest more than an aggregate $500,000 in Burma to report annually on human rights policies and procedures, among other key areas for due diligence. Section 1502 and the Burma Reporting Requirements both encourage companies to uphold high standards in new and/or challenging investment climates. Increasing transparency leads to increased corporate accountability and can minimize adverse impact by businesses on human rights.
We also support the call for states to consult with external stakeholders, and for the financial sector to contribute to efforts and initiatives aimed at clarifying the operational implications of the Guiding Principles across different segments of the financial sector. Over the past year, the United States has held two workshops with investors to discuss strategies for investment firms to incorporate the UN Guiding Principles into their regular business practices, including the use of non-financial factors in decision-making. We have also hosted workshops focused on the Guiding Principles. These conversations are an important first step to human rights challenges in a complex global economy. We will continue to make consultations with external stakeholders a priority, in line with the Working Group’s recommendation, and encourage other states to do the same.
For more information on how business and human rights are integrated into U.S. foreign policy, we would refer you to a summary we have just issued, which can be found on humanrights.gov.
We also thank Special Rapporteur Kiai for his excellent and timely report focusing on access to financial resources and its impact on the right to freedom of association. We absolutely agree with the Special Rapporteur’s concern that civil society actors face improper restrictions on their freedom of association and obstacles through undue limits regarding funding. We thank him as one of the main sponsors of the resolution establishing his mandate, with our fellow core group members: the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Maldives, Mexico, and Nigeria.
States should give particular consideration to the Special Rapporteur’s statement that “freedom of association not only includes the ability of individuals or legal entities to form and join an association but also to seek, receive and use resources — human, material and financial — from domestic, foreign, and international sources.” The report further details the array of international commitments that reflect the importance of access to funding and resources for the full enjoyment of the freedom of association, including key paragraphs from the Council’s resolution 22/6 on human rights defenders.
We are deeply concerned by growing efforts to restrict, punish and deter civil society actors from exercising the freedom of association in various countries, particularly those named in the Special Rapporteur’s report. In those countries, many aspects of newly adopted or proposed legislation regarding civil society organizations and the manner in which those laws are enforced are often inconsistent with international human rights obligations, and represent a step backward for democratic progress. We commend the Special Rapporteur for his attention to these developments, and for exposing the pretextual and improper justifications that are often invoked in defense of these restrictions, such as sovereignty and foreign interference.
We also share the Special Rapporteur’s concerns regarding restrictions on the ability to hold a peaceful assembly. The report outlines several suggestions for states to promote and protect this indispensable right.
Do you have any recommendations for civil society groups that are trying to reform or shape draft legislation that restricts the rights of association and of peaceful assembly?
Do you have examples where the government has made positive changes to restrictive laws after consultation with civil society actors?