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Response on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises Report US Visit
June 11, 2014

Response to the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises Report on Visit to the United States of America

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

UN Human Rights Council – 26th Session
June 11, 2014

The United States Government was pleased to welcome the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises’ country visit.  While we do not agree with everything in the group’s report, we thank the Working Group for its thoroughness and its thoughtful recommendations.  We strongly support the work of the Working Group in promoting the dissemination and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles.  We encourage other States to respond favorably to visit requests and provide information to the Working Group on measures they have taken to implement the Guiding Principles, which can become the basis for a fruitful exchange on best practices.

The United States has explained its support for the Guiding Principles and its position on other instruments discussed in the report previously.  Therefore, we will not repeat them here, except to emphasize that the commitment at the foundation of the human rights system – which is the background for the Working Group’s efforts – is the need for States to respect their human rights obligations with respect to their own conduct.
We would like to use this opportunity to highlight several U.S. practices that were not discussed in the Working Group’s Report and offer clarification on certain points.

One set of practices not reflected in the Report is the United States’ programmatic support for the Guiding Principles.  The U.S. government has devoted over $1 million in programmatic funds specifically to support dissemination and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles in a variety of different countries and sectors around the world.

With respect to reporting requirements, we would like to make clear that the United States Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements, which apply to certain new investments in Burma by U.S. persons, are legally mandated and tied to U.S. sanctions laws and regulations.  These Reporting Requirements directly reference the UN Guiding Principles as guidance for investors in conducting human rights due diligence.  We strongly believe that increased transparency leads to increased corporate accountability and can minimize adverse impact by businesses on human rights.  In addition, we note that reporting under Section 1504 of the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform Act is a legal requirement that is enforceable through relevant regulatory schemes.

We would also like to clarify our understanding that labor rights as referred to in the Guiding Principles are those set out in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.  In response to the Report’s concerns about migrant farm workers, the United States has long taken steps to enforce the rights of migrant farm workers, particularly women who are subjected to sexual harassment and abuse, and conducts regular enforcement and educational/outreach efforts in this regard.

We also note that the United States government has increased efforts on behalf of at-risk workers – such as low-wage workers, minors, migrant or seasonal laborers, workers with limited English language skills, and workers who are unaware of their rights under U.S. labor laws or are reluctant to file a complaint when subject to labor law violations.  Each year, the U.S. government conducts strategic enforcement initiatives in low-wage industries where persistent violations of federal wage and hour laws have been observed, which are also useful in identifying strategies for addressing industry-specific problems.

We are deeply concerned about child labor, and note that the United States government provides approximately $60 million in funding to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and other international and civil society organizations around the world each year to remove children from child labor, provide educational and other services, improve family livelihoods, and provide technical assistance to governments to combat child labor and raise awareness.  Some of these projects involve collaboration with business and industry groups.

And while we have not ratified all of the core ILO conventions, the United States has strongly demonstrated that workers in the United States do indeed enjoy the fundamental rights and principles reflected in those ILO conventions.  With regard to the specific recommendation to implement the recommendations of the ILO review bodies, the United States notes that we typically respond to these bodies and their recommendations through the existing process.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to note that in the time since the Working Group’s visit, the United States officially submitted its application and was accepted as an Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative Candidate country.

We appreciate the opportunity to share our efforts in implementing the Guiding Principles and look forward to continuing to work with the Working Group, as well as other governments and stakeholders in developing best practices for implementation going forward.