Amnesty International Welcomes Geneva Decision on Corporate Responsibility; Bush Administration Criticized for Opposition to Accountability for Businesses

Apr 20, 2004, U.S. Newswire

NEW YORK, April 20 — Amnesty International today welcomed the decision by governments meeting at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva to confirm the importance that the Commission assigns to companies’ responsibilities in relation to human rights. The Commission adopted a resolution on the UN Norms for Business, which clarify the obligations and responsibilities of businesses with regard to human rights. Amnesty International noted that this decision to adopt the resolution was made in the face of sustained opposition from the Bush Administration.

“Amnesty International USA welcomes the adoption today, despite intense US government opposition, of the UN Commission on Human Rights’ resolution that emphasizes that companies have human rights responsibilities,” said Mila Rosenthal, Director of AIUSA’s Business, Environment and Human Rights Program. “The Norms are an important corporate responsibility initiative that deserve the support of business, government, investors and consumers. Despite the Bush Administration’s stated support for higher ethical standards for business enforced by strict laws, the US delegation to the Commission worked aggressively to undermine the Norms.”

Today’s decision, following intense discussions at the UN over the last few weeks, specifically asks the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to compile a report setting out the scope and legal status of all existing initiatives and standards on business responsibilities with regard to human rights, including the UN Norms for Business.

“We are very pleased that the Commission has acknowledged the need to strengthen standards on business responsibilities in relation to human rights and will consider elements of the Norms,” added Rosenthal. “The forthcoming report will be a positive step toward ensuring better protection for workers and communities and to helping companies ensure their activities, including security arrangements and the activities of their sub-contractors, do not lead to human rights abuses.”

Amnesty International intends to contribute to the preparation of the report and urges that the process of consultation be open, participatory and transparent.

Amnesty International notes that the Sub-Commission Norms are already being ‘road-tested’ by a group of leading companies and looks forward to the OHCHR benefiting from the experience of these companies in the compilation of the report.

Contact: Alistair Hodgett of Amnesty International, 202-544-0200, ext. 302

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