Business & Human Rights Programme

The Bhopal disaster in 1984 and the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 are examples of how human rights violations in the private sector can cause huge loss of life. In the wake of events such as these and other human rights violations by the private sector, civil society has increasingly called for companies to be held accountable to human rights standards. If companies had been held accountable to such standards, these disasters may never have happened.

Within existing international human rights law, states are the primary duty-bearer and private actors are only indirectly obliged to abide by human rights law, generally through state legislation. This has led to many companies believing that their only obligation is to respect national laws, even where those laws have failed to meet international human rights standards.

In June 2011 this debate was put to an end when the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. The UNGPs rest on three pillars:

  1. The state duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business;
  2. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and
  3. Access by affected people to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial.

These guidelines are an authoritative starting point in defining human rights responsibilities within the private sector. Whilst businesses are not being asked to take on the same responsibilities as governments, they are still expected to respect human rights and provide remedy in cases of human rights violations.

Codes and standards related to companies and human rights have proliferated in recent years. This trend has been picked up by governments, who have started passing related legislation, and investors, who have started requesting that companies disclose data on their human rights performance.

The UN Global Compact Network UK's Business and Human Rights Programme aims to support businesses to better understand and apply human rights standards in their operations.

Our programme includes, but is not limited to, the following activities:

We welcome suggestions if there is anything you would like to see us cover in our B&HR Programme. Please contact Senior Programme Manager, Bee Delgado.

.@CanadaGeneva / @GouvQc has donated $21K to support our Office’s #humanrights work. #StandUp4HumanRights

As the world continues to grapple with the #COVID19 pandemic, essential workers remain on the frontlines of the crisis response.

We are all deeply indebted to them for their remarkable acts of service to humankind.

#COVID19: Online space is civic space. Safe & easily accessible online platforms & Internet tech can greatly facilitate civil society engagement in discussions & decision-making processes. 👉


🇮🇷 #Iran: UN experts outraged at the reported execution of Hedayat Abdollahpour, a member of the country’s #Kurdish minority. They urge the authorities to end arrests, enforced disappearances and secret executions of political prisoners. Learn more:

#HongKongSecurityLaw: We are alarmed that arrests are already being made under the new law. Definition of the offences are vague and overly broad, which may lead to discriminatory or arbitrary interpretation and enforcement.

Learn more:

#HachaluHundessa's killing has sparked protests with an ethnic undertone across #Ethiopia 🇪🇹
We call on all to stop carrying out ethnically-motivated attacks & inciting to violence. We urge security forces to exercise restraint when managing protests.


#TorturePrevention body calls for strengthening of domestic monitoring bodies, known as National Preventive Mechanisms, highlighting the importance of monitoring the conditions of people deprived of liberty in critical situations such as #COVID19.

Read 👉

#COVID19 presents both an enormous challenge & tremendous opportunities for reaching the #2030Agenda.

With the #SDGs as our roadmap, see how we're using #IntegratedSolutions to #BuildBackGreener for a more inclusive future that leaves no one behind.

#UK @FCOHumanRights and @UKinSudan donated $1.4M to support our Office’s #humanrights work. You can donate too: @UKMissionGeneva

“The #COVID19 pandemic has drawn out human values from deep within & shown that the world survives best when we in togetherness put the survival of the group above the survival of the self,” says, Denis Fuh Chenwi, Human Rights Officer in #SouthSudan. 👉

#FakeNews is designed to manipulate your emotions and trick you into passing it on. Take a breath and be mindful about what you share. #TakeCareBeforeYouShare

#Crimea: The ongoing criminalization of freedom of expression on social media is worrisome, with journalists and media workers continuing to face interference with their professional activities – UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet at #HRC44.

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Human rights violations involving torture & other ill-treatment perpetrated by law enforcement agencies continue in #Crimea – UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet in her update at @UN_HRC #HRC44.

Full speech:

#Venezuela: I reiterate my call for an inclusive political negotiation, based on human rights and the restitution of political rights – UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet at #HRC44.

Full speech:

People in #Venezuela continue to suffer serious violations of their economic and social rights. The crisis has been exacerbated by the increase in sectoral sanctions and the #COVID19 pandemic – UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet at #HRC44.

Full speech:

I call on #Nicaragua to be more open to dialogue with civil society, and to cooperate with the UN & the Inter-American system. This is fundamental to strengthen the response to #COVID19, and to overcome the socio-political crisis – @mbachelet at #HRC44 👉

#Nicaragua: The right to peaceful assembly continues to be systematically curtailed by police deployments, arbitrary arrests & attacks by pro-government elements when critics of the Government attempt to assemble peacefully – @mbachelet at #HRC44:

#HRC44 NOW, oral update on #HumanRights situation in #Nicaragua & pres. of @mbachelet report of #Venezuela @ONUVEGinebra & interim report by @antonioguterres on human rights situation in #Ukraine, all delivered by HC followed by concerned country stmts.

UN #HRCttee finds #Russia violated #ICCPR by preventing a defendant convicted in 2011 for sexual assault from cross-examining 3 prosecution witnesses. While re-victimization must be avoided, States must explain how they uphold due process rights:

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Business & Human Rights