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.

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.@NLinGeneva has donated $28K to support our Office’s #humanrights work. You can donate too:

🇧🇾 #Belarus: Prominent opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava, who was secretly imprisoned, must be released and those responsible for her #EnforcedDisappearance must be brought to justice – UN experts. Learn more:

Central Asian countries’ pioneering return of their nationals from Syria🇸🇾 & Iraq🇮🇶 is positive; other States need to follow their lead.

Together with @UN_OCT, @UNICEF & @UN family, @UNHumanRights stands ready to support States in human rights-compliant returns.


Participation ensures better policies and outcomes.
⏩ It allows grievances to be aired and understood.
⏩ It empowers communities.
⏩ It builds trust.

Meaningful participation is "a major asset to governments" – UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet says strengthening inclusive and effective participation is "a concern of deep global urgency".

Full speech:


#Venezuela: UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet urges the Venezuelan authorities to protect the civic & democratic space, while reiterating her call for the lifting of economic sanctions to facilitate the allocation of resources during #COVID19 👉

#COVID19 underscored the importance of effective participation in public life. Watch our LIVE event with @UN Secretary-General @antonioguterres and UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet, discussing the right to participate.

Watch 📺👇

🎬 Watch LIVE @antonioguterres @MBachelet discuss participation as a human right and a vital tool for multilateralism & Member States’ governance in addressing grave global challenges. @UNHumanRights
🗓️ 25 September 🕘 9am (EDT)

Tomorrow, join @UNRCCA, @UN_OCT & #UNCCT live event to highlight #CentralAsia experience with individuals returned from #Syria & #Iraq: successes, challenges, & lessons learned.

When: Friday 25 Sept. from 10 AM to 1PM, EDT (NYC Time)

Where: live on

Women face gender discrimination in the application of the death penalty >> including capital sentences regarding conduct for which men do not face execution, or may not even be prosecuted – UN Human Rights Chief @mbachelet.

Read more:


#COVID19 has heavily impacted #LGBTI people, revealing the high cost of structural discrimination and inequalities. Social & economic systems that perpetuate oppression and exclusion create pockets of vulnerability, harming everyone – @mbachelet 👉 #UNGA

Although #COVID19 has exacerbated global inequalities, technology can play a key role to keep economies & health systems running, young people learning & everyone connected.

-- At #UNGA, @antonioguterres called for a digital world that improves all lives.

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Learn more:

#IndigenousRights defenders are guardians of indigenous peoples' land, rights + the knowledge & identity which form the basis for their existence as peoples. Protecting these ways of life has increasingly jeopardized their own lives – @NadaNashif 👉 #HRC45

Sign Languages are for Everyone!

On today's #SignLanguagesDay, UN leaders in #Geneva reaffirm their pledge to strengthen efforts to ensure the meaningful participation and full inclusion of people with disabilities in all that we do, including in times of crisis.

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Business & Human Rights