COLOMBO, 07 October 2019: Businesses play a crucial and often under-played role in accelerating sustainable development. In Sri Lanka especially, given the scale of ambition to realize sustainable development for all as the country rapidly positions itself as an upper-middle income category country, the critical role of businesses in the development dialogue cannot be understated. The Sustainable Develop Goals (SDGs) sets the blueprint for which countries can work towards to realize the vision of a sustainable tomorrow by 2030. This is a vison that requires the collective effort of governments, businesses and citizens alike.
However, in working towards this vision, the case for businesses to respect and uphold human rights, becomes increasingly relevant. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provides a very clear direction and a framework which would help accelerate sustainable and responsible development. Like the SDGs, the Guiding Principles provide an easy-to-follow blueprint for governments and businesses to emulate. The “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework, at the heart of the Guiding Principles, is in fact recognized as a means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda, in the context of business operations.
In light of this, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), supported by the Government of Sri Lanka co-hosted a National Dialogue on ‘Responsible Business and Human Rights’ in partnership with the UN Global Compact.
Speaking at the event, Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative of UNDP Sri Lanka stated, “Human rights are not only a moral imperative but also a business imperative – they are also universal and apply to everyone, irrespective of their gender, religion or ethnic background. Today, more and more businesses are realizing the significance of respecting human rights in furthering long-term sustainable investments and the profitability of their business. Recognizing this will guarantee an inclusive society and a growing and healthy economy. UNDP stands ready to support the Government of Sri Lanka, the private sector and communities to design integrated solutions for conduct of responsible business that would help Sri Lanka achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Further, Dr. Harpreet Kaur, Business and Human Rights Specialist from the UNDP Regional Hub in Bangkok, Thailand illustrated the momentum gained in several countries in the Asia Pacific region that have set in place dedicated processes for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles.
The event was attended by Prof. Deepika Udagama, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Prof. Surya Deva, member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Mr. Sean Lees, Business and Human Rights specialists from the UNDP Regional Bureau, Asia Pacific senior representatives from the private sector, legal practitioners, civil society organizations and academia.
The dialogue was the first step in creating a National platform for best practices to be showcased, and innovative partnerships and opportunities to be identified across multiple sectors and to steer the current discourse on business and social development, by recognizing and harnessing the unique potential of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.