Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein

Statement 339

UN Human Rights Council – 20th Session

Australian Statement for the Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Human Rights & Transnational Corporations

21 June 2012

Australia is a strong supporter of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and we congratulate the Working Group for its effective work to date in promoting the Principles.

Australian companies already enjoy a well-deserved reputation for promoting and respecting human rights.

But we agree with the Working Group’s report that the Principles provide a road map for doing business better by lowering risk, avoiding conflict and safeguarding opportunity.

We are pleased that, less than a year after the Principles’ endorsement by the Human Rights Council, they are being increasingly recognised as the benchmark for good business practice in respecting human rights.

We endorse the three work streams adopted by the Working Group, namely: global dissemination; promoting implementation, and embedding the Principles in global governance frameworks.

The success of the Principles to date has been in large part due to its broad, inclusive and comprehensive stakeholder consultation.

We look forward to the forthcoming 3-5 December 2012 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, which represents the next opportunity to ensure the Principles become accepted practice.

Australia’s longstanding view is that future work on business and human rights should complement, rather than simply duplicate, pre-existing instruments in this field.

We are keen to ensure that the growing number of complex initiatives in this field does not inadvertently discourage governments, business and civil society from participating.

Continuing to promote consistency and complementarity with other related instruments, therefore, should be one of the key aims of the Forum.

Australia believes that National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) play a key role in building capacity to promote and protect human rights around the world.

We welcome the Working Group’s cooperation with the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions and look forward to receiving further details about the proposed draft plan of action for NHRIs.

Among business, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) often face particular challenges in managing the human rights impact of their operations.

Australia encourages the Working Group and the Forum to engage with SMEs as a priority in order to raise awareness of the Principles, and to gain support from SMEs.

We note the Working Group intends to undertake two official country missions each year.

Such a program of outreach visits would be very beneficial.

For example, colleagues from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade recently benefited greatly from the opportunity to hold a Roundtable with one of the members of the Working Group, Dr Alexandra Guaqueta.

Once again, we thank the Working Group for its efforts to date to promote and advance the Guiding Principles.