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"Edinburgh Declaration" calls for corporate human rights

11 October 2010

An international gathering of human rights bodies in Edinburgh has ended with a declaration aimed at strengthening protection for human rights affected by business activities.

The "Edinburgh Declaration" was signed by delegates from about 80 countries at the conclusion yesterday of the 10th International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions.

Held in the Scottish Parliament, the conference was the first time an official United Nations event had taken place in Scotland. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chair of the Business and Human Rights Initiative, gave keynote speeches to an audience of over 350.

The Declaration calls for more national and international monitoring of corporate compliance with human rights law, with human rights bodies having an important role in supporting companies as well as victims of potential violations, and in advising companies, governments, campaigners and individuals about corporate responsibility.

"Tipping point"

Rosslyn Noonan, chair of the International Coordinating Committee, and chair of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, said: “We are at a tipping point. Successful businesses are crucial for development, but recognition and protection of human rights has not kept pace with the power and influence of globalised economies.

“Over the past three days we’ve come together as national human rights institutions to agree in the Declaration that more must be done to support businesses to understand their responsibilities, work we will be taking forwards collectively across the world."

Professor Alan Miller, chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said the Declaration provided a "road map" for organisations like the SHRC on business and human rights at a time when private companies had increasing influence in so many parts of peoples' lives.

He added: “Commissioners from countries including Venezuela, India, France, Bangladesh and Australia have agreed that we can support businesses understand their responsibilities, while helping individuals claim their rights. The end of the conference is the start of all the national institutions putting renewed emphasis on what they can do in their own countries on this vital issue.”

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