Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Professor Damilola Olawuyi (SAN) has called on leaders in government and business to promote robust and inclusive economic growth agenda that respects human rights and increases all-round prosperity for all.
Olawuyi calls for people-oriented growth
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who is also the global vice chair of the International Law Association, made these remarks during his High-Level Opening Plenary address to the 12th Annual Forum on Business Human Rights convened by the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Themed: “Towards effective change in implementing obligations, responsibilities and remedies,” the Forum is the world’s largest annual gathering on business and human rights, with more than 2,000 participants from all regions.
The Forum, which is convened under the guidance of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, brought together government leaders, development experts, business enterprises, civil society and academia to explore how to promote and ensure responsible business conduct in all key economic sectors.
The high-level opening plenary kicked off with opening remarks from Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Celeste Drake, Deputy Director-General, International Labour Organisation, Edward Kwakwa, Assistant Director-General, Global Challenges and Partnerships Sector, World Intellectual Property Organization, Kimiko Hirata, Goldman Environmental Prize laureate in 2021, amongst other eminent speakers.
While exploring progress made in addressing adverse human rights impact of business activities and investments in key economic sectors, Olawuyi called for ‘sustained, coherent policy and legislative action’ to unlock new and innovative models of economic development that place people at the heart of planning and decision making.
He emphasised that with less than seven years left to the 2030 target date for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, global attention must shift to all-round prosperity models that meet international human rights and labour standards and protect local communities from adverse environmental impacts of investment activities and programs.
According to him: “More than 12 years after the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the need for effective change remains ever so pressing.
“Governments need to meet their existing obligations to protect, respect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“This includes promoting inclusive development and empowerment programs that leave no one behind. On the other hand, investors and business enterprises worldwide must align their business practices, policies, processes, governance structures and decisions with international law standards on human rights, labour and climate governance.
“We must redouble our efforts to mainstream responsible investment into all economic sectors and to put people at the heart of the development agenda.” he concluded.
Walk the talk, Olawuyi tells govt, stakeholders
While commending ongoing renewed emphasis on youth empowerment and capacity development, he stressed the need to leverage such programs to also achieve environmental objectives amidst the multiple planetary crises facing the world.
According to him, youth-led eco-entrepreneurship programs and tailored financing for clean technology innovation can leverage the entrepreneurial skills, growth mindset, and energy of the youth to power a green and prosperous economy.
Noting that a ‘whole government approach’ is required to mainstream responsible investment into all economic sectors, Olawuyi challenged all stakeholders to align words with actions by mainstreaming human rights and environmental consideration into decision-making in all key sectors of the economy.