U.N. Fact-Finding Mission Finds U.S. Businesses have Little Interest in Rights of Workers and Local Communities

Tuesday, May 07, 2013
(graphic: Institute for Human Rights and Business)

Many American companies don’t place a high priority on the rights of workers or how their operations impact local communities, according to an investigation by the United Nations.


Members of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights spent 10 days in the United States and found businesses doing little to protect human rights in their domestic or overseas operations.


“With a few exceptions, most companies still struggle to understand the implications of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights,” Puvan Selvanathan, the head of the Working Group, said at the end of the mission. “Those that do have policies in place, in turn, face the challenge of turning such policies into effective practices.”


The U.S. is a signatory to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, but the Obama administration has not created a national plan for helping the private sector adopt the principles.


The UN representatives singled out for concern low-wage agricultural workers and harmful practices by the mining industry, among other problems.


They cited employee complaints about being paid less than minimum wage, as well as “chronic disregard” for health and safety measures, including the destructive practices of strip mining and “mountaintop removal” by the coal industry.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.N. Finds “Little Appreciation” for Human Rights among U.S. Businesses (by Carey L. Biron, Inter Press Service)

UN Human Rights Group Calls for Investigation of Mountaintop Removal Mining in Appalachia (by Sue Sturgis, Institute for Southern Studies)

US Faces Gaps in Protecting Human Rights in Business Activities – UN Experts (UN News Centre)


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