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Daniel Pruce

British Ambassador to the Philippines and to Palau

Part of FCDO Human Rights UK in Spain

11th November 2013 Madrid, Spain

Business and Human Rights

Business and Human Rights
Discussing business and human rights with a range of Spanish government departments during a recent meeting at the Foreign Ministry

How was your shirt made?

We’ve been working closely with our Spanish contacts on business and human rights in recent weeks. Globalisation means companies are increasingly sourcing and manufacturing their products via complex trans-national networks of suppliers and factories. But business success shouldn’t come at the cost of human rights.

I’ve been sharing with the Foreign Ministry and other Government Departments our experience of developing an Action Plan in the UK.

And colleagues of mine from the Embassy have been out and about talking to contacts from business, government and NGOs at last week’s International Congress on the Implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Spain.

This is an important issue for the British Government. So we here in the Embassy are keen to work closely on it with all our Spanish partners.

Promoting the UK’s prosperity is a top priority for us. Sustainable trade is vital for our economy, it supports employment and promotes British and global growth. At the same time, human rights values are intrinsic to our foreign policy.

So we will not promote trade at the expense of human rights.

Our commitment to promoting responsible business engagement is not a new one. Global debate about the responsibilities of businesses in relation to human rights has been gathering pace since the mid-1990s. A number of international initiatives have been adopted during this period, such as the Voluntary Principles of Security and Human Rights.

Following UN endorsement of the Voluntary Principles (VPs), the British Government set in hand work to develop a UK strategy on business and human rights, based on the three part structure of the VPs:

  1. the state duty to protect against human rights abuses
  2. the corporate responsibility to respect human rights
  3. the need for greater access by victims to remedy.

Following extensive consultation across government, with business and with NGOs we launched the UK’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights on the 4th September 2013.

Our Action Plan contains clear statements of what the British Government is doing to protect human rights in the business context. It also sets out our expectation that British companies will work to respect the human rights of those involved in and affected by their operations.
This was the first time the British Government had examined how it could help protect human rights in the business context.

This helped us consider the influence that the Government itself can have on business activity – through contracts, tenders and purchasing activities. We were also able to review the provision of remedy in the UK context, how that is structured and where it needs more work.

We also reflected carefully, with all our partners throughout the very extensive consultation, on the solid commercial reasons that prompt businesses to get involved in this work.

The future challenges we face in implementing the strategy are many. Communication of the Action Plan across the UK and beyond (through Embassies like us here in Madrid) is one of our top priorities. As is supporting similar initiatives in other countries – which is why we are actively involved in the debate going on here in Spain.

That’s why we were at last week’s Congress on business and human rights organised by the University of Seville. It was an excellent event, which brought together all stakeholders involved (academics, NGOs, the public and business sector) and which saw an important debate on the implementation of the Guiding Principles in Spain.

No single country, working alone, can achieve lasting change in this area. So the British Government will work closely with our EU partners and the wider international community to raise the level of engagement on this issue and to support the work of the United Nations Working Group created to take the Principles forward.

Are you a business or an NGO who would like to get involved? Let me know.

2 comments on “Business and Human Rights

  1. Dear Excellency Mr. Daniel Pruce,
    as you can meanwhile see is my 1st . comment already unusual long. So I was a little afraid , to post the entire on at once. It could be getting uninteresting or boring. So pls. allow me to send this 2nd. part now.

    ” It’s great to read the 3 part structure of the VP ‘s. But until today it ‘s , sa but fact, only written on paper. The critics in mass-media would call it “Paper-Tiger”. And we know, how evil & cynical they can be.
    So I do think that # 1 is relative easy to transform and turning them into action /reality.
    #2 surely also.
    #3 looks to me in a wayof which I ‘m thinking: Not easy. BW Ingo Steven Stuttgart

  2. Dear Sir Daniel Pruce,


    In. re of the clothes of mine – surely NOT in the P.R.C., North – or Southkorea and the area of NorthWestafrica or Bangla-Desh. ( I still do have the horrible pics. of the burning factories of Spring 13 in my mind, killing hundreds of young schoolgirls). Plus : Schoolgirls should go to school and not to work. But if yr. own parents are pushing & pressing you….?
    But topic is “Business and..” Well, I do have some friends and colleagues of British AW and like me they don´t buy since this human disaster at “Discounter Supermarkets” but in “Fairtrade Shops. These small shops are running their stores highly efficent for they can react much faster in re. of customer demand. Plis : They´re all over 35yrs.old.
    That ´also why I do full agree to your statement : “Busness success shouldn ´t come at the cost of human rights”. In re. of this message I also want to write a BIG THANK YOU (DANKESCHÖEN MEIN LIEBER HERR) to you & yr. Embassy-Team for all these very useful links like “—Principles on..” or “UK´s Action PLan”. They helped me a lot. That ´s why I ´m convienced that it ´s NOT Business vs. Human Rights or “Catch as catch can” betwee the both of ” them”.. In fact , the small but neccessary secret between these so important issue`s of human life ( Business AND Human Rights) is to me collaboration, transparency, co-operation, web-infoexchange, teamwork and the sharing of common values. To conclude : This UK Action Plan looks to me clever, fair,proper and most notable: Very slow but also carefull and very well d e v e l o p e d. (For what use could it have been , if we would have the “CONCORDE” developed and built ? All by setting up a new world record against of former Soviet-Union´s Tupolev 144? The first 144 crashed down already at the Paris Air Show in France, 1973. The British Concordes never.)
    And so I think that UK ´s Action Plan is for slower developed a document, which will become the best PR for UK´s prosperity as well as for the Ibero .Peninsula. Plus great benefits for Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar too.
    I do believe , that it has good reasons why “Fairness”, “Fairplay”, “Fairgame” or “Gentlemen Agreement” are worldwide assoziated with Great Britain. Esp. in states like Spain and Portugal. Dear Mr. Daniel Pruce, you ´ve started this great work of you with a “Q” and the last sentence is also a “Q” : “A”: yes I ´m a NGO and it would be great for me, if I could become(/get) involved. I ´m also free for travelling. Best wishes & take care, Ingo-Steven Wais, Stuttgart

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