Tale/innlegg | Dato: 24.09.2010
- Together, we should all do our utmost to consolidate the UN framework and the guiding principles at the Human Rights Council this coming spring, sa utenriksminister Støre bl.a. i sitt åpningsinnlegg under Trygve Lie symposiet i New York 24. september 2010.
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Thank you to the International Peace Institute for being such a wonderful convener. I started this week in New York with Terje (Rød-Larsen) at a dinner on Middle East issues and I end my stay here at the Institute at another stimulating event.
I would like to pay tribute to the busy people who have taken the time to come here: in particular to the ministers, and to John Ruggie, whom we are all here to support, because he is on a mission from a broad community of business actors, politicians and civil society. So we have great expectations that this seminar will give firm support to the work ahead of you.
Just a few introductory remarks before I pass over to John and then to my colleague from South Africa.
Just think of all the sharp divisions we had on this topic a few years ago. Between states and civil society, between states and the business sector, between one state and another. And many societies and governments have been unprepared for dealing with strong transnational corporations and the effects of globalisation.
We have seen unchecked forces working against each other. The media has brought us pictures of children working in damp factories, women fleeing from the threat of rape in their mineral-rich countries, and men marching in protest against violations of labour rights. These challenges have not gone, but we are starting to deal with them – through extensive research efforts, pilot projects and consultations involving more than 40 countries.
Professor Ruggie has managed to find a reasonable common denominator, and not the lowest one, for bridging this governance gap. So the UN framework “Protect, Respect, Remedy” and the forthcoming guiding principles, which we are now focusing on, represent one of the first steps of what I believe will be a long march.
The framework is already having an impact in a number of multinational forums, including the UN Security Council, the OECD, the Voluntary Principles and the international financial institutions. And what we see, and welcome, is that businesses are already taking action and some faster than governments.
And it’s good that business are being challenged from that side. It shows that the UN can be innovative, even in relation to highly complex and sensitive public–private issues.
We will build on that positive momentum. Many of us want to go further, but at the same time we are told that we need to take one step at a time. If we aim to achieve a perfect solution too quickly, we could risk ending up with nothing, and even losing what we have achieved so far.
So what we have to do is to secure and deepen the consensus in the Human Rights Council, step by step, in support of the SRSG and his work, and implement piece by piece existing recommendations before we embark on the next shift.
Together, we should all do our utmost to consolidate the UN framework and the guiding principles at the Human Rights Council this coming spring.
So I think the Professor, supported by us, knows that he has a challenge ahead of him. Equally important – let me finish on this – we need to consolidate these principles at home. For each and every one of us, businesses and states alike, this will be our main challenge. The business and human rights agenda concerns us as both home and as host states for businesses, and as UN member states.
So when we adopt and implement these principles, engage with the business sector and are clear about our expectations, we can create a conducive environment for taking this whole effort forward.
We now have a financial crisis, which – for some – serves as an excuse for not addressing these issues, but we have also seen that those who do take these principles seriously are not losers in the market. They are innovative companies who are moving forward and really demonstrating leadership.
The people gathered in this room represent different interests. I think that’s the way we need to work these days, not just bringing together the like-minded, but actors with different backgrounds. Governments bring political and diplomatic influence. Governments are also owners and regulators. Companies bring resources, dynamism and the ability to make a real difference on the ground. And civil society must also be included.
So with these words, I hand over the floor to the SRSG, Professor Ruggie. I thank you for your lasting efforts on this, and simply reiterate that we will follow and support your work actively in the coming months.
Further remarks by Mr Støre:
Thank you so much for these introductions. I know people have busy schedules and we will run this for just another 15 minutes.
What we are faced with is a very complex issue covering all states, all sectors. So there’s no silver bullet. There’s no one size fits all.
I think the last remark by Ms Goldberg about capacity-building is important. I mean, in my country, we need to build capacity among business actors, politicians, and law enforcers, and this point was underlined by the Minister from South Africa, a country going through turbulent transition.
Another aspect of capacity building is strengthening the capacity to deal with international corporations. There are unprepared societies out there, meeting a force that they are not very well placed to deal with.
So I think what we see is that the work is now being taken forward by the co-sponsors and by Professor Ruggie, and we hope that we will win broad support in the Human Rights Council, which is an important avenue.
Some say that we should have more voluntary approaches. I think these can exist side by side. You know, we have the EITI, the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, which covers a group of countries – more every year – and similar initiatives that complement the EITI’s efforts.
But there’s one question that NGOs keep asking, and I’d like to put this question to Professor Ruggie: Where would he like to see this process end?
I suspect he will say that it will not end, that it’s an ongoing process. However, there is often an ambition – also in other areas – here at the UN of establishing a convention. The idea that this is a kind of silver bullet. You know, the end game.
We have the same thing on disarmament. There is the idea that we should have a convention that settles the issues. And Norway is a firm believer in conventions when they serve a purpose.
But I think the keyword has been mentioned several times here – efficiency and effectiveness. We need solutions that are effective and efficient.
In my country at least, we have experienced that ongoing, close dialogue with the business sector been the best approach, and that it is this exchange that is taking the agenda forward.
I think that the main challenge for ILO in every area of its work is to have a real impact. And what Norway has tried to do – as a modest contribution – is, two years ago, to bring together WTO and ILO to discuss the issue of decent work. I firmly believe that this issue now needs to be approached in a systematic and balanced fashion.
I say this because we know that decent work standards may be perceived by the South as a protectionist measure imposed by the North. As with the question of the environment, in the context of the WTO some years ago, we have to approach this systematically.
It was not included in the Doha round. We struggled to complete the Doha round, but I very much believe that in the next phase of taking legislation on trade forward, we need to address two issues much more vigilantly – climate change and decent work.
And then, two weeks ago, we brought the IMF and the ILO together in Oslo, and I found it quite groundbreaking that Juan Somavia and Dominique Strauss-Kahn were examining together how to deal with the financial crisis in a way that respected labour rights. And I think the IMF was really showing a different face, a different approach: bringing a team of experts to work together with ILO experts.
We very firmly believe that the mandate of the ILO is crucial. There is the pressure of conventions looking after other conventions, but as we believe that we need to work across regions as countries, we also need to get these organisations to work across regions, across sectors.
And Mary Robinson, when she was High Commissioner, was able to do that – to engage with the different sectors and ensure that human rights are not seen just a sector issue, but as an issue that is relevant in all sectors.
With regard to our pension fund, we take disinvestment decisions based on the ethical criteria of the fund and examination of the 7 000 companies in the portfolio. Now, the person that has to go out there and face it is me, because I’m approached by other governments saying that disinvesting from this or that company is an unfriendly gesture against their country. And I have to explain that there is absolutely no link. It’s not because the company is from their country. It’s because it was breaching international regulations. I believe this is now better understood, but it illustrates that a lot of explanation is needed in such a politicised world to simply communicate to people that this new policy of a sovereign wealth fund having a disinvestment clause is not another tool of foreign policy.