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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

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“Put People Before Profit” -UN Experts Cautions Gov’t

A group of UN experts visiting Liberia has cautioned the Liberian government and businesses operating in the country to urgently implement measures to ensure the quest for economic development does not continue to undermine human rights.

“The present climate of irresponsible business practices provides profit for companies but does little for people. A sustainable and stable peace calls for accountability, transparency, equality, social cohesion, the rule of law, and respect of human rights for all,” said the experts from the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

According to a statement from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the experts welcomed the Government’s commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and at the same time praised the development of a national action plan on business and human rights.

“Facilitating foreign investment has superseded the implementation of responsible business practices,” said Working Group Chair Fernanda Hopenhaym, presenting a statement at the end of a 10-day visit. Basic infrastructure and services were lacking, especially outside Monrovia.

“The general neglect of local communities in development planning is unacceptable,” she maintained.

The group — the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights —  which Hopenhaym chairs report comes after an official visit to Liberia to address the potential adverse human rights impacts of business activities.

They look at current efforts and initiatives of the Liberian Government and businesses to meet human rights obligations and responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Working Group during their visit, met with various Government ministries and agencies, and met with a range of civil society actors, human rights defenders, community members and trade unions, as well as representatives of academia, business enterprises and business associations.

The Government needs to ensure domestic and foreign business enterprises demonstrate much greater respect for human rights, Hopenhaym said. “A critical element is a transparency and meaningful participation of affected communities in decisions regarding business activity,” she said.

The experts met representatives of Government, businesses, workers’ unions, civil society organizations, and local communities to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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