HM The Queen's speech at "Corporate Respect and Support for Human Rights — The Foundation Sustainability"
Rio +20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I hope this meeting will produce a strong message at this point in time in order to meet our common challenges like climate change, the financial crisis and sustainable development.
The seriousness of the current economic, environmental and social crises cannot be ignored. We face major challenges on the financial markets as well as on fundamental environmental issues and social human rights conditions. These challenges are being met and dealt with by countries and international organizations in close cooperation. Here today, I will focus on a very important tool in our efforts toward a sustainable development: namely the corporate respect and support for human rights.
Increased attention is being paid to the role of business in society. And there is a greater awareness of the links between business and human rights. Business can influence social and environmental conditions positively through responsible business practice.
Many companies are actively calling for a more level playing field and greater certainty about society's expectations on them.
Governments have the primary responsibility for respecting, protecting and promoting human rights. They cannot be bystanders. They must be active participants. Governments must ensure that all the laws they adopt, including labor laws and legislation regulating corporate conduct is in conformity with its international human rights obligations. Governments should also work in partnership with business to facilitate the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.
While Governments have the primary responsibility for respecting and protecting human rights, businesses also have an important role to play. In particular in those parts of the world plagued by poverty, weak governance or conflict, in which legislation is lacking or faulty from a human rights perspective, businesses should exercise due diligence to ensure that they do not become complicit in abuses.
Governments can act to implement their international human rights obligations. Businesses must exercise due diligence and ensure that it does not act in ways which are contrary to internationally agreed norms, even if there is no relevant domestic legislation in place.
The UN Framework on Business and Human Rights gives business guidance in this regards. The Framework is important for governments, but also for the business managers from every business sector, for both employers and the employee and it is important for ordinary people in every region of the world. Human rights is about respecting and protecting the fundamental dignity of each human being.
One thing is certain, business cannot function without human resources, although many activities nowadays are geared by computers, machines and other tools for producing technology and development. But let us not forget that there is always a human being behind it all. And all human rights - both civil, cultural, economic, political and social - are relevant and should be taken into account.
Lastly, let me remind you that 100 years ago a remarkable person was born. The Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg made a unique contribution during the Second World War by saving tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.
Wallenberg fought for values, to protect and promote human rights at home and abroad. His actions show that one person's courage and ability can make a difference. The origin of a humanitarian world is tolerance. A tolerance for being different and thinking differently, together with a belief that your thoughts and opinions are worth as much as mine. Raoul Wallenberg was a true hero in the fullest sense of the word. Because he could have looked away. He could have just gone home. But his conscience, his worldview and his deeply ingrained sense of humanity gave him no other choice, but to be that hero.
At this conference we have a unique opportunity to recognize the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility as a human face of globalization. It needs to be an integral part of every business model and is necessary to ensure sustainable development and growth.
Let me conclude and say that we need to be both tolerant and brave. There is no other choice, at least not if you believe in human rights, in development and in every person´s right to a free and decent life.
I wish you good luck in today's discussions.