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Rights before profit: Recommendations on corporate accountability from the co-convenors of the Post-2015 Human Rights Caucus

The private sector can play an important role in contributing new resources to achieving sustainable development and the post-2015 agenda. However, without clear lines of accountability there is an imminent risk that the development agenda over the next 15 years will be disproportionately impacted by unconstrained private sector financing, activities and priorities which undermine human rights.

Civil society organizations and coalitions participating in the post-2015 and Financing for Development (FFD) processes have repeatedly expressed concern about unregulated and unaccountable private sector involvement in financing and implementing sustainable development. Moreover, several Member States have also called for safeguards, and asked for concrete proposals for how to integrate corporate accountability into the post-2015 and FFD follow-up and review mechanisms. In his Synthesis Report, the Secretary-General also emphasized the need for regulation, safeguards and mandatory reporting for private investments in sustainable development.

States have the legal duty to protect all those within their territory from violations of their human rights by third parties, which includes business entities. This duty to protect also extends extra-territorially. States have an obligation under international law to protect human rights beyond their borders, which includes guaranteeing that business entities they are in a position to regulate – for example, businesses headquartered in their territory – respect human rights throughout their global operations abroad. States also are the ultimate human rights duty bearer; their human rights obligations cannot be ‘outsourced’ to the private sector, for example by privatization of public services that are essential for human rights enjoyment. The State is always responsible for ensuring that those services are delivered in a manner which is compatible with the State’s human rights obligations and related principles.

We present here seven calls for ensuring private sector accountability in the context of FFD and the post-2015 agenda follow. These include recommendations that should be integrated into the post-2015 and FFD outcome documents, and that Member States should act on at the national level.

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