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Help Mark the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

(1 December 2007) Letter co-signed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and by Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office, inviting all UN Global Compact participants to help mark the 60th anniversary of the UDHR.


(28 April 2008) Follow-up letter from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office outlining practical ways in which companies and Global Compact Local Networks can respect and promote human rights. The letter also includes information on relevant business and human rights tools and guidance materials.


(29 October2008) This letter outlines three opportunities of helping to advance business and human rights, inspired by the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the basis for the first two Global Compact principles. In particular, the letter calls participants' attention to the opportunity of adding their CEO's name to the CEO Statement.  Click here for more information on the CEO Statement.


Ideas for Action

Familiarize Yourself with the Global Compact’s Human Rights Principles

Policy Statements

  • Consider whether it would be appropriate for your firm to include more explicit references to human rights and the UDHR in your company policies (an integrated policy or a stand-alone human rights policy) and procedures and whether they could be posted on the Internet to be shared more widely. Your firm may also integrate human rights into existing policies.
  • Company policies containing human rights commitments can also be submitted to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (contact@business-humanrights.org), which features more than 150 policies on its website.

CEO and Board-level Commitments

  • Engage your company at the executive/CEO-level to express human rights commitments and promote the UDHR.
  • Make human rights a board-level issue.

Practices and implementation

  • Conduct a human rights risk and impact assessment.
  • Ensure that your company's practices are aligned with (and do not undermine) existing human rights commitments.
  • Engage in dialogue with your stakeholders (including critics) about your company's human rights performance.

Awareness-Raising and Training for Employees, Subsidiaries, Suppliers and Other Business Partners

  • Raise awareness of the UDHR and its anniversary among employees, subsidiaries, business partners and other stakeholders through company communications channels. (The UDHR is available in 335 languages at http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/navigate/alpha.htm.) 
  • Promote your company's position on human rights with your subsidiaries, suppliers and other business partners (as a term of business) and encourage their participation in the Global Compact.
  • Encourage your subsidiaries, suppliers and business partners to ask their suppliers and business partners to make explicit human rights commitments.
  • Explore ways of enhancing the transparency of human rights and labour practices in your supply chain.
  • Train employees, subsidiaries, business partners and other stakeholders on human rights. (see also the OHCHR/UN Global Compact/UN Staff College Human Rights Training Package)

Case Studies, Learning and Good Practices

  • Consider participating in the trial use of a business and human rights tool and sharing the experience with your Global Compact Local Network. Click here to download a short description of how some major business and human rights tools can be used and where to find them. (An optional one-page human rights management framework that businesses might find helpful in integrating human rights in business management is available in six languages.)
  • Companies willing to share good human rights practices with others are encouraged to become the subject of a business case study for the Global Compact publication Embedding Human Rights in Business Practice III. (Download the second volume, Business Case Studies: Research Guidelines)

Communicate Progress

  • Please include your human rights activities in your next Communication on Progress. In addition, you may wish to publicize your human rights activities and initiatives (including those taken in connection with the UDHR anniversary)  by notifying the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (contact@business-humanrights.org). The Resource Centre will be drawing attention to such initiatives on its website.

Participate in Global Compact Local Networks

  • Global Compact Local Networks are encouraged to make reference the UDHR’s 60th anniversary on their websites and include human rights issues in their network agenda for 2008. Networks that are already undertaking activities on business and human rights this year include Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Korea, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, the Nordic Countries, South Africa, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Zambia.

Engage in Other Networks

  • Explore opportunities of helping raise awareness of the UDHR and the UN Global Compact at the local level through industry associations and other formal and/or informal networks your company is involved in. Also consider opportunities of engagement with non-governmental organizations.

Engage with National Human Rights Institutions

  • Consider engaging with national human rights institutions. National human rights institutions are independent bodies established by states and combine the advantages of an official entity with the creativity and energy of non-governmental organizations. For more information about national human rights institutions, go to www.nhri.net.


  • The UN Global Compact focuses on the business case for supporting and respecting human rights and avoiding complicity in human rights abuse. However, your company may wish to consider supporting local or international development projects related to human rights issues, or addressing issues such as water preservation and access, children's education, public health and health education, gender equality and women's rights. Many companies have partnered with the UN or non-governmental organizations on projects which are linked to their core business.

Collective Action

  • Encourage your industry association to highlight human rights in its agenda in 2008.
  • Consider opportunities of engaging in collective action to promote human rights in your industry sector or in your region.

Individual Engagement

  • Encourage employees and others to make their own individual commitment to the Universal Declaration at  Every Human Has Rights , a global campaign by The Elders, who have expressed their hope that "2008 can be the year that individuals, not just governments, sign the declaration".  Some companies are helping to promote this campaign through their intranet and website. (one billion signatures are sought).

Activities by Global Compact Participants

[AXA Group] AXA has developed a strategy for effective communication with its employees on AXA's effort to respect human rights. The strategy includes a series of articles on various human rights issues in their staff intranet system. The communication plan is available for download.

[Bovespa] On 13 March 2008, Bovespa's Chairman Raymundo Magliano has contributed an article to Folha de S. Paulo, a leading newspaper in Brazil, to raise awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and promote Human Rights in Brazil. Available in Portuguese and English.

[International Chamber of Commerce] Coinciding with its support for the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ICC has issued a policy statement developed by the ICC Commission on Business in Society. The statement describes the role and responsibilities of business in relation to human rights, and highlights the steps companies have taken to act as good corporate citizens and respect human rights in the context of their business activities.

[Novo Nordisk] Novo Nordisk has posted a film on the Elders campaign on its sustainability website and prepared a publication on its work on the right to health. The news has been sent to all Novo Nordisk employees around the globe. The film and publication are available at http://www.novonordisk.com/sustainability/default.asp.

[Vivendi] On 10 December 2008, Vivendi launched an awareness campaign for the company's 43,000 employees on the 10 Principles of the UN Global Compact.  The campaign message is available in English and French.

Click here for activities planned for this year by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Information kits and posters are also available for download.

Please send your ideas for how business can commemorate the 60th anniversary of the UDHR to globalcompact@un.org .

(Last update: 8 April 2009)