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New Guide: Human Rights Translated

(New York, 5 December 2008) - Sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in Paris in 1948, human rights increasingly resonate with business. Today sees the launch of a new publication, Human Rights Translated: A Business Reference Guide, which explains human rights concepts in the language of business through the use of examples and suggested practical actions. The publication, launched at the International Seminar on Business and Human Rights in Paris, is a joint product of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the UN Global Compact Office.

“We are delighted to have been involved in the development of this important publication”, said UN Human Rights Commissioner Navanethem Pillay. “It provides companies with a comprehensive explanation of the entire range of human rights contained in the two key International Covenants, and offers useful illustrations of how these rights relate to business practices. I encourage companies to use this publication as a reference when seeking to improve their understanding of how international human rights standards apply in a business context”.

Speaking at the International Seminar on Business and Human Rights in Paris on Thursday, Professor John Ruggie, UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, said: “ Corporations widely recognize that they have a responsibility to respect internationally recognized human rights. But no comprehensive tool has existed that describes what such rights mean in a business context. This publication does so, in language that is rights-based while also being easily accessible to business executives and managers. Companies are encouraged to use Human Rights Translated as a reference guide when undertaking their human rights due diligence to ensure that they discharge their responsibility to respect rights”.

Mary Robinson, President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and Board member of the UN Global Compact, said: “The 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a key moment not only to recognize the leadership of companies that have already engaged on human rights issues, but to remind businesses around the world of the challenges that still lie ahead. This publication will help companies meet that challenge”.

Adam Leach, the new Chief Executive Officer of the IBLF, said: “The importance of human rights to business has been well understood by leading companies within specific industries for some time. But for many in business the human rights terminology is off-putting. Human Rights Translated helps demystify human rights for company executives and practitioners across all industries and helps them to see how their existing practices fit within a human rights context. This book is part of IBLF’s work making human rights accessible and manageable for companies. I urge companies to use the Guide in conjunction with other business and human rights management materials to reinforce their positive impact on human development”.

Professor Sarah Joseph, Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University in Melbourne said: "The Castan Centre is pleased to have contributed its legal expertise to the production of this guide.  In creating this publication, we aim to provide business with a 'plain language' guide to international human rights standards, and to illustrate how they are relevant in a business context. We hope that this publication will contribute to a greater understanding of human rights issues by companies".

Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Office, said: “We are delighted to be associated with this reference guide, which will help clarify how human rights can become a business issue across sectors and countries. The Global Compact now has over 6000 business participants and other stakeholders in more than 130 countries. We anticipate that Human Rights Translated will be a useful reference for Global Compact participants and other businesses all over the world, especially in enhancing their knowledge of how to respect and support human rights and avoid complicity in human rights abuse”.

Click here to download Human Rights Translated.

Click here to download Navigating the Human Rights Translated.


Ursula Wynhoven
UN Global Compact Office