Building corporate accountability to ensure respect for human rights: a focus on freedom of association and human rights defenders
Global value chains have grown exponentially in the last decades. While globalisation has brought enormous economic benefits and increased awareness of human rights and environmental issues worldwide, it has also often contributed to causing or exacerbating irreversible environmental damage, human rights abuses and abusive labour practices, sometimes in its worst forms, such as child labour, forced labour and human trafficking.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the fragile state of many global value chains, including the sustainability and protection against human rights abuses. Moreover, the absence of social nets and poor occupational, health and safety standards in the workplace and the lack of decent work opportunities has aggravated the economic vulnerability of many workers, migrants and indigenous peoples, as well as other groups and minorities. This race to the bottom when it comes to respecting human rights, labour and environmental standards broadens the informal economy, where root causes of inequalities such as poverty or conflict entangle the most vulnerable into continuous hardship.
The systemic and large-scale nature of these challenges requires the involvement of Member States and companies in addressing the governance gaps existing in global supply chains. This includes, in particular, by ensuring the implementation of existing internationally recognised social and economic rights and of standards on business and human rights, decent work and responsible business conduct, as well as promoting appropriate standards on areas such as sustainable corporate governance, social protection or climate change.