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Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

16.06.2021 - Speech

A happy tenth anniversary to the United Nations Guiding Principles from Berlin!

Their adoption ten years ago was nothing short of a revolution: The international community finally acknowledged the responsibility businesses have in relation to human rights. And for the first time a United Nations body set up an international framework based on three fundamental pillars: “Protect, Respect and Remedy”.

A lot has happened since then. The Guiding Principles have shaped policies worldwide.

They have become the reference point for many National Action Plans, including our own.

In the process, state actors, businesses, civil society and trade unions have joined forces to protect human rights along supply and value chains. But our National Action Plan also showed us that a smart mix of measures must include binding regulations to be effective.

I am therefore glad to report to you that the German parliament adopted a mandatory Supply Chain Due Diligence Act just a few days ago. This is a milestone for the respect of labour standards in all products reaching German consumers.

And it will give us greater certainty that German businesses and companies producing for the German market have nothing to do with practices such as forced or child labour.

Building consensus around this law was challenging, to say the least. We often had to bridge opposing views between civil society, businesses and political parties. And I believe similar challenges are to be expected elsewhere. But in the end, the results merit the efforts. Because our supply chains are more sustainable when human rights are respected.

We intend to build on this progress. And our focus will be on broadening the international consensus around better regulation – at the European and at the global level:

In Europe, discussions have begun about a European due diligence regulation that would create a level playing field among us and ensure better conditions in global supply chains.

But to make this effort truly global, we also need to universalise our regulations and frameworks.

So, dear friends, if I may make a wish on this anniversary, it is that we work together towards this goal. The first decade of the UN Guiding Principles has brought enormous progress. Let us make sure we can say the same thing about the next ten years!

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