With Commonwealth Comes Common Responsibility: Business, human rights and sustainable development

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Responsible business is a cornerstone of sustainable development and must be based on the rule of law, human rights and environmental protection. This is recognised in Goal 16 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Business is a driver of economic growth but, for this to be sustainable, it must operate within a framework of sound regulation, procedural standards, impact assessment and accountability. The Responsible Business programme at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) is based on promoting international cooperation, the rule of law and international human rights, and meaningful participation by civil society. The Institute sees these values reflected in - and takes inspiration from – both the Commonwealth Charter, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, and the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles on the separation of powers, celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The modern Commonwealth can be a model of responsible trade and investment for the world when it recognises that Commonwealth brings common responsibility. All States and Territories have established duties in human rights law to protect human rights and ensure that trade and investment does not come at the expense of human rights and the environment but fulfils and protects them over time. The commitment of the Commonwealth to these duties and the link to the business context was laid out in the foreword to the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles by the then Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr Kamalesh Sharma, noting that ‘the rule of law sits alongside democracy and human rights as the key beliefs of this organisation – just as another threesome - governments, business and civil society - are its main actors.’ The Commonwealth Secretariat can support States to fulfil international legal obligations, businesses to operate responsibly and civil society to coordinate across its member States.


  • human rights law

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