By U.S. Charge d’Affaires Charisse Phillips
As we work to overcome the pandemic, the United States follows a simple principle: we don’t just want to go back to the old status quo, we want to build back better. This is true for our work to ensure global access to high quality COVID-19 vaccines, our efforts to preserve the environment, and our commitment to strengthen our commercial partnerships. Here in Bolivia, as we work to rebuild and grow the $1 billion in annual bilateral trade, we are committed to upholding the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and to supporting public-private partnerships that defend human rights.
Established 10 years ago, the UNGPs created a common understanding of the positive role businesses can play in promoting respect for human rights and remedying abuses in the context of business activities. The guidelines outline three pillars: 1) governments have a duty to protect human rights; 2) businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights; and 3) victims affected by business-related human rights issues should have access to remedy.
In response to the UNGPs, over the past decade many governments have created National Action Plans on business and human rights, and adopted legislation to counter corporate abuses and enhance accountability, including the United States. Many businesses are strengthening corporate policies and practices on human rights and conducting due diligence to avoid directly or inadvertently supporting human rights abuses through their operations, investments, contracts, or supply chains. Businesses that respect human rights have a competitive advantage by mitigating operational, legal, and reputational risks. These businesses know that respecting human rights is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.
U.S. companies are among the global leaders in responsible business conduct based on their commitment to promoting respect for human rights, respecting the rule of law, and strengthening local communities through long-term investments and human capital development. We endeavor for American businesses to live up to expectations that associate the American brand with respect for human rights and strong governance. Legal tools, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, hold U.S. companies accountable for corruption and demonstrate the difference between doing business with the United States and inking deals with other partners less interested in transparency and accountability.
The U.S. Embassy recognizes the benefits of innovative public-private partnerships such as the Triple Seal Initiative established by the Ministry of Labor, the Santa Cruz Coordinator for Eradication of Child Labor, and sugar cane producers to certify that Bolivian sugar cane is produced without the use of child labor. This encouraging initiative helped defend the rights of an estimated 5,000 children and led to a significant reduction in the rates of the child labor in the Santa Cruz sugarcane industry. Sadly, too many children in Bolivia are still engage in the worst forms of child labor in the mining sector and in need of protection from commercial sexual exploitation. More work should be done to prevent child labor and provide justice to victims of sexual exploitation. The United States is ready to work with Bolivia in these areas, based on mutual respect and our shared democratic values.
The private sector must continue to play an important role in a global post-pandemic economic recovery. Governments alone cannot guarantee the necessary investments, financing, and employment. However, much work must still be done to foster a world in which economic success includes respect for people and the planet. On this point, our governments are aligned.
To demonstrate our commitment, today, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken announced the U.S. government will soon begin the process of updating and revitalizing the United States’ National Action Plan (NAP) on Responsible Business Conduct. However, we recognize that promoting respect for human rights is best accomplished by working with allies and partners across the globe. The success of future efforts to advance respect for human rights by businesses in line with the UNGPs will depend upon the collaboration of government, business, and civil society.
The United States is committed to supporting Bolivia as it builds back better, so that our shared prosperity can create new opportunities for both our peoples.