Governance & Security

Special agreements are made to exempt business from laws protecting human rights


Businesses are integral players in upholding fundamental principles of international human rights. It is well-recognized (following the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights) that businesses have a responsibility to protect human rights and should avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their activities and address such impacts when they occur. Businesses should not undermine a State’s ability to meet its human rights obligations. This standard of conduct is expected of all business enterprises wherever they operate, and businesses risk serious reputational damage and legal consequences (depending on local laws) if they are involved in human rights abuses.


Businesses should not avoid compliance with laws that protect human rights or seek exemption from local laws which protect human rights (such as labour laws) by entering into special agreements with governments in countries where they operate, even if this may be more profitable for the business.


The actions of business enterprises have the potential to affect the human rights of their employees, customers, workers in supply chains and communities surrounding their operations. Businesses may contribute to human rights violations by entering into agreements that undermine local laws aimed at protecting human rights, or which take advantage of domestic rules that are adverse to human dignity. Where government policies fall short of protecting human rights, businesses should avoid taking advantage of these circumstances. Businesses should implement rigorous internal policies and standards and implement human rights due diligence procedures that respect internationally recognized human rights and provide remedies for complaints against the business through an appropriate human rights grievance mechanism.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, 2011, Section II 'The Corporate Responsibility to Protect Human Rights'



SDG 8.8

By conducting human rights due diligence and avoiding government policies that may lead to human rights abuses, businesses can support SDG 8.8: Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.

SDG 16


SDG 16.2

Rejecting exemptions from laws that protect human rights may also promote SDG 16.2: End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.

SDG 16.3
Similarly, by demonstrating respect for human rights in their operations, businesses support the achievement of SDG 16.3: Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.

SDG 16.5
Avoiding government agreements that may lead to human rights abuses may assist in achieving SDG 16.5: Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms.