Any of our business? Human Rights and the UK private sector - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Email from Professor Paul Hunt, University of Essex, dated 20 May 2009

Regarding the Joint Committee's inquiry into business and human rights:

  Between 2002-08, I was the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health. In that capacity, I submitted some 30 right-to-health reports to the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council.

  One of the recurrent themes in my work was access to medicines and the right to health responsibilities of States and pharmaceutical companies.

  After consulting on the issue for some years, in 2008 I submitted to the General Assembly Human Rights Guidelines for Pharmaceutical Companies in relation to Access to Medicines.[580] Please see chapter four and the annex in the attached report to the UN General Assembly.

  Last year, as UN Special Rapporteur, I undertook a formal UN mission to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), considering its access to medicines policies through the right-to-health lens. This was the first time that a UN human rights "special procedure" undertook a formal human rights mission to a specific business enterprise.

  The reason why I write now is that this week my report on GSK was published by the UN. It will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next month.

  Before examining some of the activities of GSK, the report sets out, in chapter 2, the right to health responsibilities of pharmaceutical companies in relation to access to medicines. This chapter is specific and contextual. In effect, it applies the Human Rights Guidelines to GSK. The chapter explicitly builds on the generic framework recently set out by John Ruggie.

  I hope the Committee will find both the Guidelines and the GSK report useful. They endeavour to apply human rights, specifically the right to health, to the specific context of one very important and powerful business sector.

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