Human Rights Unit engages with Government, private sector and civil society stakeholders on Business and Human Rights in Mauritius

01 June 2022
Participants at the Business and Human Rights Workshop in Mauritius

On 26 May 2022, the Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat hosted a one-day workshop on business and human rights at the Labourdonnais Hotel, Port Louis, Mauritius, attended by over 30 key stakeholders in Government, parastatal bodies, civil society, businesses, and trade unions in Mauritius.

The workshop was organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat Human Rights Unit in collaboration with the Mauritius Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade (Human Rights Division). It aimed to raise awareness and strengthen understanding on the international framework on Business and Human Rights, including the United Nations (UN) Business and Human Rights Guiding Principles, and identify gaps, challenges, and opportunities to strengthen policy and institutional frameworks on business and human rights in Mauritius.

The Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Alan Ganoo opened the workshop with a keynote speech in which he emphasised that the Government of Mauritius is committed to enhancing and facilitating greater involvement of civil society and businesses in the promotion and protection of human rights. 

In his address, he noted that implementation of human rights requires a conducive environment and requires support by all actors, including the private sector. He further observed that, business enterprises, can significantly impact the human rights of employees, consumers, and communities throughout their operations. He further elaborated that these can be positive, including increasing employment opportunities or enhancing public services, or negative, such as environmental damage, underpaying workers, or forcibly evicting communities.

Leading the workshop, Dr. Shavana Haythornthwaite, Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat Human Rights Unit, strengthened participants’ understanding of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, the Guiding Principles operationalise the UN Protect, Respect, and Remedy Framework, which recognises the responsibilities of States and businesses to both take steps to protect, respect, and remedy human rights abuses committed by businesses. Relevant national frameworks in Mauritius were also highlighted by Ms. Asha Pillay-Nababsing, Senior State Counsel, from the Attorney General’s Office during the workshop.

During the workshop, a participant from Business Mauritius, an independent association that represents over 1200 local businesses, remarked that there is a misconception that “private sector has nothing to do with human rights.” However, he noted that in Mauritius, the “private sector is the largest employer.” He further noted that this requires “providing decent work for decent pay as required by law,” as well as “decent living conditions and food for foreign workers.”

By the end of the workshop, participants demonstrated a strengthened understanding and commitment on critical business and human rights issues impacting Mauritius and identified possible avenues to address existing gaps in the status quo in this area. For most participants, it was the first time they had engaged on the subject matter, and at the close of the workshop, participants overwhelmingly expressed interest in further guidance on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and its practical implementation. 


Media contact

  • Rena Gashumba  Communications Adviser, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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