Business and Human Rights: where to go in the UN

November 19, 2015

from Special Issue on Business and Human Rights by the ISHR, October 2015

For human rights defenders interested to find their way in the myriad of procedures and soft law surrounding the issue of business and human rights:

The UN established in June 2011 a Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
The key mandate of the Working Group is to promote the effective and comprehensive dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, using the usual range of tools available to Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council (country visits, thematic reports, and individual communications).In order to discuss the trends and challenges in the implementation of those Guiding Principles and to promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights, a Forum on Business and Human Rights has been held every year since 2012 and is open to all relevant stakeholders, including in particular human rights defenders. There is an increasing focus on human rights defenders in the agenda of the Forum, with two specific panels dedicated to human rights defenders in 2015 focusing on women human rights defenders and on the role of business in protecting defenders respectively.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association have both expressed concern about human rights defenders working on these issues, with the previous Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders devoting a report to the issue of human rights defenders working on major development projects and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association devoting a report to the issue of freedom of association and the extractive industries.

In June 2014, the Human Rights Council mandated an Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG), tasked with commencing work towards the drafting of an international legally binding treaty on business and human rights. In July 2015 the IGWG had their first session, more information and reports can be found here.

Finally, the UN Global Compact initiative, is intended as a practical framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of sustainability policies and practices by businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles.

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