Posts Tagged ‘UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’

Olympics: IOC getting closer to a human rights strategy

June 8, 2022

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) progress update released on May 20, 2022, is an important step toward adopting a desperately needed human rights strategic framework, the Sport & Rights Alliance said today. The move follows decades of calls from civil society and addresses several long-time demands from nongovernmental organizations and trade unions. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/03/ioc-moves-on-its-human-rights-approach-more-of-a-marathon-than-a-sprint/]

“The International Olympic Committee should immediately adopt and entrench human rights across its operations, and add protecting and respecting human rights to the Olympic Charter as a fundamental principle,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “Though overdue, this is a critically important step. It is a testament to what happens when athletes, activists, fans, journalists, workers and communities come together to make change.”

The IOC’s progress report acknowledges its responsibility to “respect human rights in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the UN Guiding Principles),” and makes a commitment to “amending the Olympic Charter to better articulate human rights responsibilities.” The IOC also rightly focused on salient rights issues, such as equality and non-discrimination; safety and well-being; livelihoods and decent work; voice – including freedom of expression, association and assembly, and meaningful representation –and privacy.

“The IOC report is right to say that athletes sit at the heart of sport, and the IOC’s human rights strategy must deliver for them,” said Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association. “This means defining athlete rights in accordance with international law, recognizing the right of athletes to organize, and ensuring that bodies such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport will enable athletes to access justice where their human rights have been violated. The IOC has long purported to advance athlete rights without respecting international human rights standards.”

The Sport & Rights Alliance has found key gaps in the document which need to be addressed in the final IOC Human Rights Strategic Framework, scheduled to be launched in September 2022. Most notably, the IOC failed to acknowledge journalists, people with disabilities, spectators and fans, as well as racial and ethnic minority groups as “particularly at-risk populations.”

“The chaos that unfolded around the UEFA Champions League final in Paris clearly shows that the IOC also needs to look closer to how fans are treated, especially for the next Games in Paris 2024,” said Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe. “The Olympic movement has no audience without its spectators. In its role as authoritative leader of the Olympic Movement and global sports governance, the IOC’s decisions determine how and whether fans participate in events, where we travel, how we’re treated, yet it has once again forgotten that fans too have human rights.”

Eli Wolff, director of the Power of Sport Lab and co-founder of Disability in Sport International, said that, “Persons with disabilities are a critically affected group in sport and in society and are protected and recognized by the United Nations and specifically in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Persons with disabilities are more than 15 percent of the global population and must be recognized in the human rights strategies and all equality and non-discrimination policies of the International Olympic Committee.”

The Sport & Rights Alliance added that the gaps identified in the progress report are not entirely surprising, given that it was developed without direct input from representatives of affected people and communities. Ongoing stakeholder engagement is an essential requirement of the UN Guiding Principles, in the identification and prioritization of human rights risks, when informing effective mitigation strategies, tracking its effectiveness and addressing violations.

Affirming the IOC’s commitment to “integrating meaningful engagement with affected stakeholders” into its ongoing due diligence processes, the Sport & Rights Alliance underlines the need for this to start as soon as possible. As the leader of global sport, the IOC should also take the additional step of including stakeholder representation in its governance structures to ensure the voice and lived experience of affected people are included in all decision-making processes.

“Given the declared launch date of September 2022, the IOC should immediately engage representatives for all affected groups — including spectators, journalists, children, survivors, athletes, LGBTQI+ population and people with disabilities — in meaningful and ongoing consultations for the next steps,” said Andrea Florence, acting director of the Sport & Rights Alliance. “It is only through transparent participation of people and communities directly impacted in decision-making processes that the IOC will actually understand how to prevent and address human rights harms related to their operations.”

Since the UN Guiding Principles were unanimously endorsed by UN Member States in 2011, the IOC has resisted pressures from civil society to adopt human rights across its operations and effectively engage with representatives of affected people and communities, even as it awarded the Olympics to countries with poor or worsening human rights environments.

Members of the Sport & Rights Alliance have long met with Olympic leaders to urge the IOC to adopt a human rights framework, accept their responsibility to seek to prevent and address human rights harms linked to the Olympic Movement, and to mitigate and remedy harms that they cause or contribute to directly. The IOC should also use its enormous power to improve often abysmal human rights conditions in host countries including ChinaBrazilRussiaBelarus and Japan.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/06/07/olympics-ioc-heeds-calls-embed-rights

Green economy and human rights defenders: Provide data, denounce attacks

April 21, 2022

On 21 April 2022 Christen Dobson, Ana Zbona and Andrea Pelliconi of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre wrote a piece entitled: “Safe, legitimate engagement between firms, human rights defenders key to a just transition

..Human rights defenders are vital leaders of a just transition to green economies. They are on the front lines of the climate crisis – and they hold essential information on the risks and harms associated with business actions, which can be used by companies and investors to conduct effective environmental and human rights due diligence to create long-term value.

Yet, these defenders are under sustained attack. In 2021, there were at least 615 attacks against people raising concerns about business-related harms, with nearly 70 per cent of attacks against climate, land and environmental rights defenders. Since January 2015, we have documented more than 3,870 attacks globally, including killings, death threats, arbitrary detention and strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Indigenous peoples, who are at the forefront of protecting biodiversity and our shared planet, experience a disproportionately high level of attacks. Although they comprise approximately 5 per cent of the world’s population, they faced 18 per cent of attacks globally in 2021. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/13/global-witness-2020-the-worst-year-on-record-for-environmental-human-rights-defenders/]

One of the main drivers of this violence is the failure of companies and investors to engage in safe and legitimate consultation with rights-holders and defenders. This failure stands to derail the fast transition to a zero-carbon economy that we urgently need.

If companies and investors do not listen to people highlighting risks related to their operations, investments, supply chains, and business relationships, or if it is not safe to raise these concerns, they will lose out on critical information needed to mitigate harm and achieving a fast and fair energy transition, essential for averting the climate crisis. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/09/07/un-experts-urge-eu-to-take-the-lead-on-protecting-human-rights-defenders-in-context-of-business/]

Renewable energy firms guilty too

While companies and investors are increasingly making welcome and necessary commitments to climate action, including promises to achieve net zero by mid-century, many do not have policies expressing zero-tolerance against reprisals, nor do they assess risks to defenders or engage in consultation with them. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/04/07/clean-energy-will-not-automatically-be-good-for-indigenous-land-defenders/

That’s the case even in the sector most crucial to the transition: our 2021 Renewable Energy Benchmark, we found that of the 15 of the largest global renewable energy companies evaluated, all scored zero on their commitment to respect the rights of human rights and environmental defenders.

The urgently needed global transition to green economies will only be successful if it is sustainable and just. This means respecting the rights of the people at the forefront of protecting our earth and raising the alarm about harmful business practices.

We have seen this failure to secure consent from affected communities prior to starting development projects lead to horrific outcomes. On 30 December 2021, police officers in the Philippines raided an Indigenous village, killing nine leaders. Local groups said that those killed were targeted and red-tagged because of their opposition to the Jalaur Mega Dam construction. Indigenous groups had challenged the project for years saying it would destroy their ancestral domain.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, an Indigenous Zapotec community has been raising concerns about wind farm construction not respecting their rights to self-determination and free, prior, and informed consent. Leaders have faced stigmatisation and harassment. In October 2018, a federal court in Mexico delivered a historic ruling in favour of the community, ordering the Mexican authorities to carry out a consultation at a wind farm operated by a state-owned company based in Europe. In October 2020, the community filed a civil lawsuit in Paris against the company.

Engaging with rights-holders and defenders early on is one of the most effective ways of identifying actual and potential human rights and environmental impacts, while also reducing business risks. It is also their responsibility under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

For human rights due diligence processes to be effective, companies and investors can start by making clear they will not tolerate any attacks to defenders related to their operations, value chains or investments, communicating this publicly and to their suppliers and business partners. Companies should also conduct due diligence across their entire value chains, as the biggest risks and harms to people and planet occur in the lower tiers…

Throughout the entire due diligence process, companies should engage in ongoing consultation with rights-holders and defenders, including prior to and at every stage of business activity, and integrate their input into decision-making.

Effective due diligence also involves conducting human rights and environmental impact assessments. The assessments should map potentially affected rights-holders and land and resource conflicts and by informed by rights-holders and defenders’ expertise

This is not just nice to do. Conducting safe and legitimate human rights and environmental due diligence benefits everyone and will ensure companies are more effectively achieving their climate commitments. As the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights says, defenders need to be seen as key partners who can help businesses identify their human rights impacts, rather than being seen as obstacles to be disposed of.

The urgently needed global transition to green economies will only be successful if it is sustainable and just. This means respecting the rights of the people at the forefront of protecting our earth and raising the alarm about harmful business practices.

https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/safe-legitimate-engagement-between-firms-human-rights-defenders-key-to-a-just-transition/

In memoriam John Ruggie, father of “Business and Human Rights”

September 28, 2021

On 22 September 2021, Harvard announced the death of Professor John Gerard Ruggie, last week.

A post by Gerald L. Neuman describes him as a major figure in international relations and human rights. Ruggie was the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  In the human rights field he is most famous for establishing a viable foundation for addressing the human rights responsibilities of business corporations, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011).  A brilliant strategist, Ruggie engaged in extensive consultation, study, analysis and persuasion to rescue the business-and-human-rights project from the polarized confrontation that had brought it to an impasse.  His invaluable book Just Business:  Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (2013) provides a model for the multi-dimensional negotiations that enable such achievements. John’s unique blend of kindness, rigour, insight, and attentive listening will be sorely missed.

Photo of John G. Ruggie sitting in his office.
John G. Ruggie is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/07/11/more-on-un-process-toward-contentious-treaty-on-business-and-human-rights/

UN Experts urge EU to take the lead on protecting human rights defenders in context of business

September 7, 2021

The European Union has a chance to set an example for the entire world by protecting people who risk their lives standing up for human rights in the context of business activities, said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, joined by the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises known as the Working Group on Business and Human Rights), Mr. Surya Deva (Chairperson), Ms. Elzbieta Karska (Vice-Chairperson), Mr. Githu Muigai, Mr. Dante Pesce, and Ms. Anita Ramasastry; and Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

The European Union legislative initiative on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence “must include safeguards for human rights defenders,” they stated on 6 September 2021.

The European Union, as the world’s largest single market, has a golden opportunity to advance the safety and security of human rights defenders who are working around the globe to build more just societies, often at great personal risk,” Lawlor said. “A robust, binding regime in the EU covering companies of all sizes would provide a powerful model for other parts of the world.”

Human rights defenders often risk their lives confronting violations along supply chains, Lawlor said. “Parent companies must carry out human rights and environmental due diligence throughout their supply chains to ensure human rights defenders are not subjected to reprisals from their subsidiaries, sub-contractors and suppliers,” she said. “The EU must ensure that where such retaliation happens, these companies can be held accountable.”

In the 10 years since the Human Rights Council adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, business compliance has remained extremely low. In the same period, increasing numbers of human rights defenders have been killed for their work. The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has recently developed guidance setting forth expectations that businesses address risks to defenders and that States address this as part of their own mandatory human rights due diligence regulations.

People who stand up for human rights related to environmental protection, community land rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, poverty, minorities and business accountability – often intertwining issues – are most at risk of being attacked or killed.

Where human rights defenders come under attack in the context of business activities it is a clear sign of other underlying human rights issues.” Lawlor said. Potential risks for human rights defenders should be seen as a key component of companies’ due diligence duty to identify and assess human rights risks connected to their projects, and must be specifically included in the expected EU proposal.

Business enterprises must also be obliged to consult with defenders under the EU initiative, and the door should be kept open for defenders to bring issues to companies’ attention at every stage within business projects,” Lawlor said. “

“Now is the time for the EU to give new life to its founding principles by delivering a strong law that could help reduce the number of lives lost in defence of human rights,” Lawlor said.

https://www.miragenews.com/golden-opportunity-for-eu-to-take-global-lead-626609/

Applications open for RAFTO’s Business and Human Rights Course in Norway

May 1, 2019
You can apply now for the 2019 autumn course in Bergen, Norway.  The Business and Human Rights Course explores the links between human rights violations and corporate activity, and the importance of international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, in strengthening respect and protection of human rights, by states and businesses alike.

The course will focus on what corporate human rights due diligence means in practice, including how companies can effectively address human rights dilemmas across their global operations and throughout their supply chains. Participants will explore emerging sector-specific and thematic issues on the human rights and business agenda, and assess the effectiveness of existing efforts of relevance in Norway and globally.

The course will provide participants with a deeper understanding of how human rights concerns relate to a range of industry sectors. It will also provide practical guidance for developing corporate strategies that are consistent with international human rights standards.

For further information and application form: https://www.uib.no/en/course/S…

Application deadline for the 2019 autumn course is 19.08.2019


Course information

  • Available to masters students, professionals and individuals interested in business and human rights.
  • A bachelors degree or the equivalent and a minimum of two years’ work experience is required.
  • The course counts 15 credit points and will be offered in English as part-time study.
  • Classes held over three weekends
  • The fee will be NOK 19.000.
  • Course code SAMPOL610.

Upon completion of the course, students will:

  • have a deeper understanding of international human rights standards and how they apply to companies.
  • be able to assess human rights risks associated with business activity and understand steps needed to prevent, mitigate, and remediate adverse impacts.
  • be familiar with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and what they require from governments and corporations.
  • have working knowledge of available guidance and practical tools to analyse human rights challenges relating to business and align companies’ policies and practices with international standards.

The course will be offered by the Department of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen in co-operation with the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights and the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

Contact

Picture of Therese Jebsen

Therese Jebsen

The Rafto Foundation, Senior Advisor

Means of contact Contact details
Phone: 415 11 390
E-mail: therese.jebsen@rafto.no

 

https://www.rafto.no/our-work/business-and-human-rights/masters-course-business-and-human-rights

Consilium EU adopts conclusions on business and human rights

June 21, 2016

On 20 June 2016, the EU Council adopted its conclusions on business and human rights [its 3477th meeting – COHOM 78]. The full document is available through the link below. The main paragraph mentioning human rights defenders is no 19: “The Council recognises the importance of building capacity both within EU Delegations and Member States’ embassies to work effectively on business and human rights issues, including supporting human rights defenders working on corporate accountability and providing guidance to companies on the Guiding Principles. The Council invites the High Representative and the Commission to develop the necessary tools for EU Delegations to help meet these needs, including through building on the support and best practices of Member States.”

Source: Council conclusions on business and human rights – Consilium

Berta Cáceres death may lead to reconsidering financing of Agua Zarca dam

March 16, 2016

The killing of Honduran human rights defender Berta Cáceres [http://wp.me/pQKto-20p] has resonated widely in the media and may (finally) lead to some real action in the world where the dam is being financed. Peter Bosshard, Interim Executive Director, International Rivers, wrote under the heading “Agua Zarca: A Stain on the Dutch and Finnish Human Rights Record” (15 March 2016) that the Dutch government announced that it will send an ambassador to Honduras “to express concern over the killing of human rights activist Berta Cáceres” and presumably assess the state of the Agua Zarca Project. In response to International Rivers’ online action, FMO (the financial arm of development aid) said that it would decide about continued involvement in the dam project on the basis of this visit. Finn fund says that speculation about an exit from Agua Zarca is “at the moment premature,” but the financier would probably follow if FMO pulled out of the project. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defenders and their organizations are at the heart of the protection of natural resources

June 19, 2015

The link between human rights defenders and the exploitation of natural resources was the focus of this year’s report (18 June 20150 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai. He called for a new treaty binding businesses to respect fundamental human rights, and for States and corporations to fully engage with civil society organizations in the context of natural resource exploitation.

Corporations play an outsized role in the decision-making processes about exploitation of natural resources. But they are not subject to legally binding human rights obligations,” Mr. Kiai told the UN Human Rights Council during the presentation of his latest report. “It is time to address this issue more robustly; corporations must not escape responsibility to safeguard human rights.

I am aware that some would rather strengthen compliance with the Guiding Principles than have a binding treaty. But this should not be an either/or matter: Both should be pursued to protect human rights.”

The Special Rapporteur also highlighted States’ responsibility to recognize civil society organizations, including affected communities, as key actors in the context of natural resource exploitation.  “Authorities endeavour to silence individuals and associations that express opposition to natural resource exploitation processes,” the independent expert said.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur argues that States’ and corporations pervasive disregard of communities and associations’ input in the natural resources sector is counterproductive and divisive, and is likely contributing to an erosion of confidence in the world’s prevailing economic system.

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are instrumental in achieving sustainable and mutually beneficial exploitation of natural resources,” he said. “These rights help foster increased transparency and accountability in the exploitation of resources and inclusive engagement throughout the decision-making chain.”

During his presentation, Mr. Kiai also warned that authorities have increasingly sought to stifle expressions of criticism and opposition by cracking down, often with unnecessary force, on peaceful protests; arresting, harassing, prosecuting and imprisoning human rights defenders; enacting restrictive legislation on associations; and interfering with the operations of civil society organizations.

Peaceful protests are banned from sites where natural resource exploitation takes place and the situation is not any better in relation to the right to freedom of association,” he noted. “Individuals and associations who express opposition to natural resource exploitation processes are vilified as ‘anti-development’, ‘unpatriotic’, and even as ‘enemies of the State’”.

“This intolerance is reflected in countries in the global North, and the global South,” the Special Rapporteur said. “Nevertheless, I remain optimistic because of the incredible courage and determination of activists and ordinary people who refuse to be cowed or defeated, even if it means paying with their lives.”

The Special Rapporteur’s full report (A/HRC/29/25/Add.3) is at: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=189

For the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

 

Natural resources sector: UN expert calls for binding human rights treaty for corporations.