Posts Tagged ‘United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’

Dakar Rally starts on 5 January in Jeddah but HRDs in jail

January 4, 2020

Olympic Games in future bound by human rights standards

March 14, 2017

On 2 February this year I wrote about human rights coming to football [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/fifa-governance-committee-starts-dealing-with-a-human-rights-policy/]. Now there is some progress to note on the Olympics: The Sports and Rights Alliance (SRA) reports that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has moved to incorporate human rights principles in its Host City Contract. This could help prevent major abuses by future Olympic hosts. The revised Host City Contract, developed with recommendations from a coalition of leading rights, athletes’ and transparency organizations, was finalized in January 2017, and will first apply to the 2024 Summer Olympics. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/26/coalition-of-human-rights-defenders-and-others-call-on-olympic-committee-to-change-its-ways/]

For the first time, the IOC has included explicit reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), which outline the human rights responsibilities of businesses, as well as references to anti-corruption standards. The Guiding Principles explain how commercial enterprises should assess human rights risks, take effective steps to avoid human rights problems, and ensure a remedy for abuses that occur in spite of those efforts.

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IOC President Thomas Bach in Lausanne 9 July, 2014. © 2014 Reuters

“This is an important step by the IOC for the future,” said Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation general secretary. “Implementing the UN Guiding Principles across all major global sporting events could help break the cycle of human rights abuses, and this example from the IOC should be applied to all such events, starting now.”

The SRA’s mission is to ensure that sports bodies and mega-sporting events respect human rights, the environment, and anti-corruption requirements at all stages of the process. “Time after time, Olympic hosts have gotten away with abusing workers building stadiums, and with crushing critics and media who try to report about abuses,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “The right to host the Olympics needs to come with the responsibility not to abuse basic human rights.

The revised contract requires host cities to “protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognized human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country.

If implemented, the revised Host City Contract will help ensure that Olympic hosts respect ‘human dignity’ as required by the Olympic Charter,” said Brendan Schwab, head of UNI World Athletes. “This should have a ripple effect across all mega-sporting events such as the World Cup, and wherever abuses tied to sport still occur.”

[Key provisions of the revised Olympic Host City Contract include:

13. Respect of the Olympic Charter and promotion of Olympism

13.1. The Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG undertake to abide by the provisions of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics and agree to conduct their activities related to the organisation of the Games in a manner which promotes and enhances the fundamental principles and values of Olympism, as well as the development of the Olympic Movement.

13.2. Pursuant to their obligations under §13.1, the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG shall, in their activities related to the organisation of the Games:

a. prohibit any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

b. protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognised human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country; and

c. refrain from any act involving fraud or corruption, in a manner consistent with any international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and all internationally-recognised anti-corruption standards applicable in the Host Country, including by establishing and maintaining effective reporting and compliance.

13.3. The IOC, through its Coordination Commission referred to in §27, shall establish a reporting mechanism to address the obligations referred to in §13.1 and §13.2 in connection with the activities of the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG related to the organisation of the Games.

15. Sustainability and Olympic legacy

15.1. The Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG undertake to carry out all activities foreseen under the HCC in a manner which embraces sustainable development and contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.]

Source: Olympics: Host City Contract Requires Human Rights | Human Rights Watch

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.

Human rights and Business Forum in Geneva – a report

December 5, 2014

The 3rd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights took place in Geneva from 1-3 December. Here is the personal and very readable report from one participant, Sudeep Chakravarti, who regularly publishes on business and human rights in India.

“A decade ago a global forum such as the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights was inconceivable. Now it is already in its third edition. It is apt that the third United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights took place over 1-3 December in Geneva, marking the 30th anniversary of the gas leak disaster in Bhopal. On the face of it such a gathering may appear to be a grand eyewash: little more than a self-important global talkfest for bureaucrats, businesses—and their sharp handmaidens in law and public relations. Perhaps a budget-justifying annual ball for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which flowed from a toothless exercise, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, that was formally adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. After all, the UN’s Protect, Respect and Remedy framework that backed such guiding principles is little more than finger-wagging. The principles mention the “States’ existing obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms”; the role of business enterprises “as specialized organs of society performing specialized functions, required to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights”; and the need for rights and obligations “to be matched to appropriate and effective remedies when breached”. It’s a re-stating of the dazzlingly obvious in the mellow tones of UN bureaucratese: there cannot be human rights in business unless businesses behave, and governments ensure they behave.

That is certainly true in the Indian context. Here complicity of business and government to ignore or dilute the rights of project-affected communities, among other malpractices, is a continuing scandal that foments unrest and has implications for internal security. Even so, the UN forum makes eminent sense. The absence of power to prosecute cannot always be equated with irrelevance. A decade ago a global forum such as this was inconceivable. Now it is already in its third edition. It’s recognition, as with the adoption of UN’s guiding principles by that global body that such issues matter, will increasingly matter. Moreover, each such gathering brings together a clutch of important people, important statements, and release of research data and trends, a reaffirmation of the religion of business and human rights; one in which ethics increasingly signal hassle-free earnings, as opposed to the time-honoured and piratical, but increasingly litiginous, endeavour of earnings over ethics. The UN forum is today a sort of Davos to discuss and disseminate matters of human rights and business, a place to be seen, yes, but more importantly, also to be heard. A virtual wagonload of useful documents in the areas of human rights, community rights, child rights, labour laws and liability, among others, were made available at the forum (accessible at ohchr.org/hrc and business-humanrights.org )—several of which I shall discuss in future. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Danish Institute for Human Rights released a useful tool to track use of child labour, Children’s Rights in Impact Assessments. UNICEF separately shared guidelines on engaging stakeholders in the area of children’s rights. The UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative launched the Human Rights Guidance Tool for the Financial Sector, a useful companion to the initiative of the Thun Group of banks, a multinational endeavour of some of the biggest names in investment banking to reduce liability on account of customers’ iffy human rights practices.

Activist-documentation was also unveiled, such as one by the UK-based Peace Brigades International on behalf of what it termed “human rights defenders working on land and environmental issues”. It is titled Recommendations for States and Multilateral Bodies—a response to alleged lending and oversight malpractices by multilateral agencies. For my money, the highlight was the keynote statement at the forum on 2 December by Nestlé SA’s chief executive Paul Bulcke. For the past year beset by accusations of labour wrongdoing directly or by associates in some of Nestlé’s globalized farming and procurement operations, Bulcke’s reiteration of human rights was surely as introspective as it is welcome. “It is in the actions, on the ground, where respect for human rights is visible,” he stated. “In the countries where companies operate, where they have their people working for them, where they source their raw materials and link up with societies; where they produce, where they sell their products and services. That’s where human rights are visible and lived.” If ideas of responsibility, accountability, legal and financial liability, and the danger of diminishing of corporate image remain explicitly and implicitly on the agenda of such a gathering; which aids dissemination of human rights in the spheres of business, governance, activism and judicial redress; and tunes law, it is surely work in progress. And if it is work in progress, it works.”

Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/hHo4qgjWnNPS8qHNxvFgtO/Rootcause.html?utm_source=copy

 

Human rights: a forum in Geneva – Livemint.

2014 Annual Report Observatory: Land Rights defenders are the forgotten victims of unbridled development

December 2, 2014

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OMCT-LOGO

 

 

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (joint programme of OMCT and FIDH) has, since 2013, launched more than 500 urgent interventions on more than 60 countries. Its 2014 Annual Report came out today in the context of the 3rd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights and focuses on “land rights defenders” who are increasingly the target of repressive measures. The pressure on land has become unbearable and mobilisation for the respect of the economic, social and cultural rights of affected communities has become a high risk activity.

Between 2011 and 2014, the Observatory documented 43 assassination cases targeting land rights defenders and the judicial harassment of 123 defenders, sometimes together with their arbitrary detention. These figures only reflect a small fraction of the real picture. All regions in the world are concerned, Asia and Latin America being the most affected. The Observatory found that authors of repression are often the police, the military, private security agents and “henchmen”. Their objective being to silence dissenting voices likely to slow down investment projects.
In addition to violence, numerous States also use judicial harassment and arbitrary detention to intimidate defenders. Thanks to laws that violate fundamental freedoms or in violation of their own laws, they jail any person deemed to be a nuisance. “Terrorism”, “misleading propaganda”, “infringement to State security”, “public unrest”, there are many abusive charges which can result in heavy prison terms.
Land rights defenders are often powerless when they face physical attacks and arbitrary arrests. According to the Observatory, 95% of violations against them remain unpunished today. Judicial bodies in countries where such violations occur are characterised by a lack of independence, resources and expertise. Regarding the possibility of prosecuting business corporations responsible for human rights violations, the legal battle – if any – is often lengthy, perilous, unequal and costly.
At the heart of the problem lies the issue of the participation of individuals and communities affected by the development policies and investment projects. The Observatory calls for meaningful consultations that ensure the direct participation of populations affected by the projects and the recognition of land rights defenders as the legitimate spokespersons in order to prevent conflicts and put an end to serious human rights violations. Furthermore, it is necessary to strengthen the capacity and independence of domestic judicial systems, including in States hosting the headquarters of business corporations, in order to allow defenders to access justice and seek redress in the event of human rights violations.
The Observatory also recommends to strengthen international law in order to trigger effectively the responsibility of business corporations when the latter commit human rights violations and to guarantee the adequate protection of land rights.
The full report under the title “We are not afraid”: https://wearenotafraid.org/en/

Alejandra Ancheita on the challenges for women defenders working on business and human rights

December 2, 2014

(Photo credit: Martin Ennals Foundation)

For the 3rd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights (going on at the moment), ISHR published also an article by Alejandra Ancheita, 2014 Martin Ennals Award Laureate and Executive Director of ProDESC. Women defenders and those working on business and human rights represent two groups facing particular risks yet, in Mexico, the State’s response is falling short, concludes Alejandra Ancheita in her article:

“The challenges and risks that human rights defenders (HRDs) are facing in Mexico and other Latin American countries are diverse and growing daily in the absence of comprehensive State action to address this situation. The inadequate response of the Mexican government to the hundreds of cases of attacks and intimidation has become evident in various spaces. For instance in the recent Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations, the Mexican State received 24 recommendations on the situation of human rights defenders and journalists in the country, whilst the Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists,  in the Interior Ministry, has received 130 applications for protection. Its response has been insufficient, particularly for those groups of defenders who face particular and heightened risks. As a woman human rights defender who works on issues related to business and the environment, I ought to know.……

Importantly, the fact that women human rights defenders face specific threats has been well established. However, existing protection mechanisms have not yet adjusted to incorporate this reality into their functioning, thus leaving women defenders vulnerable to gender-specific threats and aggressions. This is a global phenomenon and, in over 15 years as a human rights defender in Mexico, I have personally suffered violations of my human rights because of my gender and numerous colleagues have found themselves in the same situation.….

Integral security for women defenders must also seek to transform public opinion to understand and support our work. The first step in this regard is for States to recognize that working to defend certain rights can make women HRDs particularly vulnerable, for example by working on indigenous land rights in Latin America. Public statements made by public officials on the importance of our role and the legitimacy of our work are key. Authorities must investigate and punish those responsible for statements that seek to defame or attack defenders or delegitimize their work, even when such statements are made by non-State actors like community leaders or company representatives. Given the severe impact inflammatory statements have on women defenders’ work and wellbeing, they must be treated as aggressions in and of themselves.…..

In the vast majority of countries there are no specific mechanisms in place to protect human rights defenders. Where mechanisms have been created they are often hindered by operational failings, a lack of financial or human resources, the absence of gender-sensitivity, limited options for collective or community measures, and absent political will…..

As my work is based in Mexico, and due to my incorporation into the Federal Protection Mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists last year, this is the Mechanism I am best-placed to comment on. One very positive aspect of the mechanism is that four of the nine members of the decision-making body come from civil society. However, the Mechanism is also faced with several challenges.

The Mechanism falls short in the preventative aspect. Recently, various actors including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the CEDAW Committee have highlighted impunity for violations against women defenders as the greatest obstacle in improving their safety. In spite of this concern, the law establishing the Mechanism does not guarantee the adequate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.

The Mechanism also fails to incorporate a gender perspective to better understand the situation facing women HRDs. I believe that the Mexican authorities have the opportunity to set best practices in this regard, by providing gender-sensitive training to staff and by developing gender indicators to guide the granting, planning and implementation of protection measures.

Mexican authorities responsible for the Mechanism must also effectively involve defenders in the design and implementation of protection measures, as well as conducting risk assessments in a more transparent way. This is particularly important in the case of defenders working on issues that impact upon private actors such as business, or those defending land rights in isolated communities. Finally, cooperation and coordination between federal, state and local authorities in the implementation of protection measures need to drastically improve……..”

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Michel Forst on protecting defenders who work on business and human rights

December 1, 2014

At the start of the 3rd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, today 1 December, the ISHR publishes a series of articles by key human rights defenders and experts in this field. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/register-for-the-3rd-annual-forum-on-business-and-human-rights-1-to-3-december-2014/] The Special Rapporteur on HRDs, Michel Forst, goes first:

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Register for the 3rd annual Forum on Business and Human Rights: 1 to 3 December 2014

November 17, 2014

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organises the third annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, from 1 to 3 December 2014 in the Palais des Nations, Geneva.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

The Forum will last three days and focus on trends and challenges in the implementation of the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” and in implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework (A/HRC/17/31) and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights. The Forum is under the guidance of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and open to multi-stakeholder participation, including States, business, civil society, and affected individuals and groups. See also my earlier posts: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/business/

Registration for the 2014 Forum is currently open via the online registration system:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2014FBHRParticipation.aspx.

The draft programme of the Forum is now available at:www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/ForumSession3/DraftProgramme.pdf

For further information about the Forum, please see the Forum website:www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum.

 

UN special rapporteurs join calls on Azerbaijan

August 20, 2014

Yesterday,19 August 2014, three United Nations human rights experts [The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom or opinion and expression, David Kaye] alsoy condemned the growing tendency to prosecute prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, and urged the Government “to show leadership and reverse the trend of repression, criminalization and prosecution of human rights work in the country.” Yesterday I referred to the UN expert group on business and human rights (currently in the country, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/un-expert-group-on-business-and-human-rights-on-timely-visit-to-azerbaijan/) and reports of several major NGOs (see my post of yesterday: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/)

The UN experts highlighted the specific cases of Leyla Yunus, director of the Azerbaijani Institute of Peace and Democracy; Arif Yunus, head of Conflict Studies in the Institute of Peace and Democracy; Rasul Jafarov, coordinator of Art of Democracy and head of Human Rights Club; and Intigam Aliyev, chair of Legal Education Society. “Azerbaijan’s recent membership of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations does not square well with the authorities’ actions directed at stifling freedoms on the ground,” the UN rights experts noted.

UN experts call on the Government of Azerbaijan | Scoop News.

UN expert group on business and human rights on timely visit to Azerbaijan

August 18, 2014

In relation to my post this morning about the hot summer in Azerbaijan [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/] it is relevant to note that the UN expert group on business and human rights is visiting this country for the first time. The information provided by the different NGOs clearly points to a huge problem in preventing and protecting against business-related human rights abuses.

 

The United Nations group of independent experts undertakes its first official visit to Azerbaijan from 18 to 27 August 2014 to examine the impact of business activities on human rights in the country. [The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, offer clarity and guidance for authorities and companies to prevent and address adverse impacts of business activities on human rights. They re-affirm States’ existing obligations to protect against human rights abuse by third parties, including businesses. They also clarify the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the need to ensure that victims have access to effective remedy.]

They group will hold a press conference to share with the media preliminary observations from their visit at 13h30 on Wednesday 27 August 2014 at UN House, UN 50th Anniversary Street 3, Baku. The official report is to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.

(The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. The five members are Mr. Michael Addo (Ghana), Ms. Alexandra Guáqueta (Colombia), Ms. Margaret Jungk (USA), Mr. Puvan Selvanathan (Malaysia) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga (Russian Federation). The Working Group is independent from any government or organization. Its members serve in their personal capacities. They are not UN staff members and do not receive a salary for their work.)

See: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx