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13 Jun 2017

UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Business contributing to attacks & helping protect defenders is one of most urgent issues in business & human rights, says UN Working Group

"Human rights defenders and civic space –  the business & human rights dimension", Jun 2017

The safety and security of human rights defenders (HRDs) and increased threats to civic freedoms has become a growing public concern. The role of business has been called into question with respect to its role in contributing to attacks against HRDs, but also its role in helping to protect defenders and support human rights. [This] is one of the most urgent issues for the business and human rights agenda, due to the increasing scale and seriousness.... Against this background, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has decided to give this topic specific attention in its own work and has identified activities it could undertake to complement and support efforts by others, including to...explore practical guidance for business on engaging, respecting and supporting human rights defenders in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) as well as the role of business in preserving civic space... Documentation...has... helped in raising awareness of this situation, including much-cited work by Global Witness and by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, which recorded over 400 instances of attacks on defenders working on corporate accountability issues, in 2015 and 2016. [T]hanks to efforts to document this situation and advocacy by CSOs, in particular, initiatives to tackle the problem have been gaining momentum.