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29 Aug 2018

Bennett Freeman with Sif Thorgeirsson, Adele Barzelay & Brooks Reed

New guidance for companies encourages action to support civic freedoms & human rights defenders & explores opportunities for engagement

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"Shared space under pressure: Business support for civic freedoms and human rights defenders," 29 August 2018 

Commissioned by the Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre & International Service for Human Rights

Business and civil society operate in and benefit from a “shared space”... [R]ule of law and freedom of expression, association and assembly are essential to the realization of all human rights...[and] to stable, profitable and sustainable business environments in which companies thrive and economies prosper... [Yet] the recent trend towards authoritarianism – even among some longstanding democracies – is weakening the shared space by degrading civic freedoms and threatening HRDs around the world.

...This guidance encourages companies to focus on this increasingly inescapable agenda. It urges them to engage and to act − carefully but deliberately − in their own interests and in the mutual interests that they share with civil society. This guidance advises companies as they address the challenges as well as opportunities to support civil society and HRDs. It explains the normative framework, the business case and the moral choice that should inform company engagement and action. It focuses on factors companies should consider when deciding whether, and if so how, to act in response to certain issues and situations. It identifies risks for both action and inaction − and observes that managing the risks of inaction may be greater than managing the risks of action for many companies. And it spotlights examples of how companies are acting across countries and sectors, as well as new initiatives and critical actors in the arena.

Download the Executive Summary here