American Bar Association unanimously endorses & urges business enterprises to implement framework in "Shared Space Under Pressure"

The American Bar Association (ABA) has unanimously endorsed, and urges business enterprises to implement, the analytical and operational framework set forth in “Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders: Guidance for Companies,” published jointly by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and the International Service for Human Rights, with Bennett Freeman as the lead author.

"Shared Space Under Pressure" includes an analytical and operational framework to guide company decisions on whether and if so how to act in support of human rights defenders and civic freedoms. The report sets forth a “normative responsibility” for companies to act in certain circumstances—consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights— where companies may have caused, contributed to or been linked directly to harms related to human rights and defenders. It also proposes a “discretionary opportunity” for companies to act when such circumstances are not apparent, but where a business case and/or a moral choice may nonetheless compel action. The report also urges that company decision-makers take into account the risks of inaction as well as action.

The American Bar Association’s endorsement will enable ABA entities to encourage implementation of the Shared Space guidance by the private sector & thereby leverage influence of the legal profession throughout the work of business to protect civic freedoms and HRDs.

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13 August 2019

American Bar Association Center for Human Rights report to the House of Delegates

Author: American Bar Association Center for Human Rights

The American Bar Association endorses, and urges business enterprises to implement, the analytical and operational framework set forth in the report, “Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders: Guidance for Companies,” published jointly by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and the International Service for Human Rights... Shared Space... provide[s] an analytical framework by which companies can more systematically weigh the risks, benefits, means, and methods of supporting the work of HRDs and reaping its long-term economic benefits.

... [T]he ABA’s endorsement of the Shared Space framework will enable relevant ABA entities to encourage implementation of the Shared Space guidance by the private-sector, and thereby leverage the considerable influence of the legal profession throughout the work of business to protect HRDs (as does the Justice Defenders Program) and thus advance human rights and a just rule of law for all... The challenge for companies is not to pick fights with governments in whose countries they operate, but neither to avoid action when they have a clear responsibility or opportunity. The challenge is to take stands – carefully but deliberately – when the shared civil society space is under pressure, threat or attack... Lawyers, therefore – whether in-house or external counsel – are key players in this analytical and operational framework to protect the space that their corporate clients share with HRDs, and to create the better future that all seek. As the national representative of the legal profession in the United States, enjoying global reach and influence, the American Bar Association should back this process in both word and deed.

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