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26 Feb 2016

Damiano de Felice, Measuring Business & Human Rights and Sarah Zoen, Oxfam Ameria; on Huffington Post (USA)

Commentary explains why it is important to discuss who should lead human rights impact assessments

"Who is in charge? A key question for human rights impact assessments", 26 Feb 2016

It is often more important to discuss who should lead the human rights impact assessment, rather than dispute on how the assessment should be conducted.  The "who" question is fundamental for several reasons. We highlight three of them here below...First, the "who" question is important because the production/selection of business and human rights indicators is not a "technical" but a "political" exercise...Human rights serve the purpose of empowering people to influence the decisions that affect them, not empowering human rights experts to decide what is best and what is worst. Rights holders should never be conceived as a means to an end but should always stand at the centre of HRIAs...Second, the "who" question is important because human rights impact assessments should be the basis for real action...Human rights impact assessments should therefore be "owned" by those who need to act upon them, that is, all interested stakeholders (in general terms, the company, the local and national governments and the local communities). Ownership is crucial to ensure legitimacy, consent, and, consequently, follow-up...Third, the "who" question is important because human rights impact assessments have strong potential as capacity-building tools...While maintaining its support to community-based HRIAs, in a recent report Oxfam proposed the idea to further embed meaningful human rights due diligence processes within companies or local governments. The idea is to explore a parallel or hybrid HRIA process from the start as a way to prevent adverse impacts on communities before they even begin to surface...where there are opportunities for companies and communities to co-own an HRIA process there is greater likelihood that companies, and even governments, would take action to address the recommendations. [Refers to Kuoni]