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22 Dec 2016

Amy Sinclair, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Commentary: Reflections on UN Forum on business & human rights highlights lessons from Natl. Action Plans, UK Modern Slavery Act & human rights defenders

"Reflections on the Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights", 21 Dec 2016

Reflections on ProcessIn reflecting on process, I have two main observations:1. Engagement and interaction...In terms of achieving higher levels of interaction, the Forum succeeded – in part. Of the sessions that I attended, a healthy portion of question time was included in each... However, an area for improvement lies in increasing levels of dialogue between panellists. The Forum would benefit from more free-flowing discussions and fewer set pieces, certainly in the designated Q&A slots...2. Balanced voice...The 2016 Forum also succeeded in terms of achieving greater business representation...Given the importance of government leadership on business and human rights, greater visibility and participation by State representatives would add a welcomed additional voice at Forum 2017...On the content of sessions, I left the Forum with these main impressions:1. NAPs...My impression, however, is that the race is on and, whilst these developments are encouraging, adequate safeguards must be built into NAP development processes to avoid the emergence of a series of hollow statements...2. UK Modern Slavery Act...Whilst its true impact, including potential extension to public bodies and their procurement practices, has yet to fully play out, the early indicators are positive...3. Human Rights Defenders...The protection of human rights defenders and adequate access to remedy for those negatively impacted by business, must occupy a front and centre position in the dialogue on business and human rights...