Intl. Human Rights Defenders Day: Role of business in protecting civic freedoms & human rights defenders
The International Day of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), offers an opportunity to remember defenders, working for corporate accountability, that have experienced threats and attacks in 2016, in most instances because of their work. 2016 has been marked by a strong shift towards divisive politics, and we are continuing to see rising hostility and backlash around the world towards individuals and civil society organizations seeking to protect and promote human rights and an associated deterioration of civic freedoms. Global Witness stated on a recent UN panel, that in the first six months of 2016, 63 environmental and land rights defenders were killed in Latin America alone.The role of regressive companies in contributing to attacks and closing civic space has also been confirmed through our data collection, which will be highlighted through a dedicated portal on this topic in early 2017, and which so far found over 100 cases of attacks and harassment in 2016, specifically against defenders confronting business.
Parallel to this trend of attacks and restrictions, the past year has also seen increasing attention and acceptance of the idea that businesses are responsible for the protection of human rights, including civic freedoms, and cooperation with human rights defenders. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders’ latest report eloquently explains the role of business in this space. Businesses are increasingly realizing that a safe environment for human rights defenders and an effective investment and operating environment for business are closely intertwined. Progressive businesses themselves have already started taking steps in the right direction and sharing their experiences of doing so.