OPT/Israel: What tech companies have to say about their human rights due diligence in this challenging context
Given the grave violence and suffering unfolding in the Occupied Palestinian Territories/Israel, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (the Resource Centre) is closely monitoring company activity and the private sector response to the rapidly changing situation. Our initial focus is on the tech sector, which plays a central role in this conflict through its approach to hate speech on media platforms, the use of surveillance technology, the role of tech in providing information vital to an effective humanitarian response to suffering in Gaza, and the centrality of tech in the Israel Defence Forces' strategies and tactics in Gaza that are generating such appalling levels of civilian deaths, casualties and humanitarian need.
Following the Resource Centre's similar work for conflicts in Myanmar and Ukraine, we are tracking companies' approach to heightened human rights due diligence in Occupied Palestinian Territories/Israel. Through this monitoring we seek to make public the heightened due diligence measures taken by companies operating in or supplying the region, in accordance with the international standards of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Our purpose is to demonstrate which companies are seeking to meet these standards of transparency and accountability, and which are not; to demonstrate better practice by leading companies, and to highlight the gaps that contribute to worsening abuse.
To begin with, we invited 115 tech companies to respond to our due diligence survey. Only four companies provided a response.
These are available below. This shockingly low response rate is unprecedented in the Resource Centre's history, particularly compared to the similar outreach to companies over their human rights due diligence in Ukraine and Myanmar.
We act to uphold the internationally-agreed business standards. The UNGPs stipulate that every company has a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations and value chains. They require companies to undertake a human rights due diligence process to identify, prevent and mitigate the impact of their own activities or through their business relationships. To fulfil their responsibility to respect human rights, the UNGPs require in Principles 16, 17 and 18 that companies express their human rights commitment through a public, informed policy statement; and conduct ongoing human rights due diligence based on meaningful consultation to assess actual and potential human rights impacts. For those companies acting in conditions of grave human rights violation, as in the case of Occupied Palestinian Territories/Israel, they need to conduct "heightened due diligence" proportional to the heightened risks of operating in conflict-affected areas. They must ensure compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law, and mitigate the risk that they contribute to conditions that drive the conflict, or are facilitating or complicit in human rights abuse.
We provided tech companies with over a month to respond to the survey and will continue to post any other responses as we receive. At this early stage, we are only publishing responses, as we hope to persuade other companies to respond quickly. We will shortly publish the names of all non-responders to provide full transparency.