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2 Dec 2021

U.S. Department of State

USA: Department of State releases updated guidance on U.S. Government policy and human rights defenders with new content on business and human rights

"Release of Revitalized Guidance on U.S. Foreign Policy on Human Rights Defenders," 29 Nov. 2021

... [T]he United States is releasing revitalized and more robust public-facing guidance on U.S. government policy on human rights defenders, which will be supplemented by similar internal guidance.

The revitalized public-facing guidance highlights the U.S. commitment to protecting human rights defenders of all genders and identities, in all their diversity, and supporting the critical role they have in expanding civic space and strengthening democracy and justice for all.

Guidelines for U.S. Diplomatic Mission Support to Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders


Human rights defenders can be of any ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious denomination, disability status, or age. They can come from any part of the world, and from any social class or background. Defenders work on a wide range of issues. Those working on land and environmental issues as well as the rights of women and girls, LGBTQI+ and gender diverse persons, persons with disabilities, and indigenous peoples are especially vulnerable to attacks. How individual defenders promote and protect human rights also varies by country, context, and profession. Efforts can include ... [a]dvocating for businesses to respect human rights, which may include publicizing concerns that a business entity may not be complying with the law and/or a government entity is not enforcing the law...

The State Department’s objective is to enable civil society and human rights defenders to promote and defend human rights without hindrance or undue restriction and free from fear of retribution against them or their families... We support civil society in a variety of ways, including by:  [...]

  • Partnering with civil society, labor, and business to disseminate and implement internationally recognized standards and guidelines of responsible business conduct, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs); Š
  • Encouraging civil society participation in Internet freedom and business and human rights multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, the Freedom Online Coalition, the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative


Human Rights Officers at U.S. Missions, as the first points of contact, take the following actions to engage with and support local civil society actors: [...]

  • Meet with relevant companies or business associations, when appropriate. [...]
  • Promote responsible business conduct and encourage American companies to adopt human rights due-diligence processes to identify, prevent, and mitigate the impact of business operations on human rights. In addition, encourage host governments to follow the UNGPs and OECD Guidelines
  • Convene conversations between businesses and civil society to address challenging human rights issues