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New UN report explains what business & investors should do to safeguard defenders

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10 October 2017

"Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders"

Author: Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders

The work of human rights defenders in the field of business and human rights is crucial to protecting the land and the environment, securing just and safe conditions of work, combating corruption, respecting indigenous...rights and achieving sustainable development...[Their] work...is also crucial to protecting the rights of freedom of expression and association, promoting gender equality and diversity and upholding the rule of law, conditions which are indispensable to the creation of...optimal working conditions for both business and civil society...However, defending and promoting human rights in the context of business is dangerous...work...In 2015 and 2016 alone, 450 such attacks were documented across the world. [D]efenders are increasingly subject to attacks by States and business-enterprises...Companies belonging to land-consuming industries, such as mining, agribusiness, oil, gas and coal and dam construction, remain the most dangerous... Whether the link is direct or indirect, all business enterprises have an independent responsibility to ensure that defenders can effectively and safely address the human rights impacts linked to their operations...[R]esponsibility of businesses to respect human rights not only entails a negative duty to refrain from violating the rights of others, but also a positive obligation to support a safe and enabling environment for... defenders.

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10 October 2017

"UNGA72 | Corporate responsibility to respect human rights requires supporting human rights defenders, say UN experts"

Author: Michael Ineichen, International Service for Human Rights

In his new report to the UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur...spells out what States, businesses and investors must urgently do to better safeguard... defenders...and deplores that defenders are ‘suffering attacks by overpowering business interests’ due to a lack of State action to protect them. The second report, by the Working Group on business and human rights, focuses on access to remedy. Special Rapporteur is ‘appalled by the number of attacks and threats facing defenders’ who seek to hold States, businesses and investors accountable...‘Excessive favouring of business interests’ allied with ‘increasing crackdowns... lead[s] to...denial of local populations’ needs...in favour of short-term profits... [Rapporteur cites Resource Centre's] findings...[that there were] 450 [such] attacks globally in 2015-2016 alone... The Working Group considers...business responsibility to respect human rights entails ‘a positive obligation to support a safe and enabling environment for...defenders,’ which in turn requires consultation with defenders...[S]ome positive efforts to express business support for strengthening the protection of defenders [were] noted...[Rapporteur made] [r]ecommendations to States to adopt legislation for mandatory due diligence, for public disclosure of information about corporate structures...[and] national action plans...to protect defenders...; Business and investors are called on to include an analysis of the situation of civic freedoms and...defenders in their impact assessments, and ensure policy commitments reflecting...role ...and risks faced by...defenders.

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