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UN creates database of companies operating in Israeli settlements in occupied West Bank & East Jerusalem

In March 2016, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 31/36 which aims to produce a database flagging companies doing business in Israeli settlements, in a bid to highlight corporate complicity in the Israeli occupation. The database was due to be launched by March 2017; however, the release date was delayed to the end of the year. In January 2018, the Council issued a report highlighting its progress on the database. The Council identified 206 relevant companies and is planning to publish their names after it has contacted all of them. A final publication date is yet to be determined.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has collated a series of related articles and NGO responses below.  

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27 July 2018

LPHR Q&A: What’s happened to the UN Business and Human Rights Database for companies involved in settlement-related activities?

Author: Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Following on from our briefing in January 2018 on the UK Government’s position on the UN Business and Human Rights Database (UN Database) that will list companies involved in settlement-related activities, we have set out the latest updates on the UN Database below... The inextricable link between settlements and negative human rights impacts was recently reaffirmed by OHCHR in its February 2018 update on the UN Database: “[T]he violations of human rights associated with the settlements are pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life, owing to settlement development and infrastructure, Palestinians suffer from restrictions on freedom of religion, movement and education; their rights to land and water; access to livelihood and their right to an adequate standard of living; their rights to family life; and many other fundamental rights”... Originally, the UN Database had been aimed to be ready for publication in March 2017. It has, however, been delayed, with no amended date set for its publication. OHCHR published a report, on 1 February 2018, setting out their progress so far. The OHCHR noted in that report that it is behind schedule because of lack of resources, and that it needs additional resources if it is to complete its work on the UN Database. The UN High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has recently suggested that there may be a further update by his office prior to September, which we expect may coincide with the end of his term in August...

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4 June 2018

The UN database on business in Israeli settlements: Pitfalls and opportunities

Author: Valentina Azarova, Al-Shabaka

... Hundreds of businesses continue to operate freely and without consequence in some 250 settlements Israel has erected. In March 2016, member states of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) decided to act on this issue: Through HRC resolution 31/36 they tasked the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) with setting up a database of such businesses and reviewing it annually. The OHCHR announced in a January 2018 report that it had created a list of 206 businesses, the names of which it intends to disclose “in a future update.” The database is a unique transparency tool and soft power enforcement mechanism that could provide a service to states and their corporate nationals who may become involved in illegal business activities. Many states realize that the initiative is an opportunity to develop a blueprint for a tool that would monitor activities in high-risk business environments not only in Israel’s settlements, but in other ongoing cases of occupation and annexation... [T]he OHCHR is tasked with providing interpretative guidance on the ways in which companies and individuals acting as procurers, investors, and consumers may contribute to and benefit from violations of international law in occupation. While many such cases may not meet the high threshold of civil and criminal liability for complicity, they may still be liable to legal risks under provisions of domestic law of the business’ domicile country...

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22 February 2018

Joint Open Letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights following its Report on the UN Database of Businesses Involved in Settlement Activities

Author: Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

The undersigned 33 organisations welcome the report your office released on 26 January 2018 pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), with regards to producing a Database of all business enterprises engaged in certain specified activities related to the Israeli settlements in the OPT... While we acknowledge the progress made to date, there is much work left to do. In that regard, and conscious of the fact that this mandate was created almost two years ago, we would urge your office to complete its review of all companies named as a matter of urgency... In moving forward with this process, we would ask your office to further clarify and elaborate on specific matters of methodology and processes. For example, as part of the screening process, we would ask that your office define the ‘minimal and remote’ business activities that would result in the business being excluded from the Database, and explain how this definition may relate to sub-contracting relationships and supply chains... We are aware that UN bodies, including your office, have been facing unprecedented pressure by some states and organisations to prevent the release of this Database. We therefore applaud your office for releasing this report nonetheless...

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4 February 2018

UN holds back names of Israel settlement profiteers

Author: Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada

The United Nations human rights office has held back a database of companies involved in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Syria’s Golan Heights. Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10, reported that the UN had “indefinitely” postponed publishing the list of firms “after strong pressure” from the United States and Israel... [T]he UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report published Wednesday that it still “expects to provide the names of the companies … in a future update.” The report states... that UN researchers compiled a list of 206 companies that “were subject to further research and consideration” for their activities in the settlements. It said the majority of these were “domiciled in Israel or the settlements, followed by the United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands and France.” The UN said... it has contacted more than 60 of the companies but due to time and resource constraints had yet to write to the others in what is described as an ongoing process to determine the nature and extent of the companies’ activities... Human Rights Watch welcomed the interim report... despite the lack of names, but urged that the mission needed to be carried through...

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31 January 2018

UN rights office issues report on business and human rights in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory

Author: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has prepared the present report, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, on producing a database of all business enterprises involved in the activities detailed in paragraph 96 of the report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem... It describes the state of progress made towards the consolidation of the database, including the methodology adopted by OHCHR, recalls the normative framework used, and makes a preliminary analysis of the most common explanations given by companies for their involvement in the listed activities, and makes recommendations.

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1 January 2018

Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights' briefing on the UK Government's position on the UN business and human rights database listing companies involved in settlement-related activities

Author: Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

... The UK Government abstained on the vote of this Human Rights Council resolution in March 2016. In its explanation of its position, it was the only state to declare that the database was “inappropriate” and that “it would not cooperate in the process” of its implementation. It has since briefly elaborated a host of reasons for its opposition to the UN Database to LPHR. Our assessment of them is that they do not individually or cumulatively amount to an adequate basis for justifiably opposing the UN Database. One reason advanced by the UK Government for not supporting the UN Database is that it considers that the Human Rights Council should focus on states rather than on private companies. LPHR takes the view that this position is not compatible with the UK Government's and international community's significant recognition, as expressed in its support for the UN Guiding Principles published in 2011, that companies, in addition to states, have vital responsibilities in protecting and advancing respect for human rights... LPHR's analysis leads to the conclusion that the UK Government has adopted an unjustifiably narrow and flawed interpretation of the remit given to the High Commissioner under paragraph 17...

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NGO rejoinder
8 November 2017

Re: Resolution on the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan

Author: Access Now; Center for Constitutional Rights; Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO); CORE; Corporate Accountability Lab; FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights); International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR); Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)

...The undersigned organizations represent national and international civil society organizations specializing in business and human rights. We write concerning the Resolution…request[ing] the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights…to produce a database of all business enterprises involved in…the Israeli settlements that may have negative human rights impacts. We urge the High Commissioner to promptly release the database…and update it annually going forward…The database increases transparency as to which business entities may be running afoul of their human rights responsibilities by engaging in business activities in or with settlements…Such transparency measures also benefit companies. The publication of the database will permit businesses operating in and/or with settlements to assess whether they are respecting human rights to prevent and minimize their legal and reputational risks. It will also assist in company efforts at mapping their supply chain and business relationships, or in conducting human rights due diligence processes…Finally, the publication of the database will provide consumers, investors, and broader civil society with the information to make informed choices about the impacts of their purchases, investments, and actions on human rights…

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26 October 2017

130 Israeli companies, 60 int'l corporations on UN 'blacklist'

Author: Itamar Eichner, Ynetnews (Israel)

...30 Israeli companies and 60 international corporations operating in Israel received warning letters from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights...cautioning them of their impending inclusion in a "blacklist" of companies active beyond the Green Line in "violation of international law and UN resolutions..." The companies operate in different sectors—some in food manufacturing, others in services, pharmaceuticals and even high-tech—but have one thing in common: they all operate in settlements, east Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. Among the companies in the commissioner's sights are Ahava, Dor Alon, Amisragas, Angel Bakeries, Arison Investments, Ashdar, Clal Industries, Café Café, Cellcom, Danya Cebus, Electra, HP, Hot, the Israel Aerospace Industries, Matrix Systems, Motorola, Nesher, Partner, Paz, Rami Levy, Remax, Housing & Construction (Shikun Binui), Shufersal, Sonol and Trima. The...companies are joined by...Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bezeq and Bezeq International, Coca Cola, Africa Israel, Teva, IDB, Egged, Mekorot, Netafim and Elbit Systems. The companies claim the list's creation was politically motivated and point to the fact that the commissioner constructed no such lists pertaining to other regions of conflict—such as the Crimean Peninsula and Western Sahara—as proof...

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+ العربية - Hide

Author: بلال ضاهر، عرب 48

"أميركا تهدد بمعاقبة الأمم المتحدة إذا كشفت الشركات بالمستوطنات"، 30 أغسطس 2017

هددت إدارة الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب بوقف التمويل لمجلس حقوق الإنسان التابع للأمم المتحدة في حال نشر "القائمة السوداء" للشركات العالمية التي تعمل في المستوطنات في الأراضي التي احتلتها إسرائيل عام 1967، الضفة الغربية والقدس وهضبة الجولان...والجهود التي تبذل من أجل توسيع مقاطعة المستوطنات وبضائعها جارية منذ سنوات، ومنذ العام 2015 سعت صناديق دولية، وأوروبية بالأساس، إلى سحب استثماراتها من شركات تنشط في المستوطنات، إثر ضغوط مارستها إسرائيل...ويتوقع أن يؤدي نشر "القائمة السوداء" إلى إلحاق أضرار اقتصادية فادحة ليس فقط بالشركات الدولية وإنما بالشركات والمؤسسات الإسرائيلية النشطة بالمستوطنات، وبينها بنوك وصناديق مرضى. وفي محاولة لمنع حدوث ذلك، تعمل الحكومة الإسرائيلية في عدة مستويات، معلنة وخفية، في محاولة لإحباط نشر "القائمة السوداء"... من جهة ثانية تعمل إسرائيل على أن تسن دول، بينها الولايات المتحدة، قوانين تحظر مقاطعة المستوطنات. كذلك تهدد إسرائيل بسحب تصاريح العمل فيها من مندوبي منظمات وهيئات دولية تتبنى "القائمة السوداء" وإعادة النظر في التعاون مع هذه المنظمات والهيئات. كما تحاول إسرائيل إقناع جهات سياسية في أوروبا وأميركا الشمالية من أجل اشتراط استمرار تمويل الأمم المتحدة بعدم إصدار قرارات ضد إسرائيل.

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21 August 2017

USA: Govt. pushing to quash U.N. "blacklist" of firms doing business in Israeli settlements

Author: Anne Gearan, Washington Post

"U.S. Pushing to Quash U.N. 'Blacklist' of Firms Doing Business in Israeli Settlements," 21 August 2017

The Trump administration is urging the United Nations not to publish what it calls a “blacklist” of international firms that do business in Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state, diplomats and others said. The U.N. Human Rights Council voted to approve the database of companies last year, over objections from the United States and Israel, which describe the list as a prelude to anti-Israel boycotts.

American companies on the list drawn up by the Geneva-based council include Caterpillar, TripAdvisor, Priceline.com, Airbnb and others, according to people familiar with it. It is not clear whether the list has been finalized...

[T]he U.N. high commissioner for human rights, has told U.S. officials he plans to publish the list by the end of the year and has asked for comments by Sept. 1 from countries where affected firms are headquartered, diplomats said.

U.S. officials would not comment on which firms were included on a version of the list recently transmitted to U.S. diplomats. Details of U.S. involvement and the inclusion of specific American firms has not previously been reported...

Affected firms appeared to be unaware of the list when contacted or did not respond to a request for comment... [also refers to TripAdvisor]

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