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UN Forum 2017: Commentaries

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6 December 2017

Commentary: How can we ensure access to remedy when decisions are made by machines?

Author: Dunstan Allison-Hope, BSR

"Remedy against the machine," 6 December 2017

By vastly improving our analytical capability, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to address some of humanity’s most pressing challenges, including those relating to healthcare, education, transportation, counter-terrorism, and criminal justice. However, as we have noted in our new primer on top human rights priorities for the ICT industry, AI brings with it new and previously unforeseen human rights risks on topics as diverse as non-discrimination, privacy, child rights, freedom of expression, and access to public services...

...[W]e should consider access to remedy through the lens of the rightsholder. AI is extremely complex, and only a very small number of people in the world know how it works. If AI is to fulfil its potential while mitigating accompanying risks, it is essential that civil society, rightsholders, and vulnerable populations benefit from channels to participate meaningfully in discussions about its application and have access to remedy. The professional communities engaged in the development of AI would benefit from a deep understanding of ethics issues and rightsholder perspectives... [T]here is a need to assess whether the access to remedy being developed in the context of AI meets the remedy effectiveness criteria set out in the UNGPs. [refers to Google & Microsoft]

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30 November 2017

African Coalition for Corporate Accountability statement - 2017 UN Forum on BHR

Author: African Coalition for Corporate Accountability

Download the ACCA statement here...

ACCA commends the Working Group on its choice of Access to Remedy as the theme for this year’s forum; especially considering that Access to Remedy was also the theme for this year’s ACCA General Assembly which took place in Pretoria, South Africa, from 14-16 November 2017, and is one of ACCA's thematic focus areas... ACCA acknowledges and commends the UN Working Group’s efforts to ensure greater diversity in this year’s forum... ACCA urges African states to ensure that self-determination is guaranteed to all communities by respecting norms, cultural practices, customs and traditions of different communities whose rights are adversely affected by the activities of corporations. ACCA calls on African governments to ensure timely, adequate and fair compensation during evictions and resettlement in accordance with international best practice. ACCA strongly promotes principles of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Lastly, ACCA urges African states to guarantee access to information for its citizens by ensuring that relevant information reaches local communities on time, and in an appropriate format and language. Confidentiality clauses in investment contracts should not trump human rights.

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30 November 2017

Commentary: Corporate human rights infringements: Are remedies effective?

Author: Herbert Smith Freehills, Lexology

Long described as the "forgotten pillar" of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the right to an effective remedy for all victims of human rights abuses received significant attention this week as over 2,000 businesses, government and civil society stakeholders came together in Geneva for the 6th annual UN Business and Human Rights Forum... In this post, we set out some of the key themes discussed at the Forum...

...The SDGs should be better linked to the UNGPs...

...The trend towards increased human rights reporting will continue...

...Multi-national enterprises should use their leverage more effectively...

...Non-judicial remedies should be strengthened...

...Operational Level Grievance Mechanisms should be effective...

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30 November 2017

Govts urged to prioritise access to remedy for slavery victims at UN Forum

Author: International Transport Workers' Federation

The ITF [International Transport Workers' Federation] and its unions have been advocating this week [at the UN Forum] for governments to put access to remedy at the centre of their efforts to give justice to victims of human trafficking...

Trade unions would like to see more legislation like the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which broadly authorises victims of human trafficking to pursue a remedy against whoever knowingly benefits from participation in an act of trafficking or forced labour.

New legislation should also ensure that perpetrators of forced labour offences should be held to account in the courts of the company’s home jurisdiction, regardless of where the crimes were committed...

Addressing the role of trade unions in helping workers access remedies, [ITF] said that transport workers need to be heard to get this exploitation banned...

The ITF is also calling for states to ratify and implement the ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol; and for governments to support an ILO Convention on Decent Work and Supply Chains dealing with labour-specific issues and a binding UN Treaty on Transnational Corporations and their overall human rights impacts. 

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29 November 2017

Commentary: Hardening law & managing multidisciplinary, intl. legal risk - key themes at the UN Forum

Author: Peter Hood & Julianne Hughes-Jennett, Hogan Lovells

This week, the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva brought together representatives of business, government and civil society for three days of open, frank and constructive dialogue.  Three messages came across loud and clear – businesses in all jurisdictions should take note:

(1) The direction of travel is towards hard law and responsibility throughout the value chain – businesses which voluntarily comply with the UNGPs and take advantage of emerging technology to do so will enjoy a competitive advantage [...]

(2) Not all mechanisms to access a remedy are complementary – law makers should seek to build on the consensus of the UNGPs and take care not inadvertently to undermine this [...]

(3) Human rights risk is legal risk.  It is also multidisciplinary and international.  Businesses and the lawyers who advise them need to be alive to this...

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29 November 2017

India: Guwahati rally during UN Forum highlights human rights abuses in Assam tea supply chains

Author: Anirudha Nagar & Jayshree Satpute, Open Democracy

"From Geneva to Guwahati: demanding fair wages for Assam's tea workers", 27 Nov 2017

…[T]ea workers, their families, and allies gathered for a rally…in Guwahati, the capital of Assam, which is India’s largest tea growing state...The rally is part of a larger wage campaign in Assam…calling for higher wages for…tea workers who earn woefully low wages...The concurrence of gatherings…– from [UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in] Geneva to Guwahati – is a reminder that companies across the tea supply chain continue to fail workers, in violation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights...

…In November 2016, the World Bank Group’s (WBG)…Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO)…released an investigation confirming alarming conditions at Assam’s second largest tea producer, Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL)... The CAO found that wages were so low on APPL’s Assam plantations that the WBG’s labour standard…was being violated...The [Assam tea plantation] industry claims that when other services they provide to workers under the Indian Plantations Labour Act, 1951 are accounted for, the overall calculation rises above the minimum…

Global tea buyers…are required by the UN Guiding Principles to use their leverage to make improvements [such as influencing] local suppliers to push for fair wages in upcoming wage negotiations…[and assessing] their own sourcing practices to ensure they are not contributing to the suppression of wages in Assam.

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27 November 2017

3 ways business is promoting human rights

Author: International Chamber of Commerce

As stakeholders from around the world prepare for the 2017 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, here are three areas in which business is already making a difference... 

  1. Advancing gender equality

Ensuring that women are afforded equal opportunities and pay in the workplace makes solid business sense. According to estimates by the International Monetary Fund, the underutilisation of the female labour force results in losses of up to 27% of GDP in some world regions. While government policies can be helpful in addressing persistent gender gaps in economic participation and pay, the private sector has already stepped up to combat such structural inequalities. Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative aims to develop 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020...

  1.  Promoting rights online [...]
  1. Responding for refugees

Private sector companies have often been vocal in challenging negative narratives around migrants and have a key role to play in helping the newly arrived men, women and children integrate into economies and societies... Further case studies of how business is productively engaging in the promotion of human rights can be found in the Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum.

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