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UN Virtual Forum kicks off with groups calling for effective remedies and protections for human rights defenders

The first ever virtual version of the UN Forum on Responsible Business and Human Rights is currently going on (08 June to 12 June 2020) and this is organised by UNDP's BHR-Asia Pacifc, International Labour Organization, UN Women, UNOCHR, UNICEF, and UNESCAP.

Various organisations have released statements and open letters addressed to the organisers and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, calling for, among other things, greater protection for human rights defenders against ongoing judicial harassment and the realization of class action and transboundary litigation as effective mechanisms of remedy. 

The statements/open letters are linked below. 

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8 June 2020

ETO Watch Coalition calls for greater inclusion of marginalised communities

Author: ETO Watch

"Open Letter to the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights calling for greater inclusion of the marginalized communities in businesses," 09 June 2020

To: The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Entity For Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

On 9-11 June 2020, the United Nations Virtual Forum on Business and Human Rights Asia and the Pacific would be organized to discuss challenges and opportunities for advancing responsible business and human rights in the region. It would explore how existing vulnerabilities have been amplified and exposed by the crisis and discuss the need to view the crisis as an opportunity to drive change and build back better. On behalf of the impacted communities, the Extraterritorial Obligation Watch Coalition (ETO Watch) submits this Letter to the UNWG on Business and Human Rights and organizers to call for greater inclusion of the marginalized communities at risk and more considerable attention to the extraterritorial obligation of crossborder investors, including Thai investors abroad and human rights compliance.

Across ASEAN countries, there is growing concern over a lack of accountability for human rights violations associated with Thai outbound investments. Negative environmental and social impacts of these investments commonly include the destruction of livelihoods, land grabs, and forced evictions...The NHRCT played an active role in investigating Thailand's outbound investments and developed guiding recommendations to concretize the extraterritorial human rights obligations of the Thai state and non-state actors...The ETO Watch calls for strengthening the role of the national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in investigating cross-border investment such as the Thai investment in the neighboring countries.

The impacted communities have submitted several complaints regarding issues of land grabbing, enforced resettlement, and livelihood impacts caused by Thai investments—transboundary litigation used as a means for access to remedies in the home country (Thailand)...[T]he ETO Watch calls for the greater realization of the class action and transboundary litigation as an effective mechanism to remedies. The court should comply with the Economic and Social Council General Comment No. 24[3] that requires the States parties to remove substantive, procedural and practical barriers to remedies.

...The ETO Watch calls for greater recognition on legal binding standard that enforce extraterritorial obligation of the businesses. It should include provisions on the extraterritorial scope of due diligence regulation as well as liability for due diligence breaches.

We look forward to work with Thai and other governments and UN agency to ensure the extraterritorial obligation will be provided in the business and human rights across the region of Mekong.


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7 June 2020

Thailand: UN Virtual Forum on Business and Human Rights organisers urged to highlight ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders

Author: 53 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) & 23 Individuals

"An Open Letter to the Organizers of the United Nations Virtual Forum on Business and Human Rights: New Challenges. New Approaches, Asia and the Pacific, to be held on June 9 -11, 2020", 7 June 2020

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals...request the UNWG and other agencies working on Business and Human Rights intervene and highlight the ongoing situation of judicial harassment of...Human Rights Defenders (W/HRDs) in Thailand.


In particular, we ask you to raise the following points with the Thai Government:

1. The need to address...reports and recommendations made by the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights since 2018. We urge the UNWG and organizers of the Forum to request the Thai government report on their progress towards compliance of these recommendations.

2. ...[T]here have been no concrete moves to effectively protect or recognize the work of W/HRDs. The [National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights] and subsequent Articles regarding judicial protections do not have the status of law. [...]

3. In 2019, Articles 161/1 and 165/2 of the Criminal Procedure Code...to try and address...SLAPP lawsuits...have not been effective. [...] Most applications by W/HRDs to invoke Article 161/1 to date have been denied.

4. ...[C]omplaints, including those brought to harass, intimidate, or retaliate against human rights defenders...must be made by the Attorney-General alone. This is a lengthy procedure and it's not clear whether adequate resources and support have been provided to the Attorney General's Office....

5. There is also no clear procedure or provision for fining or otherwise penalizing businesses who have been found guilty of trying to resort to judicial harassment of W/HRDs. [...]

6. [...] We urge the UNWG and other agencies to strongly encourage the Thai Government decriminalize defamation....

7. We call on all stakeholders...to ensure that the Thai Government and all relevant business enterprises immediately end judicial harassment of W/HRDs, especially women....


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