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1 Déc 2021

UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR)

Executive Summary and Key Recommendations for States & Businesses on protecting HRDs

Human Rights Defenders and the role of business

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: guidance on ensuring respect for human rights defenders

Executive Summary and Key Recommendations for States and Businesses

Across the world, human rights defenders are subject to attack and retaliation for their efforts to raise awareness of the adverse human rights impacts of business operations and underlying patterns of harmful business conduct and investment; this is especially prevalent in the context of large development projects that affect access to land and livelihoods.

When corporate actors engage in irresponsible business practices, sometimes in collaboration with the State, they often adversely impact the rights of communities. For example, where corporations act irresponsibly in seeking access to natural resources and land, they may infringe on the water, environmental and land rights of communities and individuals. Unfortunately, human rights defenders increasingly face reprisals for their efforts to draw attention to such negative business-related human rights impacts...

The full report, titled “The Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights: Guidance on ensuring respect for human rights defenders” and presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2021, highlights the urgent need to address the adverse impacts of business activities on human rights defenders. It unpacks, for States and businesses, the normative and practical implications of the Guiding Principles in relation to protecting and respecting the vital work of human rights defenders...

Recommendations for Businesses:

  1. Recognise that meeting the responsibility to respect human rights in relation to risks to human rights defenders implies – at a very minimum – that their activities, actions and omissions do not lead to retaliation, violence or stigmatisation against human rights defenders.
  2. Know and show a commitment to the rights of human rights defenders through policies and procedures relating to human rights due diligence, and impact assessments.
  3. Do not expose human rights defenders to undue risks, for example by initiating frivolous legal proceedings, including SLAPPs, or reporting them to authorities as a means of intimidating them. Recognise that SLAPPs are not only misguided as far as operating on a principled basis is concerned, as they are incompatible with responsible business, but also that engaging in them reflects poor strategic sense, as they destroy any credibility of corporate commitment to respect human rights at large.
  4. Use leverage in business relationships to ensure respect for human rights defenders is developed and maintained.
  5. Acknowledge that human rights due diligence provides a tool for achieving greater coherence. Conduct human rights due diligence in which community leaders and human rights defenders are an important expert resource as part of human rights due diligence processes, enabling business enterprises to understand the concerns of affected individuals and communities on the ground.
  6. Continuously enhance human rights due diligence policies and processes by engaging regularly and openly with affected stakeholders, civil society organisations, human rights defenders and trade unions, and be transparent about the management of potential and actual impacts.
  7. Adopt a preventive approach by actively monitoring risks against human rights defenders, taking an open and inclusive approach to stakeholder and worker engagement, especially with those who are at higher risk.
  8. Be as transparent as possible in responding to concerns raised by defenders, as well as about human rights risks and reprisals faced by defenders and how they were addressed by the business. Such reporting should occur in a way that respects the wishes of human rights defenders and also protects them from retaliation.
  9. Design and implement an operational-level grievance mechanism that addresses the heightened risks to defenders, which can protect confidentiality, provide for anonymity, and that is accessible through multiple channels.
  10. Have clear protocols in place to address attacks against human rights defenders. This includes appointing individuals with responsibility for receiving, investigating, and responding to allegations concerning threats against human rights defenders, and learning the lessons to prevent reoccurrence of the same behaviour.