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Guidance on business, human rights defenders & civic freedoms

Companies face rising expectations to support the protection of human rights defenders and civic freedoms from a range of stakeholders - conscious consumers, responsible investors, employees, trade unionists, affected community members, and workers within their supply chains.

The execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian environmental and human rights activist, along with other leaders collectively known as the Ogoni Nine, by the Abacha regime in 1995 related to their activism to stop harmful impacts caused by Royal Dutch Shell's operations, catalysed debate over what Royal Dutch Shell should have done to avert this tragedy and decades of discussion about businesses' role. These fundamental issues are still faced by companies in virtually every industry today.

As attacks against human rights defenders continue to increase globally and the COVID-19 pandemic places defenders and the civic freedoms that enable their work at even greater risk, the role of companies and investors in protecting human rights defenders and civic freedoms is coming under increasing scrutiny. This momentum has led to the creation of guidance to inform business and governments about their human rights responsibilities related to defenders and civic freedoms and actions they can take. This page gathers the latest news on business, defenders, and civic freedoms and relevant reports, case studies and tools.

Webinar : Safeguarding Human Rights Defenders - Practical Guidance for Investors

In this webinar, labour rights defender Sutharee Wanassiri, the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, International Service for Human Rights and Global Witness discuss the responsibility of companies and investors to prevent, mitigate, and account for how they address negative impacts on defenders and detailing practical actions they should take.

Featured contents

New report by Responsible Mining Foundation calls on mining companies to show commitment to human rights defenders protection

The latest RMI Report 2020 reveals that most companies fail to demonstrate even a commitment to respect the internationally accepted rights and protections accorded to defenders. A new briefing by RMI calls on mining companies to change that and recommends how.

UN Working Group Guidance on Human rights defenders and civic space – the business and human rights dimension

The importance of HRDs in the context of business-related impacts on human rights is recognized by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights decided to give focused attention to the issue of attacks on HRDs and civic space from 2017 onwards.

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders' report on HRDs in the field of business and human rights

Throughout his mandate, former Special Rapporteur Michel Forst, focused on the situation of HRDs in the field of business and human rights, via reports and engagement with companies and governments. The new Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor is also going to continue prioritizing several of the issues closely related to business.

Guidance: Shared space under pressure - Business support for civic freedoms and human rights defenders

The seminal report, based on 90 interviews with business leaders, UN and civil society experts and HRDs, and with 12 ‘spotlights, explains the normative framework, the business case & the moral choice for businesses to act when shared civil society space is under pressure, threat or attack.

Simplified decision-making tools for business

A simplified version of the tools in the 'Shared space under pressure - Business support for civic freedoms and human rights defenders' guidance, authored by Bennett Freeman and commissioned by BHRRC & ISHR.

Lectures: Human rights defenders & Business (Parts 1 & 2)

This two-part lecture at Ryerson CSR Institute in Canada explores in depth the intersection between rights of defenders and business enterprises.

More Reports & Guidance with recommendations for all business enterprises

More Guidance for investors