Friday, September 14, 2018

7th U.N. Forum on Business and Human Rights 26-28 November 2018: Concept Note and Program

One of the highlights of the "human rights" season is the annual meeting organized by the UN Working Group for Business and Human Rights.  It takes place at the end of November in Geneva and brings together many of the great stakeholders in the law, policy, and business of human rights in international economic activity; at least those who can afford the trip.

It has been my practice to observe and comment on aspects of this gathering every year.  Sometimes those are preceded by critical commentary on the Working Group's annual Report (see, e.g., here, and here).  Sometimes the gathering serves as an unconscious canvas on which larger movements in this field may be observed.  

This year will be no different.

For this Post I include the preliminary information just released by the Forum organizers: Concept Note, Preliminary Program, and Registration information. Each follows below.

Please register online through the Indico platform

About the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

The UN Forum is the world's largest annual gathering on business and human rights with more than 2,000 participants from government, business, community groups and civil society, law firms, investor organisations, UN bodies, national human rights institutions, trade unions, academia and the media.

Over three days, participants take part in 60+ panel discussions on topics that relate to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the United Nations "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework), as well as current business-related human rights issues.

The Forum is the foremost event to network, share experiences and learn about the latest initiatives to promote corporate respect for human rights.

The UN Human Rights Council established the Forum in 2011 to serve as a global platform for stakeholders to ”discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the Guiding Principles and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights.” It is guided and chaired by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, as per Human Rights Council resolutions 17/4 and 35/7.


About the Forum

The UN annual Forum on Business and Human Rights is the global platform for stock-taking and lesson- sharing on efforts to move the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper to practice. As the world’s foremost gathering in this area, it provides a unique space for dialogue between governments, business, civil society, affected groups and international organizations on trends, challenges and good practices in preventing and addressing business-related human rights impacts. Each year it brings together more than 2,000 experts, practitioners and leaders for three days of an action- and solution-oriented dialogue.

2018 focus

Seven years on from the launch of the Guiding Principles, there has been a flurry of activities among States, businesses and civil society actors to make the “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework part of everyday business and government practice. Under the central theme of “Business respect for human rights – building on what works ”, the 2018 Forum aims to drill down on what has been working to date in terms of government, civil society and business practice, but also on what is not working and where current efforts are falling short, and how to fill the gaps. A key concept and tool is corporate human rights due diligence, which will be a major focus of the 2018 event. The Forum will examine both emerging practice and enabling factors for corporate human rights due diligence, addressing not only current business practice, but also government action to lead by example in its role as economic actor and to incentivize good business practice, as well as innovations from civil society and rights holders.

The Forum may cover issues such as:
 Emerging practice and challenges in relation to key components of human rights due diligence (assessing risks and impacts, integration, tracking, and communication).

 Sector-focused challenges and practice (including sectors that have received less attention in business and human rights debates to date).

 Human rights due diligence in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

 Approaches for meaningful engagement with affected stakeholders, including groups at particular risk (e.g. women, children, human rights defenders, worker representatives, persons with disability, indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants, refugees, LGBTI etc.)

 Experiences in addressing human rights abuses prevalent across different sectors (e.g. modern slavery, child labour, sexual harassment, discrimination, and freedom of association).

 Government practice of incentivizing and enabling corporate human rights due diligence (what good practice should be incentivized and how).

 Government protection at a local level (protection of workers, communities, human rights defenders, individuals and groups in situations of vulnerability).

 Policy coherence at both international and national levels, addressing issues such as convergence in how human rights due diligence is applied in global governance frameworks and progress in ensuring policy coherence in State policies and practice.

 The role of key stakeholders (e.g. investors, stock exchanges, business associations, multi- stakeholder initiatives, civil society organizations and national human rights institutions) in promoting good practice.

 How to measure impact and assessing what works in terms of both business and government practice.

 The relationship between human rights due diligence and access to remedy– addressing the respective roles and responsibilities of both States and business.

The Forum will also address various issues in focus. These may include “standing items” for the Forum agenda, such as:
 Corporate engagement on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
 Human rights defenders, civic freedoms and the role of business
 Gender, business and human rights
 Indigenous peoples rights and impacts of business activities

They may also include emerging or systemic issues that confront the business and human rights agenda, such as:
 Climate change and human rights – and the transition to a green economy
 Corruption, tax, inequality, and human rights
 Technology, the fourth industrial revolution and human rights
 The role of business in standing up for human rights

Call for proposals

The Forum Secretariat and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights would like to inform all participants that the call for proposals is now closed.

A tentative Forum programme is expected in September. Registration will also open in September.

Stay posted on updates by following us on Twitter: @WGBizHRs

The number of stakeholder submissions to the Forum has grown exponentially since the first Forum in 2012. Given the growth in the number of submissions, it will not be possible to accommodate all proposals. Only organizations that are invited to organize parallel sessions will be contacted.

There is no space for accommodating externally organized “side event” requests. Parties wishing to organize “side events” in Geneva before or after the Forum are encouraged to explore options outside of the UN premises and keep the Forum organizers informed via

The UN has a very limited budget for the Forum, including for travel of participants. For the small number of UN-sponsored participants, priority is given to stakeholders from the Global South.

Forum mandate and information about the organizers

The Forum was established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 “to discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights, including challenges faced in particular sectors, operational environments or in relation to specific rights or groups, as well as identifying good practices” (resolution 17/4, paragraph 12).

The Forum is guided and chaired by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (Human Rights Council resolution 35/7) and organized by its Secretariat at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).





No comments: