UN Forum on Business and Human Rights: Side event on challenges that human rights defenders face in the context of business activities in an age of a shrinking civil society space

  • Event Date: 17.11.15
  • Event Time: 13:27:00
Wednesday 18 November

10:00 to 11:20 - Room XX (Building E)

Addressing the challenges HumanRights Defenders face in the context of business activities in an age ofshrinking civil society space

There is a growing clampdown worldwide against human rights defenderswho challenge specific economic paradigms, the presence of corporations andharmful business conduct. Too often, Governments detain human rights defenders,prevent them from raising funds, restrict their movements, place them undersurveillance and, in some cases, authorize their torture and murder. Meanwhile,many companies either stand by as Governments employ tough law and orderresponses against defenders, or they aggressively target defenders whochallenge their activities through legal or other means.

Against this bleak backdrop, a number of progressive companies recognizethe need and value in communicating effectively with communities affected bytheir projects. Without a social license to operate, companies face manyproblems that can affect their operations, increase a project’s costs andsuccess and it can harm the firm’s overall reputation. The freedom human rightsdefenders enjoy plays an essential role in ensuring the legitimacy of acompany’s operations. An open, secure civic space enables defenders to buildinclusive, stable societies characterised by the rule of law that contribute toa favourable investment climate and operating conditions for companies.

This session will explore how to overcome the risks that defenders, whochallenge business conduct, face in a world in which civil society at largefights for its place. It will showcase the experiences of prominent defendersand companies operating in complex environments. It will include contributionsfrom Governments who are working to improve the rights of defenders. It willprovide examples of what companies cando to provide meaningful, practical assistance to defenders, as well as therole that they can play in promoting laws, policies and action that supportscivic space. Participants will also discuss what defenders and civil society cando to engage constructively with businesses to improve respect for human rightsand what Governments need to do to allow peaceful dissent and fulfil their primaryobligation to protect human rights.

Some key topics tobe addressed by the speakers:

· The types of challenges that human rights defenders face intheir work, as well as the physical, legal and financial risks to themselves.

· How State action restrictsthe work of defenders, and how certain corporate conduct facilitates this.

· What the shrinking civil society space, including the work ofdefenders, means for those operating in certain countries and regions,including business.

· Identifying the steps thatcompanies can take to engage meaningfully with defenders and communities toreduce conflict and vice versa. Why this is in all their best interest.

· What Governments must do to create the rightconditions for companies to gain a social license.

· The importance of internationalstandards to restrain harmful State actions and how international civil societycan help.


Salil Tripathi - Senior Adviser, Global Issues, theInstitute for Human Rights and Business


- Alfred Brownell - Presidentand Founder of the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Liberia

- Andy Hall- Human rights defender and a migrant worker specialist (based in Thailand)

- Dan Bross- Microsoft's Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship and Executive Directorof the Microsoft Technology and Human Rights Center

- NickyBlack - Head of Social Performance, De Beers

- RiccardoSerri - Deputy Head of Human Rights Strategy and Policy Implementation,European External Action Service (EU)

- Geneviève Paul - Head of Globalisation and Human Rights Desk, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)


- Amnesty International

- Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

- Civil Rights Defenders

- Front Line Defenders

- Institute for Human Rights and Business

- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)– Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders programme

- International Service for Human Rights

- World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) –Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders programme

- UN Working Group on Business and HumanRights

Forum Twitter hashtag: #bizhumanrights

Watch live: http://webtv.un.org/