The United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide for the first time a global normative framework backed by UN member states that clarifies state duties and business responsibilities related to business related-human rights abuse. They are the common reference point for efforts to address adverse human rights impacts arising in a business context and have been widely integrated into both public and private sector policy frameworks.
These principles are of particular importance in conflict-affected regions, where the worst forms of business-related human rights abuse tend to happen.
As part of its mandate to promote the UN Guiding Principles, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG) launched a project in 2018 to clarify the practical steps that States and business enterprises should take to implement the Guiding Principles in conflict and post-conflict contexts.
The UNWG presented the conclusions of this project’s first phase in the report Business, Human Rights and Conflict-Affected Regions: Towards Heightened Action (A/75/212).
Based on extensive research and consultations, the report identifies a series of policies and tools to help ensure that business activity does not lead to human rights abuse and in turn stimulate or exacerbate conflict or hinder peacebuilding. It highlights two major areas requiring further work: a need for more granularity in the existing guidance for states, business, and other relevant actors; and the need to continue addressing existing gaps and policy misalignments across the various actors.
This project is a follow-up to the initial UNWG efforts and aims to further identify and clarify policies and practices for States and business, including public and private investors, across the full ‘conflict cycle’ and the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ pillars of the Guiding Principles.
In this context, the project is addressing key questions, such as:
- What are the appropriate policies, regulations, and adjudication to protect against corporate-related human rights abuses in conflict and post-conflict situations?
- What specific measures should business take in conflict and post-conflict situations, including implementing ‘enhanced due diligence?
- What is the role and what actions should be taken (and avoided) by actors in the traditional peace and security architecture, including key UN actors such as OHCHR, UNDP, DPPA, the Peacebuilding Support Office, and the Peacebuilding Commission as well as the Security Council?
- What is the role of business in transitional justice?
This input will help the UNWG to develop specific guidance for how states, international and other organizations, and businesses can foster business respect for human rights in conflict-affected regions more effectively.
While it is clear that no single approach can resolve the many challenges – legal, conceptual, and practical – relating to human rights and business in conflict contexts, this project will support closer examination of three priority areas:
- Clearly (re)articulating the linkage between the issue of business and human rights, on the one hand, and business and conflict management, on the other.
- Developing further precise guidance on what constitutes enhanced due diligence, including in the context of grievance management.
- Fostering the need for heightened UN action in this space and the need to identify concrete options and pathways forward on ‘business, human rights, peace and security’ by key UN actors as well as the Security Council or the Peacebuilding Commission.
Overall Support to the UNWG
This project is connected to the UN Working Group’s work to develop recommendations for the ‘next decade of business and human rights’, which the Geneva Academy has supported since its inception.
This support is part of a wider engagement with various UN Special Procedures that involve reinforced research, stakeholder outreach, and organization of Geneva-based events and consultations.