The UN's First Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights promoted action to prevent and remedy negative human rights impacts from business activities, with sessions that covered: governments' regulatory actions and policy coherence, and the roles of civil society and the UN system in mitigating challenges, supporting affected stakeholders, and considering impacts on indigenous peoples.
6 December 2012: The first UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights discussed and promoted implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2011.
The Guiding Principles are a set of internationally accepted principles that provide a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of negative human rights impacts from business activities.
The forum, held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 4-5 December 2012, involved around 1,000 participants from 85 countries in addressing the impacts of business activities on human rights. Participants from government, civil society, business, trade unions and multilateral organizations discussed challenges in implementing the Guiding Principles, and the respective roles of public finance and global governance frameworks, including access to judicial and non-judicial remedies for grievance and dispute resolution. Discussions also covered: governments’ regulatory actions and policy coherence; companies’ human rights policies, due diligence and remediation processes; and the roles of civil society and the UN system in mitigating challenges, supporting affected stakeholders, and promoting implementation.
The discussion of challenges included experiences from conflict zones, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and working with indigenous peoples. Side events took place on responsible investment in Myanmar, extractive industries, impacts of mining on Latin American women, the right to collective bargaining, conducting due diligence, and women’s empowerment, among many others.
In an opening statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged participants not to overlook the need for accountability and the right to remedies, and pledged to prioritize capacity building of all relevant actors. Ursula Wynhoven, UN Global Compact, highlighted the work of Global Compact Human Rights Working Group and its contribution to outputs, including: the Women’s Empowerment Principles; Children’s Rights and Business Principles; and a draft business guide to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), in association with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII).
The Governments of Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and Switzerland, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) provided support to the Forum. [Program] [UN Global Compact Press Release] [OHCHR Press Release] [Statement of Navi Pillay] [Statement of Ursula Wynhoven] [Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights]