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Business and human rights defenders: exploring best practice and finding common ground (WP1678)


There is a prevailing view that the relationship between human rights defenders and companies is adversarial. Human rights activists and NGOs run campaigns targeted at affecting change in the behaviour of companies, for example: how companies acquire land; how their assets are protected by government or private forces; treatment of workers; interaction with local communities; how they respond to state laws which may curb activities of human rights groups. However, some companies argue that these campaigns are often not reflective of the complex reality faced by many businesses.

Some companies see NGOs as obstacles, and the process of consultation with them frustrating and time-consuming, interfering with the core functions of the organisation. Despite this, there are many examples of companies and NGOs working together to tackle human rights abuses towards a mutually beneficial goal. With the help of NGOs, civil society groups and human rights defenders themselves, many companies are working towards the mainstreaming of human rights concerns across their operations, whilst others are actively protecting human rights defenders and championing their causes.

This meeting will bring together a range of experts including human rights defenders, companies, academics and some international organisations and governments to discuss ways in which they can work together.

Discussion will include: land rights and the protection of indigenous persons; internal reporting systems and due diligence frameworks to provide adequate protections to human rights defenders; how companies can support and protect human rights defenders taking a controversial stance; and the role of trade unions in protecting the rights of workers in industries with complex global value chains; frameworks for cooperation and protection between business and human rights defenders.

Drawing on best practice from across sectors, industries and countries this conference aims to:

  • Explore the barriers that limit discussions between Human Rights Defenders and Business
  • Identify strategies to overcome dilemmas facing businesses and human rights defenders in their interactions with one another
  • Develop proposals for joint action that includes a range of stakeholders

Additional information

Panel guidelines


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