The business, human rights and conflict-affected regions project


It is well documented that the worst forms of business-related human rights abuse tend to happen in conflict-affected contexts. However, we still need a better understanding of the practical measures that all actors should take to prevent and address business-related human rights abuse.

As part of its mandate to promote the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights 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.

Project scope and focus

The project aimed to 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 addressed key questions, such as:

  • What are the appropriate policies, regulation 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?
  • What does responsible and sustainable investment in post-conflict and reconstruction contexts look like in practical terms? What actions should be taken (and avoided) by actors in the financial sector—both public financial institutions and private investors—to meet their responsibilities under the Guiding Principles?
  • What is the role of business in transitional justice?

Working Group report

The Working Group presented its report on Business, human rights and conflict-affected regions: towards heightened action to the UN General Assembly in October 2020. The report, which contains recommendations to States, businesses and the UN system, is available in all UN languages: A/75/212. Read the executive summary. Read the presentation of the report to the General Assembly. View inputs received from States and other stakeholders on the report page.

Read the press release: “Doing business in conflict areas: UN report details actions to avoid fuelling human rights abuse and stoking violence”.

Watch the video of the presentation at the General Assembly by Working Group Chair Anita Ramasastry, 27 October 2020 on UN Web TV (starting at 30:00 mins).

Project methodology

The Working Group sought to develop evidence-based guidance, taking into account both emerging good practices and existing gaps and challenges. It consulted as widely as possible with all relevant stakeholders, including governments, civil society, business, investors, academia, national human rights institutions, trade unions, UN and other international organizations, and affected stakeholders and human rights defenders working on the ground.

Expert consultations were held in Geneva in October and November 2018. Open multi-stakeholder discussions also took place at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in 2018 and 2019. These discussions helped inform the scoping of the project. The following methods and events further informed the project:

  • Regional consultations
  • Consultations with governments
  • Research (desk-based and interviews with practitioners)
  • A questionnaire distributed to all governments
  • An open call for input

View submissions from governments and other stakeholders on the report page.

Regional consultations

MENA region consultation: Beirut, 22 March, 2019

Asia-Pacific region consultation: Davao, Philippines, 4-5 September, 2019

Africa region consultation: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 20-21 February, 2020

Insights from consultations

Other resources

  • Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights - Implementing the United Nations "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework, A/HRC/17/31.
  • What do the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights say about protecting and respecting human rights in conflict-affected contexts?
  • Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Business and human rights in conflict-affected regions: challenges and options towards State responses, A/HRC/17/32, 2011 (A companion report to the Guiding Principles focused on policy options for States)
  • Report by Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Corporate human rights due diligence: emerging practices, challenges and ways forward, A/73/163, 2018 (This report does not specifically address conflict contexts but provides a general overview of key features of human rights due diligence and why it matters; gaps and challenges in current business and Government practice; emerging good practices; and how key stakeholders—States and the investment community, in particular—can contribute to the scaling-up of effective human rights due diligence.)
  • Report by the Working Group on gender dimensions of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (with policy recommendations on gender and conflict), A/HRC/41/43.

Working Group on business and human rights
Recent thematic reports
Issues in focus
Contact information

Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Palais des Nations, 8-14, Avenue de la Paix. 1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9159

Others Involved