Project on business in conflict and post-conflict contexts


Background

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 in 2018 launched a project to clarify the practical steps that companies, investors and States should take to implement the Guiding Principles in conflict and post-conflict contexts. This focus was based on the recognition that while it is well documented that business activity can have adverse impacts on people in conflict-affected settings, and that the worst forms of business-related human rights abuse tend to happen in such contexts, a much better understanding is needed of the practical measures that companies, State actors and investors should take to prevent and address business-related human rights abuse.

Project scope and focus of outputs

The project will address the full “conflict cycle” and practical implications of all three pillars of the Guiding Principles:

  • The State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication;
  • The corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts with which a business is involved (by adopting appropriate policies, exercising human rights due diligence and enabling remediation of harms that occur); and
  • The need for access to effective remedy for rights-holders when abuse has occurred, through both judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms.

The project aims to restate implications of international human rights and humanitarian law in this context as well as unpack options for State and business policy and practice that have been underexplored to date. Key focus areas for the project outputs are:

  • What does “enhanced” human rights and conflict-sensitive due diligence look like in practice? How does/should the process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for actual and potential impacts differ from “normal” contexts?
  • What is the role of business in transitional justice? What are the implications of the international business and human rights framework (the Guiding Principles) in a transitional justice context?
  • 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 companies, private investors, public financial institutions, host and home States?

Outputs and methodology of the Working Group project

The Working Group’s recommendations and practical guidance will be presented in a report to the UN General Assembly in October 2020. The report may be accompanied by several companion papers to elaborate on specific topics and guidance. The recommendations will be disseminated in the last quarter of 2020, with active outreach to governments, business and the investment community, as well as engagement with civil society and international institutions. It is expected that it will be a key input to the 2020 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights.

The project was initiated with expert consultations in Geneva in October and November 2018 as well as an open multi-stakeholder discussion at the 2018 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. These discussions helped inform the scoping of the of the project. During the course of 2019, a number of activities will be undertaken to inform the Working Group’s work:

  • Regional consultations
  • Expert and multi-stakeholder consultations
  • Consultations with governments
  • Research (desk-based and interviews with practitioners)
  • Open calls for inputs to be posted on the project web page
  • A questionnaire distributed to all governments

The Working Group seeks to develop evidence-based guidance, taking into account both emerging good practices and existing gaps and challenges. It seeks to consult 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. The project will explore case studies and a diverse sample of past and current conflict situations in different regions.

The open call for inputs and survey will on this web page.

Regional consultations

MENA region consultation: Beirut, 22 March, 2019

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

Consultations in other regions will be held in 2019-20.

Contact details

For questions about the project and submission of relevant material, please contact unwgbhrconflictproject@gmail.com and wg-business@ohchr.org.

To receive updates about the project

If you would like to receive email updates about the project, please sign up here. The email list will only be used to inform about publications, events and requests for inputs related to the Working Group's project. You can unsubscribe any time by sending an email to: unwgbhrconflictproject@gmail.com. We use a Google form to collect and store the information (only name, organization and email address). The contact list will deleted after the completion of the project at the end of 2020.

Resources and links

  • 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, UN Document A/HRC/17/32, 2011 (A companion report to the Guiding Principles focused on policy options for states)https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/TransCorporations/A.HRC.17.32.pdf