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Business and human rights in Asia – First UN regional forum, 19-20 April 2016

GENEVA (5 April 2016) – Companies, governments, NGOs, workers and community representatives will meet in Doha, Qatar, from 19 to 20 April to discuss key business and human rights issues in Asia.

The Asia Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights is being convened by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights with the support of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It will bring together some 300 participants.

“Asian countries represent a growing share of the global economy and have seen impressive growth over the past decades. At the same time, there is increasing attention on companies’ adverse human rights impacts across all sectors,” said Dante Pesce, who chairs the group of independent experts. “Preventing and addressing such impacts is a defining human rights issue of our time.”

“This is the first time that the UN is convening a regional Forum on this topic in Asia. It is a unique opportunity to discuss the steps needed to ensure that business operations and economic development projects do not undermine human rights,” said Pavel Sulyandziga, vice-chair of the UN Working Group.

“Asia is a vast region, spanning from Saudi Arabia in West Asia, to Indonesia in Southeast Asia, and China in East Asia. The Forum will, therefore, address diverse issues, sometimes with a sub-regional or sectorial lens,” added Mr. Pesce.

“The main focus will be to identify how governments and companies can concretely meet their respective human rights obligations and responsibilities, for example through developing national action plans and better managing their supply chains,” he said.
The Forum will center on implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights*, which were endorsed by UN Member States in 2011 as the authoritative global standard to prevent and manage the risk of business-related human rights harm.

Specific topics include: garment sector supply chains; the rights of migrant workers; land investments; the rights of indigenous peoples; mega sporting events; measures to prevent forced and child labour; corporate reporting on human rights; and ways to ensure access to effective remedy when harms occur.

Speakers at the Forum include:
·   John Ruggie, author of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, who will deliver the keynote address and speak about his soon-to-be-released recommendations to FIFA on human rights;
·   Representatives of Governments and inter-governmental organizations;
·   Industry representatives from major Asian economies;
·   Multinational corporations such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, EY Japan, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, McDonald's, Microsoft, Repsol and Thai Union;
·   The heads of the International Trade Union Confederation and of the International Organization of Employers;
·   Workers and indigenous peoples’ representatives from across Asia;
·   Non-governmental organizations.

The event follows similar UN Regional Forums in Africa in 2014 and Latin America and the Caribbean in 2013. It will feed into the 2016 global UN Forum on Business and Human Rights to be held from 14 to 16 November in Geneva.

The Asia Regional Forum is open to the media. For queries about press accreditation, see contact details below.

(*) Read the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (available in the six UN languages): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

The Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. Its current members are: Mr. Michael Addo, Mr. Dante Pesce (current Chairperson), and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga (current vice chair). Mr. Surya Deva was recently appointed as a new member and will officially take up his functions on 1 May 2016. The appointment of the fifth member of the Working Group will the made by the Human Rights Council in June 2016. Learn more, log on to: www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx

The UN Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. The Working Group reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly.

Learn more about the Asian Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights: www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/2016AsiaRegionalForum.aspx 

Learn more about the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, to be held in Geneva from 14 to 16 November 2016: www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2016ForumBHR.aspx

For additional information and queries about press accreditation, please contact the Working Group Secretariat at: regionalforumbhr@ohchr.org / +41 22 91 79 657 or +41 22 91 79 323.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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