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Working Group on Business and Human Rights
05 June 2023
Submissions now online (See below)
Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 44/15, the United Nations Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (“Working Group”) will present a report to the UN General Assembly’s 78th Session in October 2023 on “Extractive Sector, Just Transition and Human Rights.” In this report, the Working Group will understand Extractive Sector as the wide range of business enterprises, institutions and peoples involved in the extraction of oil, gas, solid minerals, and rare metals.
As set out in resolution 17/4, the Working Group has a mandate to promote, disseminate and implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The group is also mandated to exchange and promote good practices and lessons learned on the implementation of the Guiding Principles, and to assess and make recommendations thereon.
The Working Group is composed of five independent experts of balanced geographical representation appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 Member States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. Experts are selected on the basis of their expertise and experience in the area of their mandate, personal integrity, independence and impartiality and objectivity. They are not employed by the United Nations and do not receive remuneration for their work. The Working Group is part of a system of so-called UN Special Procedures. Collectively, the Working Group experts bring diverse skills and experience on the advancement of business respect for human rights across a wide range of countries, issues, and sectors. Access biographies of the members of the Working Group.
In response to the climate change emergency, a growing number of States, business enterprises, investors, and other stakeholders in the extractive sector worldwide have announced, or are currently developing, plans to implement net-zero emission and energy transition programs. Yet, concerns have emerged on how the design and implementation of energy transition policies and projects, especially the sourcing of critical transition minerals, may further exacerbate child labour, modern slavery, poverty, and social exclusion; impact the enjoyment of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment; worsen energy poverty levels; and constrain access to land and other resources to vulnerable and historically excluded groups. This is in part due to the multitude and complexity of human rights issues that extractive companies face. For example, the use of land for extractive projects and the resettlement of communities is particularly harmful to Indigenous Peoples, and extractive companies can also have considerable impacts on the environment and the economy of the societies in which they operate, with conflict-affected or post-conflict areas using revenue from extractive resources to fund unrest. Against this backdrop, the question arises as to how to achieve a human rights-based and just transition, i.e., a transition to a green and climate-neutral economy which is fair, inclusive, creates decent working opportunities, upholds the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and affected communities through social dialogue and stakeholder engagement, respects the sovereignty of peoples over natural resources, and leaves no one behind.
The report aims to provide practical guidance to States, business enterprises and other key stakeholders on how best to design and implement just, inclusive, and rights-based energy transition programs, investments and projects that advance the UNGPs.
In particular, the report will unpack relevant provisions of the UNGPs. The report will examine the duty of States to put in place human rights-based natural resources laws and policies that strike a balance between advancing energy transition targets and promoting responsible business conduct in the design, approval, financing, implementation, and reporting of such activities. The report will also analyse the key role played by enterprises owned or controlled by the State (SOEs) and will unpack the role of business enterprises in the extractive sector to integrate human rights into ongoing energy transition plans and programs to address adverse human rights impacts. The report will also address access to remedy by, for example, looking at the possibility of expanding dispute resolution provisions in extractive contracts, ensuring contributions of extractive sector operators to climate compensation and reparation funds, and enabling affected communities to seek remedies against investors.
This report will build on the work previously undertaken by the Working Group, the UN Security Council and other international organisations such as OHCHR, UNEP, ILO, UNCTAD, OECD, South Centre and others concerning various dimensions of the interface between climate change, energy transition and human rights. It will also make connections with the Working Group’s previous and upcoming reports and knowledge products addressing issues such as climate change, human rights due diligence (HRDD), policy coherence, gender dimensions, state-owned enterprises, and access to remedy.
In this context, the Working Group seeks the input of all stakeholders (including States, international organisations, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations, research centres, policy makers, academia, lawyers, law firms, arbitrators, investors, industry associations, trade unions, human rights defenders, and Indigenous Peoples) to the questions below. Please feel free to respond to all or selected questions as per expertise, relevance or focus of work.
State duty to protect human rights
Corporate responsibility to respect human rights
Access to remedy
Good practices and other comments
 UN Security Council Resolution on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Resolution 1952 (2010) https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/s/res/1952-%282010%29; SR Indigenous Peoples on extractives A/HRC/24/41; SR toxics on extractives A/HRC/21/4; SR climate change on promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change A/77/226; SR environment on climate change A/HRC/31/52; United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment: Human Rights and the Extractive Industry https://www.unpri.org/download?ac=1655
Mining Affected Communities United in Action - MACUA (South Africa), Women Affected by Mining United in Action - WAMUA (South Africa), and ActionAid Offices (Netherlands, Malawi, Senegal, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya, and Liberia)