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Making progress on business and human rights

13 November 2015

Business can have a profound impact, both positive and negative, on human rights. Companies can deliver innovation and services to improve people’s standard of living. Yet company activities can also – directly or indirectly - destroy livelihoods, exploit workers or displace communities.

Preventing and addressing business-related human abuses is the focus of a three-day conference in Geneva. The Business and Human Rights Forum will bring together more than 2,000 participants to discuss the intersection of human rightsand business. The forum is organized under the guidance of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
“The objective is to bring Governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, individuals and communities together to find common ground and practical solutions to prevent human rights abuse,” said Ulrik Halsteen, who heads the Forum Secretariat.

More than 60 thematic sessions will take place during the three-day conference. Some of these include: a discussions on the roles of Governments and companies in protecting and respecting rights to privacy and freedom of expression online, the need for human rights safeguards in the context of large scale land investments and construction and the human rights implications surrounding mega-sporting events.

Underpinning these conversations are the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This framework was endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council as a global blueprint for action. It outlines the respective duties and responsibilities of States and businesses to prevent and address human rights harms arising from business activity.

The principles are based on fundamental human rights and labour standards and provide guidance on the steps companies should take to ensure that they do not cause human rights harm.

“More and more businesses are taking the issue of human rights seriously,” said John Grova, one of the forum organizers. “They recognize that meeting the responsibility to respect for human rights is a fundamental societal expectation. They also see it makes business sense, as it is increasingly valued by employees, consumers, and investors.”

The forum takes place from now through Wednesday 18 November. It is the fourth Forum, which has seen a steady increase in participation since it first opened in 2012.

13 November 2015