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The UN Guiding Principles recognize the importance of human rights defenders (HRDs) in the context of business-related impacts on human rights. The UNGPs highlight the critical role human rights defenders can have in human rights due diligence and enabling companies to understand the concerns of affected stakeholders. However, when HRDs bring attention to abuses, they are often harassed, intimidated, and some cases killed. In 2018, Asian States were among the deadliest places for human rights defenders according to Global Witness. The fast-shrinking of civic space in Asia makes it even more challenging for defenders and activists to demand accountability from governments. Environmental and land, indigenous and women rights defenders are even more likely to be harmed. Growing international concern over this ill-treatment is now recognized as a priority issue for States, and is becoming a reputational and operational risk for businesses. However, to date the role of business has not been sufficiently explored, though some promising examples are emerging. It is against this background, that this session will assess the roles of businesses in standing up for human rights defenders – why they should stand up, examples of how they can do so.
While the perspectives of defenders and affected rights holders will be evaluated, this session will primarily focus on the role businesses can play to promote civic space and stand up for human rights defenders in Asia. Discussions will thus focus on the action that businesses can take in respect of their own activities such as through human rights due diligence, as well as their role in advocating for change and working together with States. The session will provide a platform for businesses to present existing good practices, thereby building momentum and facilitating peer-learning.
The key objectives of this session are to:
Explore how businesses can positively contribute to civic space in Asia;
Provide constructive platform for businesses and others to debate gaps in corporate commitments;
Present case study/studies outlining promising examples in standing up for HRDs.
To what extent, and under which circumstances, can businesses positively contribute to building or preserving civic space in Asian States?
What are the promising examples businesses have been using to stand up for HRDs?
What are the recommendations for concrete actions by businesses and investors to address the root causes of violence, criminalization and intimidation affecting collective and individual human rights defenders in the field of business and human rights?
What are the specific recommendations to businesses different sectors?