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Business and human rights

Human rights defenders promote and peacefully defend human rights in connection with territories, natural resources, livelihoods and climate in order for their communities to live sustainably.

Many human rights defenders face threats and attacks defending their community from adverse impact of business operations, often in the context of large development projects that affect access to land and livelihoods.

ISHR believes that businesses and human rights defenders operate in and benefit from a “shared civic space” defined by common, fundamental essential freedoms. These are essential to the realisation of all human rights, but also critical to enable stable, profitable and sustainable business environments in which companies thrive and economies, communities and people prosper.

Today, the human rights and business norms require global companies to behave responsibly and assess the human rights risks associated with their operations. Companies can no longer hide behind complex international supply chains or a network of subsidiaries owned by authoritarian leaders. Businesses have a responsibility to understand the complexities of the countries where they invest, to examine the suppliers they buy from, and to take into consideration the potential for impact associated with operating in countries where governance is weak and the rule of law is fragile.

ISHR works with human rights defenders who advocate for business and human rights issues. Particularly:

  • We strengthen and build their capacity to defend the rights of their communities at the national and international level;
  • We strengthen mechanisms to ensure that defenders are adequately protected from intimidation and attacks; and
  • We co-manage the Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders, a space for learning, discussion and action where international leading companies explore the role they play in helping to protect civic freedoms and human rights defenders globally.

Latest updates

Check out all the latest updates to this topic.

HRC55: A look at the defence of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean

In the face of multiple human rights crisis in the region, as well as significant political changes, defenders spoke at the Human Rights Council’s 55th session about the realities they have faced, calling for greater action and new mechanisms, and noting that political expediency shouldn't trump the objective assessment of the need for Council action on country situations.

Resources

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Explainer: breaking down the UN's Xinjiang report

On 31 August 2022, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released its much-awaited report on serious human rights violations in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang). ISHR prepared a multilingual explainer to break down the report's findings.

Annual Report | Supporting defenders, serving humanity

As we embark on a new decade, the world faces tremendous challenges, from climate change to COVID-19. There are plenty of reasons for anxiety and concern. But we see even more reasons for ambition and hope. We take hope from courageous human rights defenders across the world who continue their vital work to make human rights a reality for all of us. We are proud to serve them, with the solidarity and support of people like you.

Business and human rights defenders' stories

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