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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 however 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 on 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.

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Business | Concrete ways to support human rights defenders

One of the most important and urgent opportunities for responsible business is to support basic human rights and those who defend them. How can companies take concrete actions to protect human rights defenders and the 'shared space' in which both operate? A groundbreaking new publication by the Business Network on Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders is providing concrete advice to companies.

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Business & Human Rights | The UN asks private companies to protect the shared civic space

Should businesses advocate for human rights defenders? What is the relationship between companies’ economic activities and civil society? The United Nations, through the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, has shed further light on the role of businesses by recently releasing a guidance for companies on ensuring respect for human rights defenders.

HRC47 | ISHR welcomes new UN Guidance on Business and Human Rights Defenders and calls for its implementation

In a statement at the Human Rights Council, ISHR welcomed the UN Working Group’s recently released Guidance document for using the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for engaging with, safeguarding and ensuring respect for the rights of Human Rights Defenders. Human rights defenders are at the forefront of protecting their communities, the environment and key natural resources that maintain the balance in our planet.

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