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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

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ACHPR73: Côte d'Ivoire should strengthen the mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘the African Commission’) examined the periodic report of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire covering the period 2016-2019, during its public session held from 20 to 30 October 2022 in Banjul, The Gambia. The report presents the progress made by Côte d'Ivoire regarding the state of human rights since its last review by the Commission.

NGO Forum: Risks and opportunities for climate change, food security in Africa in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area

At the NGO Forum ahead of the 73rd session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), representatives of UN mechanisms and of civil society gathered to discuss the potential impacts of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area for climate change, food security, and the human rights of the citizens of its signatory States.

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 | 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.

Business and human rights defenders' stories

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