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Tuesday, November 27 • 11:30am - 1:00pm
Safeguarding human rights defenders: new efforts and tackling growing threats

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Organized by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights in collaboration with: 
  • Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • Global Witness
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • International Service for Human Rights
  • Peace Brigades International
  • Rafto Foundation for Human Rights

Brief description of the session :

The need for enhancing protection of human rights defenders who speak up against business-related human rights impacts is a standing item on the Forum’s agenda. This session led by the UN Working Group in collaboration with NGOs is envisaged to consist of two parts:
  1. The first part of the session will be dedicated to showcasing new efforts to strengthen corporate respect and support for human rights defenders. Presentations will be brief, but meant to highlight encouraging initiatives and action.
  2. The second part of the session will focus on the growing trend of criminalization and legal harassment of defenders who speak up against business-related impacts and identify concrete action to be taken by governments, business and others to address it. The panel aims to identify what "human rights due diligence" is needed and what are some of the practical considerations for preventing that companies become involved in criminalization and legal harassment of defenders who engage in legitimate efforts to address potential and actual adverse impacts. This will include identifying steps to be taken by:
  • home States
  • host States
  • companies that cause negative impacts and who are the main targets of criticism
  • companies that have business relationships to those causing the abuse (typically transnational corporations and their responsibility to address impacts in their supply chain)
  • investors
  • companies that invest in contexts where criminalization of human rights defenders is a salient issue
Background to the discussion:

Threats to human rights defenders and to civic freedoms are increasing concerns globally. A large number of human rights defenders are under threat and attack because they raise concern about adverse human rights impacts of business operations, often in the context of large development projects that affects access to land and livelihoods. At the same time, the space for civil society actors to raise concerns about human rights impacts is shrinking, and human rights defenders face criminalization when engaging in public protest or civil dissent.
Concerns are being raised about the role of business in contributing to attacks against human rights defenders or in failing to take action against such attacks. Questions are also being raised about the role of business in helping to protect human rights defenders and civic space.
States have the primary obligation to ensure the rights and protection of human rights defenders, as set out in various human rights instruments – in particular the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders – and as reaffirmed in many UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions, including through the March 2016 resolution on the protection of human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights.
The importance of human rights defenders in the context of business-related impacts on human rights is recognized by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. They highlight the key role human rights defenders can have in human rights due diligence and enabling companies to understand concerns of affected stakeholders. In particular, the Guiding Principles:
  • Urge businesses to consult human rights defenders as an important expert resource as part of their human rights due diligence, as defenders have a key role as watchdogs, advocates and voice for affected stakeholders.
  • Urge States to ensure that the legitimate activities of human rights defenders are not obstructed.


Moderator/ Introductory Remark...
avatar for Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry

Member, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Ms. Anita Ramasastry is the Roland L. Hjorth Professor of Law and the Director of the Graduate Program in Sustainable International Development at the University of Washington School Of Law. She researches and teaches in the fields of law and development, anti-corruption, international... Read More →

avatar for Brittany Benowitz

Brittany Benowitz

Chief Counsel, ABA Center for Human Rights
I run a program at the American Bar Association that provides pro bono assistance to human rights defenders who face retaliation for their work.
avatar for Bennett Freeman

Bennett Freeman

Co-founder and Board Secretary, Global Network Initiative (GNI)
Over the last 17 years of a three decade-long career, Bennett Freeman has worked at the intersection of multinational companies, responsible investors, NGOs, governments and international institutions to promote corporate responsibility, sustainability and human rights around the... Read More →
avatar for Andreas Graf

Andreas Graf

Head of Human Rights & Anti-Discrimination, FIFA
Andreas Graf is Head of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination at FIFA. Andreas coordinates FIFA's work to embed respect for human rights throughout the organisation's operations and relationships. He holds a PhD in political science.
avatar for Johanna Molina Miranda

Johanna Molina Miranda

Researcher on Human Rights and Business, CREER
Lawyer, Specialist in International Law of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law with studies in Politics and International Security and currently studying for a Masters in Public International Law. She has experience in the public sector, as well as research and training... Read More →
avatar for Mohammad Nayyeri

Mohammad Nayyeri

Justice for Iran
Mohammad Nayyeri is an Iranian Attorney at Law specialising in human rights with substantial work experience within Iranian legal system. He has acted as legal advisor for a number of human rights NGOs and his research papers and legal commentaries regarding the Iranian legal system... Read More →
avatar for Ana Sandoval

Ana Sandoval

Peaceful Resistance “La Puya”, Guatemala, Peaceful Resistance “La Puya”, Guatemala
avatar for Lorenzo Urbinati

Lorenzo Urbinati

Programme Manager, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
avatar for Clément Nyaletsossi Voule

Clément Nyaletsossi Voule

UN Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association
Clément Nyaletsossi VOULE, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association. Prior to his appointment, he led the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) work to support human rights defenders from States in transition and coordinated... Read More →

Tuesday November 27, 2018 11:30am - 1:00pm CET
Room XX