For further information on the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2019ForumBHR.aspx

For further information on the work of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx 
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Tuesday, November 26 • 09:00 - 10:15
Regulating businesses in contexts of conflict and occupation: what more is needed?

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Session organized by the Essex Business and Human Rights Project in collaboration with Al-Haq, GreenAdvocates, Norwegian People’s Aid, Swedwatch, and the Syrian Legal Development Programme

Interpretation provided in English, French and Spanish by DOCIP.

Webcast of the session:
Meeting link
Meeting number: 841 119 422
Password: Fy2ggiUD

Overview, aims and objectives
Managing business impacts on human rights in conflict-affected contexts is both important and difficult. Get it right and you can limit the impact of the conflict on human rights; get it wrong and you can set the conditions for re-igniting the conflict or exacerbating and institutionalizing negative impacts on human rights. The panel will take the form of a conversation between people working in different contexts but experiencing similar problems with conflict-affected and occupied areas. Drawing on the experiences of NGOs and academics, this panel will examine the particular risks posed by businesses operating in conflict-affected areas and on the potential for states (and businesses) to proactively and appropriately manage those risks. Panelists will identify best practices, discuss the difficulties of balancing rights in these contexts, and outline risks for which both businesses and states should be aware. Finally, we will discuss the particular remediation needs for individuals and communities impacted by business activities in situations of armed conflict.

Key discussion questions
Amongst the key question we will address:
  • What are the primary risks businesses pose when operating in situations of conflict, occupation, and post-conflict reconstruction?
  • Are there differences in both risks and liability for domestic versus international actors, or for parents versus subsidiaries?
  • Are there particular risks for financial actors or humanitarian organisations?
  • What role do ‘home states’ have in regulating corporations when they enter a state? Is there any best practice (or, sadly, bad practices) in this area?
  • What avenues of accountability – both criminal and civil – are there are at the national and international levels? How have these worked in practice? What lessons should we draw from these experiences?

Format of the session
The session will take the form of a conversation, with panelists answering questions posed by the moderator and responding to the insights of one another. This will be followed by insights from the community at large, and a period of question and answer.

Conflicts are often cyclical, and each stage of a conflict poses different risks to human rights. Studies show that businesses and their activities can either reduce harms associated with conflict or exacerbate and institutionalize the impacts. While the harms caused by businesses in situations of armed conflict are often well documented, stopping those harms – and remediating them – has proven difficult. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) provide some guidance for both businesses and home states. Additionally, eminent jurists, including those that specialize on business and human rights, recently published 10 Principles for Reconstruction in Syria Reflecting International Human Rights, Humanitarian, and Criminal Law Obligations, aimed at ensuring reconstruction efforts do not institutionalize or exacerbate conflict-related human rights violations. While raising particular concerns about issues in Syria, these Principles set out broadly the expectations for international actors, including businesses and their home states, during the conflict-reconstruction period.
Both the UNGPs and the 10 Principles for Reconstruction operate at 1000-feet thinking, setting outside perimeters and guidance for the types of issues that need to be considered when businesses operate in conflict and post-conflict societies. It is important to understand what has worked well and what hasn’t when we operationalize both sets of principles. Drawing on experiences in Colombia, Liberia, Palestine, and Syria, this panel will survey the potential risks posed, the means by which states and businesses can prevent and manage those risks, and the responsibility and avenues of accountability that should be pursued when businesses do harm human rights in armed conflicts and occupations.
The session is part of a thematic track at the Forum that seeks to inform a project by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights that addresses implementation of the UN Guiding Principles in conflict and post-conflict areas. Other relevant sessions:

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Tuesday November 26, 2019 09:00 - 10:15 CET
Room XXI