Human Rigths: UN experts launch new guidance for businesses working in conflict-affected regions

Geneva, 27 July, 2022.-Doing business in conflict-affected areas means business enterprises have responsibilities to conduct heightened human rights due diligence and adopt a conflict-sensitive approach in all decisions impacting affected populations, UN experts said today.

In collaboration with the University of Essex and University of Virginia, the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises formally launched new guidance for businesses working in conflict-affected regions.

Its report titled “Implementing the Third Pillar: Lessons from Transitional Justice” (A/HRC/50/40/Add.4) analyses how States have used transitional justice mechanisms to address the responsibility of business for their role in conflicts, and how relevant concepts and standards of reparation have addressed business-related human rights abuses.

The annex to the report sets out Guidelines for Designing and Implementing Reparation Programs in Business and Human Rights” which stress the need for reparation processes to be victim- centred.

“The Working Group’s report provides recommendations on the implementation of Pillar III of the Guiding Principles in post conflict and transitional justice scenarios,” said Anita Ramasastry, a member of the Working Group.

“Transitional Justice and doing business in conflict-affected areas means businesses have responsibilities to carry out a heightened version of human rights due diligence in conflict-affected areas,” Ramasastry said. “Businesses working in these areas must adopt a conflict-sensitive approach in all decisions affecting rights-holders,” she added.

The Working Group’s report to the General Assembly in 2020 (A/75/212) outlined practical measures that States, and business enterprises should take to prevent and address business-related human rights abuse in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

Building on that report, the Working Group and UNDP recently released guidance titled “Heightened Human Rights Due Diligence for Business in Conflict-Affected Contexts: A Guide” on what a heightened version of human rights due diligence, and a “responsible exit” in situations where it is necessary, would look like in different contexts.

“The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights do not call for companies to cut and run from every difficult context,” said Fernanda Hopenhaym, Chair of the UN Working Group. “They call for considered decision making and support for those left behind in addition to access to remedy,” she added.

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