The 12th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights themed “Towards Effective Change in Implementing Obligations, Responsibilities and Remedies” took place from 27 – 29 November 2023 in Geneva. The forum is the biggest global event bringing together a diverse spectrum of experts and representatives from governments, business representatives, investors, consultants, practitioners, lawyers, academics, civil society organizations (CSOs), and rights-holders. Over the 3 days, the participants engaged in discussing key developments in the Business and Human Rights agenda.
The forum’s focus revolved around implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the impact of emerging regulations of mandatory due diligence. Notably, there was an emphasis on conducting human rights due diligence in public procurement. Numerous other crucial topics were explored, including strengthening the capacity of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, the intersection of advertising with human rights, considerations regarding disability, disparities between developments in the Global North and South, human rights issues in the pharmaceutical sector, concerns about forced labor and modern slavery, gender equality, children’s rights, and the key role of youth in driving effective change. Case studies presented during the forum shed light on various pertinent issues, such as large-scale land acquisitions in Africa, access to remedies for victims in Latin America and the Caribbean, and challenges faced by migrant workers in the Asia-Pacific region, the developments of BHR in the Middle East and North Africa.
During the forum, a consultation was launched aimed at supporting businesses in conducting human rights due diligence in relation to the triple planetary crisis. This initiative responds to the increasing demand for companies to align with human rights principles, especially considering the right to a healthy environment. Another important development was the launch of key documents from the B-tech project specifically addressing generative AI and the intersection with human rights. Discussions delved into diverse aspects, ranging from environmental considerations and the impacts of digital solutions to the incorporation of human rights within Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) disclosure. It was emphasized that human rights considerations are covered in all ESG aspects, extending beyond the “S” in the ESG. The investor’s interest in disclosures of human rights compliance indicates the trend towards more transparent and clear indicators of compliance with human rights principles.
The regional situation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia highlights common challenges faced by the countries in the region, including Bulgaria. Notably, the case in Serbia presented a good example of the state’s development of a National Action Plan on business and human rights, arguably prompted by the EU accession process. This prompts a call to action and commitment from the state and recognition of business that respect for human rights goes beyond care for the human capital and in fact, can influence a shift to human-rights compatible business models.
Expect more information at ESGnews.bg about the most important highlights from the forum!