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Monday, November 16 • 17:15 - 18:15
Knowing and showing respect for people’s rights during crisis & human rights due diligence as a tool for resilience for future crisis?

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Session organized by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights 

Interpretation in English, French, and Spanish available

Brief description of the session
The UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) clarify that all business enterprises have an independent responsibility to respect human rights and that they are required to exercise human rights due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for negative human rights impacts with which they are involved. The prevention of adverse impacts on people and the environment is a key objective of human rights due diligence.
The human rights and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the dire need for companies to ensure that they are making rights-respecting decisions and that they establish strong human rights safeguards that anticipate and avoid negative impacts on workers and communities.
While the UNGPs set out the baseline requirement and key components of human rights due diligence, there is no simple one-size-fits-all or tick-box approach that will apply to all companies. At the same time, the human rights due diligence framework provided by the UNGPs is applicable and valuable across all sectors, issue areas, and locations. It guides companies in setting up principled, preventative management systems that centre respect for people and ensure that fundamental human rights are not left behind in crises such as the current global health pandemic and the resulting economic setbacks.

Key objectives of the session
As made all too clear in our current context, the need for faster progress in embedding respect for human rights in standard business practice is urgent. With this focus in mind, participants will discuss how the business community, including financial actors, can meet their responsibilities in times of crisis and use this moment to “build forward better.”
The session will feature insights from standard-setting organizations, companies, investors, civil society groups, and trade unions. The session will also directly inform the UN Working Group’s “UNGPs 10+” project, which is centred around the upcoming tenth anniversary of the UNGPs in 2021. The project is taking stock of practice to date, identifying gaps and challenges, and developing a vision and roadmap for scaling up implementation of the UNGPs over the course of the next decade.

Key questions
  • Are there lessons learned during the current crisis that can contribute to more effective human rights due diligence as we emerge from the pandemic? What new or reinforced challenges – from the perspective of companies, investors, civil society, and unions – have arisen? How can we address these challenges in practical terms?
  • What are the lessons learned from efforts to apply a lens of vulnerability to prioritize action?
  • Are there good practice examples of businesses using leverage with governments on policy responses?
  • What are key issues to consider for governments, business, and other stakeholders as companies rebuild value chains in a way that help realize wider and deeper implementation of the UNGPs?
  • How can meaningful human rights due diligence prepare companies for future crises?

Background to the discussion
The session will build on the key findings of the Working Group’s 2018 report  and of the 2018 Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, both of which highlighted that, while several “pioneers” are building positive practices around the various components of human rights due diligence, considerable efforts are still needed to mainstream corporate respect for human rights. In fact, recent benchmark and ranking initiatives have highlighted that the majority of companies do not meet the expectations under the UNGPs, in spite of growing awareness and commitments.
Translating corporate policies into real change in local contexts remains a challenge across sectors and locations, particularly in times of crisis. The fundamental objective going forward is to scale up meaningful human rights due diligence practices that are emerging and address remaining gaps by leveraging wider, more robust policy action and incentives.

avatar for Dante Pesce

Dante Pesce

Vice Chairperson, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights
Mr. Dante Pesce holds a Masters in Political Science from the Catholic University of Chile and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the VINCULAR Center for Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development at the Catholic... Read More →

Monday November 16, 2020 17:15 - 18:15 CET
Plenary Room