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Tuesday, November 17 • 16:45 - 18:00
Accountability and Remedy when business-related corruption leads to human rights abuses

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Session organized by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Interpretation in English, French and Spanish will be provided

Brief description of the session:

Following its report to the 44th session of the Human Rights Council titled “Connecting the business and human rights and the anti-corruption agendas” (https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/44/43), this session will discuss the alignment between the business and human rights and anti-corruption agendas in relation to securing accountability and remedy for abuses of human rights that are linked to, or result from, corruption. This session will help identify future directions for further research relating to Pillar III of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), in relation to situations where corruption is connected to business-related human rights abuses.

The session will also help inform the Working Group’s project ‘Business and human rights: towards a decade of global implementation' (also known as “UNGPs 10+ / Next Decade BHR”). 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. Aligning how companies, States and civil society address corruption prevention and business and human rights as part of responsible business conduct is one priority area.

Key objectives 
A focused discussion on accountability and remedy, and Pillar III of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, building on the relevant elements within the Working Group’s thematic report, A/HRC/44/43. The focus will be on how States, business and civil society can advance goals of securing accountability and access to remedy in cases where corruption and business-related human rights abuses are linked.

key questions 
  • What tools can be used by individuals and communities to pursue accountability when corruption involving business actors, causes, contributes to, or is linked to, human rights abuses? What role can States play in ensuring such accountability?
  • What measures and good practices can be taken by States, business and civil society organisations to remediate adverse human rights impacts linked to corporate-related corruption?

Background to the discussion 
Corruption related to business activity has negative impacts on human rights. This session is looking at the issue of accountability and remedy in situations where corruption involving business entities also has a corresponding impact on human rights. Since the launch of the Working Group’s report in July, the Working Group has held two webinars focusing on Pillar I (the State duty to protect human rights) and Pillar II (the corporate responsibility to respect human rights) of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

These were titled, respectively, “Connecting the dots between the anti-corruption and business and human rights agendas” and “Beyond compliance – Drilling down on anti-corruption and human rights due diligence processes”. These webinars featured a range of speakers from the business and legal worlds who examined how the business and human rights agenda and anti-corruption efforts can be reinforcing and inter-connected. Having focused on Pillar I and Pillar II of the Guiding Principles, it is timely to turn to Pillar III and focus on accountability and remedy.

There is an urgent need for remedy for victims of corruption-linked human rights abuses. Individuals and communities harmed by corporate corruption and human rights abuses often have no recourse. Judicial corruption can also be a bar to accessing remedy. Using anti-corruption mechanisms to secure accountability and remedy for victims of corruption-linked human rights abuses is an evolving field. While corruption is not a victimless crime, the legal definitions of who qualifies as a victim of corruption-linked human rights abuses are generally narrow. Civil society organisations and the Working Group have observed that a definition of a victim that acknowledges the extent of the impact that corruption has on the enjoyment of human rights by people or communities impacted by such acts would help ensure access to remedy.

The session will examine accountability mechanisms that can address cases where human rights abuses and corruption are present. Targeted sanctions, asset freezes and visa denials are being used in different contexts and jurisdictions against individuals who perpetrate human rights abuses and/or engage in corrupt acts. This can be a way of holding economic actors accountable for corruption and human rights abuses, which are often interlinked. It is necessary to consider how this can be an effective tool to address human rights and corruption, and also how processes can be improved. Outreach to civil society organisations and the building of related evidentiary files remain essential to the success of this tool. The session will also focus on remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses that are caused by, or linked to, corruption. In some legal cases, corrupt behaviour has been used as an entry point to seek remedy for business-related human rights abuses. The session will examine the approaches taken in different regions to securing legal redress and remedy, and consider what needs to change, and what sectors need to be the focus of activity and reform.

Background documents 
1. https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/44/43
2. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Connecting-business-and-human-rights-and-anti-corruption-agendas.aspx

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Tuesday November 17, 2020 16:45 - 18:00 CET
Plenary Room