Geneva – 1st to 3rd December 2014: IIPJHR and GNRD team members had the opportunity to attend the third Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva attended by both private actors and human rights advocates.
The main objective of this Forum was to assess the implementation by all actors of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted 3 years ago and identify opportunities for reform.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, stressed that although the "guiding principles provide a roadmap", policy makers and states in particular "must advance in the implementation of the guiding principles". "The Forum and its separate sessions could provide an opportunity to identify good practices", expressed Michael K. Addo, Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
The efforts of businesses, although seen as more transparent in some cases, are still lagging. Monica Woodley, Editorial Director Economist Intelligence Unit, mentioned in a survey presentation that 56 percent of companies do not have a specific policy referencing human rights.
Moving forward, the prospect of a binding treaty concerning business and human rights elicited both criticism and excitement. The adoption of a resolution sponsored by Ecuador and South Africa at the June session of the Human Rights Council was already a massive step towards more concrete, legal efforts at implementation a customary international framework. The resolution established an intergovernmental working group to draft a binding treaty on business and human rights.
John Ruggie, Professor of Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard University and developer of the framework for the guiding principles on business and human rights, mentioned that international efforts should not overshadow national and local measures to ensure human rights. At the closing session, he offered some pointed recommendations, emphasizing that measuring and reporting the implementation of the Guiding Principles, as well as an assessment of their weak points, should be a priority.