UN Forum on Business and Human Rights
Over 2,300 stakeholders in the business and human rights space descended on Geneva in November for the fourth edition of the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights. The Forum is the world’s largest annual platform dedicated to addressing issues related to companies’ impact on human rights and sustainable development. It attracts a multi-stakeholder audience of governments, civil society, companies, community groups, trade unions, investors, grievance mechanism operators, and UN bodies, devoted to tackling challenges in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs): the global standard for preventing and addressing adverse impacts on human rights connected to business activity.
Over the course of three days, key issues around the theme “tracking progress and ensuring coherence” were brought to the table, including how to strengthen dialogue between multiple stakeholders, and how to improve access to effective remedy by those adversely impacted by business operations.
ACCESS Facility collaborated on two panels discussing the role of non-judicial remedy in company-community conflicts, and one side event for mediators to discuss the challenges they face when mediating company-community conflict.
Panel 1: Effective company-level grievance mechanisms: multi-stakeholder perspectives and examples from practice
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) address the need for rights and obligations to be matched to appropriate effective judicial and non-judicial remedies when breached. While judicial mechanisms should be at the core of ensuring access to remedy, non-judicial mechanisms have an essential role to play in complementing and supplementing these judicial mechanisms. The UNGPs support the notion that non-judicial mechanisms at the company-level can identify, address, and remediate individual and community grievances at an early stage. However, the UNGPs also stress that poorly designed or implemented grievance mechanisms can risk compounding a sense of grievance amongst affected stakeholders by heightening their sense of disempowerment and disrespect by the process.
Co-organized by ACCESS Facility and the UN Global Compact, and moderated by Brian Ganson, Head of the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement, this panel set out to address a number questions, such as: how should companies and users design mechanisms that provide effective remedy for those whose human rights have been adversely affected? What are the most important success factors or challenges for an effective company-level grievance mechanism?
The panel supported a constructive discussion between operators and users of company-level grievance mechanisms, including business representative Anupama Mohan of Statoil ASA, civil society representative Katherine McDonnell of EarthRights International, trade union representative Dwight Justice of ITUC, CAO representative Gina Barbieri, and mediator Mia Corpus of the CoRe Group.
Panel 2: Innovative approaches in company-community dispute resolution in complex environments
An audience of company representatives, civil society organizations, and professional company-community mediators participated in a lively discussion at the UN Forum panel on innovative approaches in company-community dispute resolution in complex environments.
The defining features of complex environments are that they may be conflict prone, fragile, or suffer from pronounced levels of corruption, weak rule of law, or other socio-political and socio-economic challenges. While the potential for business to play an important stabilizing role is increasingly recognized, often large scale investments create or exacerbate conflicts in complex environments. The business and human rights field calls for new approaches for managing relationships between companies, communities and governments basSed on practice and evidence. However, in complex environments the presence of power imbalances or tensions among parties demand new approaches in community-company dispute resolution that will produce outcomes that are compatible with people's rights.
Organized by the Community of Practice of dialogue facilitators, with support from ACCESS Facility as its secretariat, in partnership with PeaceNexus, IMCP and PartnersGlobal, this panel provided facilitators’ perspectives on how to prevent and resolve conflicts between companies, communities and other parties using collaborative approaches towards rights-compatible outcomes.
Read the full report here.
Side Event of the Community of Practice of dialogue facilitators: Practitioner's Exchange
The Community of Practice of dialogue facilitators (CoP) is composed of senior professionals located all over the world who use consensus-based processes to help communities, companies and governments engage constructively to find their way to rights-compatible, interest-based solutions to common challenges.
The CoP exists to:
- Advance theory and practice relevant to its objectives;
- Support members with networking, resources, and opportunities for professional development, including mentorship;
- Expand the pool of highly qualified practitioners in all regions;
- Raise awareness with relevant stakeholders of constructive approaches that prevent destructive conflict, improve working relationships and arrive at rights-compatible, interest-based, value-maximizing solutions.
The objective of the practitioner’s exchange was to strengthen relationships between facilitators, experts and organizational representatives dedicated to the evolution and expansion of the dialogue facilitation field, to exchange perspectives and reflect on the field of company-community-government facilitation, and to provide orientation for the CoP’s focus in the upcoming year.
The session was moderated by the Chair of the CoP, Pablo Lumerman. While the Forum takes place in a formal setting, Pablo chose to take a more informal and intimate approach, which helped to support a candid and constructive conversation.
Read the full report here.