Broadening Societal Engagement for Business and Human Rights in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka aims to make its development system more competitive, inclusive, and resilient after re-classification from an upper-middle-income country to a lower-middle-income country in 2019. . Like many other countries, Sri Lanka couldn’t escape the devastating social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, widening existing inequalities and vulnerabilities of the most marginalized groups.
It is encouraging to see more companies in Sri Lanka start promoting and implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), especially in the context of corporate human rights policies and human rights due diligence. Still, the UNGPs are relatively new to many stakeholders in Sri Lanka. Participants of Sri Lanka’s country Session at the 2nd UN South Asia Forum on Business and Human Rights identified key barriers and the intersectionality of business and human rights issues with other social issues such as gender discrimination, environmental harms, etc. al. Allegedly weak policy and legal frameworks as well as coherence and implementation issues were also raised.
To promote the meaningful progress of business and human rights discourse in Sri Lanka, it is critical for all relevant stakeholders – the Government, trade unions, the national human rights institution, businesses, civil society organizations, and academia - to work together. The relevant policy and legislative frameworks in Sri Lanka need to be strengthened and implemented through a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure just and sustainable development.
The Country Session will assess the progress of business and human rights discourse in Sri Lanka. The discussion will highlight key challenges and opportunities to implement the UNGPs and promote the progress of business and human rights by connecting different actors and initiatives. The Session will feature a panel discussion with speakers from diverse sectors. Participants of the Session will also have a chance to share their views interactively and identify progress, challenges, and needs in moving business and human rights agendas forward. The inputs provided during the Session will inform UNDP Sri Lanka Country Office and other relevant stakeholders for further programming and setting directions for driving the progress of business and human rights in Sri Lanka.
The key objectives of this Session are to:
Assess progress, challenges, and opportunities in implementing the UNGPs in Sri Lanka and identify country-specific needs in progressing business and human rights ;
Discuss triggers and barriers in Sri Lanka to prevent business related human rights abuses; and
Find entry points to build a multi-stakeholder, solution-oriented ecosystem in Sri Lanka and call to action to stakeholders to participate in the movement.
Participants will try to answer the following questions:
What are key triggers and barriers to promote the business and human rights agenda in Sri Lanka?
What are the impact and implications of the current economic and social situation of Sri Lanka on business and human rights discourse? How different actors such as trade unions, civil society organizations, rights holders, youth, journalists, academia, etc. can continue to engage and push the business and human rights agenda forward?
What are the roles and entry points for different stakeholders to build an ecosystem that connects different actors and enables them to make businesses accountable to human rights for resilient, just, and sustainable development in Sri Lanka?