DAY 1
29 March

14:45-16:15
BST (GMT+6)

Human Rights Due Diligence: Shifting the Business Environment in South Asia

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Background 

 

The second pillar of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) expects businesses to adopt a human rights policy and conduct human rights due diligence (HRDD). HRDD enables businesses to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for adverse human rights impacts: in short, it allows them to know and show that they respect human rights. Over the past years, several enterprises have started to put in place human rights policies and processes and conduct due diligence. However, uptake has been slow despite many guides and tools that have been developed over the years.  

 

As part of their duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses, some governments have adopted or started to develop legislation on HRDD. France, Switzerland, Germany, Norway and The Netherlands have already passed such a legislation. The European Commission recently published a Draft Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence requiring businesses above a certain size to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence to address their adverse impacts on human rights, labour rights, the environment and climate, including in supply chains.

 

So far, the uptake of HRDD by businesses in South Asia has not been strong. Much more is needed in terms of awareness raising and capacity building on why and how to conduct meaningful HRDD. Moreover, many businesses in South Asia will increasingly be confronted with HRDD requirements because of their business relationships with enterprises subject to HRDD legislation in Europe.  

 

Therefore, South Asian businesses will need to manage their adverse human rights impacts or risk losing out on business opportunities. Conversely, if they succeed in addressing their human rights impacts in line with international standards, this could translate into profitable business and market access opportunities. Similarly, South Asian governments might want to carefully assess their economies' social and environmental performance and consider how their countries can maintain their position in global value chains. Finally, HRDD requires meaningful engagement with potentially affected stakeholders, including trade unions, as part of an ongoing process. HRDD, including mandatory HRDD requirements, therefore provide entry points for South Asian trade unions and civil society actors to advocate for the enhanced respect of human rights and labour rights in business operations throughout the world.

 

Session Description 

 

The session will provide a brief overview of the expectation on businesses to conduct HRDD in line with the UNGPs and other international instruments to discharge their responsibility to respect human rights. Panellists will then reflect on how recent legislative developments concerning HRDD in Europe might impact the business environment in South Asia. Once participants have a better understanding of these concepts and trends, the session would allow them to consider whether current business practices in South Asia are in line with the UNGPs and HRDD legislation adopted or being developed in Europe and elsewhere; how businesses can address gaps in upholding their responsibility to respect human rights; how governments can provide support to businesses (especially MSMEs) in conducting HRDD in a meaningful way as well as respond to legislative trends on HRDD; and how trade unions and civil society actors can participate in and leverage HRDD processes.  

 

Session Objectives 

 

The key objectives of this session are to: 

  • Provide an overview of the concept of HRDD as outlined in the UNGPs and other international instruments such as the ILO MNE Declaration;

  • Provide an overview of the uptake of HRDD by businesses in South Asia – related barriers and opportunities for increased uptake;

  • Provide an overview of mandatory HRDD initiatives in Europe and their implications for businesses and value chains in South Asia;

  • Discuss the role of different stakeholders in HRDD processes, including rights holders, employees, trade unions, civil society organizations, and employers’ organizations; and

  • Discuss the potential value of HRDD in protecting rights of individuals or sections of society facing disproportionate impacts, including children, women, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTI persons, migrant workers, informal workers, and persons with disability.

 

Questions 

 

Panellists will reflect on the following questions: 

  • What does the concept of HRDD entail and how does it enable business to uphold their responsibility to respect human rights?

  • To what extent are South Asian businesses conducting HRDD? What are the current barriers to stronger uptake of HRDD by businesses in South Asia? Are there any gaps that need to be addressed? What good practices can businesses learn from?  

  • Why are governments outside South Asia adopting HRDD legislation? How will such HRDD legislation impact business in South Asia?

  • How can South Asian rights holders, trade unions and civil society actors participate in and leverage HRDD for enhanced business respect for human rights?   

  • How can HRDD processes and practices identify, prevent and mitigate the specific business-related adverse impacts experienced by children, women, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTI persons, migrant workers, informal workers, and persons with disability?

Additional background documents (pdf format) or relevant links:

Speakers