With more than 2000 participants from across the globe, the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights is the world’s largest gathering focused on businesses’ human rights impacts. The Forum brings together the leading speakers, influencers and experts to share best practices and lessons on efforts to move the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from paper to practice.
This year the Forum focuses on “Business respect for human rights – building on what works” and is organized on November 26-28th in Geneva. With this theme, the Forum aims to drill into what has been working to date in terms of government, civil society and business practice, but also on what is not working and where current efforts are falling short, and how to fill the gaps.
A more detailed program of the Forum was published recently, and even though the titles may be ambiguous, I wanted to point out some hot and a bit more concrete topics that will be discussed during the three-day event.
1. Climate change is on everyone’s lips, also at the Human Rights Forum. Environmental challenges are not challenges only for the environment, but for all living species, including us humans. The hurricanes, draughts and floods that we have witnessed around the world have serious human rights impacts, and in many cases companies contribute to these developments, either in a positive or negative way. From Monday’s roundtable, I expect to hear concrete cases of companies that have understood their environmental handprint’s link to human rights, and worked actively to make it positive rather than negative.
2. Human rights seem to have finally sealed their place on investors’ tables and analytics. This year, the UN Forum hosts several sessions related to investors’ role in boosting better human rights management in companies. Looking at changing the big structures, Tuesday’s interesting roundtable will shed light on how international investment agreements could be more compatible with human rights. I am also looking forward to attending Wednesday’s session on how benchmarks, rating agencies and ESG researchers drive more and better due diligence.
3. UNGPs require great attention on the operational context, hence it is no surprise that context-specific approaches have become trendy in these events. The tendency is clear in this year’s Forum, too: there are sessions focusing on specific geographical areas, business sectors and minorities. For instance, there are numerous sessions on minorities such as indigenous peoples, migrant workers or LGBTI people; sessions on business & human rights in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, and several sector-specific sessions for food and beverage, mining, oil and gas industries, to mention a few.
4. Technology is another hot topic that deserves several slots at the Forum program. I expect to hear more about the upcoming buzzword of the scene, “corporate digital responsibility” and its links to human rights. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain are often seen as potential answers to some of the wicked challenges related to, for instance, supply chain transparency or capacity building. This year the Forum also looks at the dark side of the technological developments with Monday’s forum debate titled as “Are tech companies a threat to human rights?”. I am sure there will be many interesting and differing arguments and perspectives, but I hope the final answer to the question is no.
5. The Forum offers endless opportunities to network with some of the best experts in the field. In the past years the Forum has hosted a marketplace of UN institutions, non-governmental organizations and other specialists, where participants can expand their professional networks, find partners for collaboration and discuss topical issues with leading specialists.
These are some picks from the diverse program organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Alongside these public sessions, FIBS will arrange stakeholder meetings with some key players working on this topic. To join the stakeholder meetings and networking sessions, register to FIBS’ delegation here.
Have you already joined FIBS’ delegation? Great! Don’t forget to officially register via OHCHR’s website here.
The full Forum program can be viewed here: https://2018unforumbhr.sched.com
See you in Geneva!
Corporate Responsibility Specialist, FIBS