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The role of NHRIs in promoting responsible business and human rights

Graphic: Workers collect raw cotton at a factory in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, India

The APF co-facilitated an interactive online session as part of the UN Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum 2021.

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National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) have an important role in protecting human rights defenders from violations by the private sector and building partnerships to engage in dialogue on business and human rights at the national and regional levels.

This was the focus of a recent interactive session facilitated by the APF, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme, as part of the UN Responsible Business and Human Rights (RBHR) Forum 2021.

Held annually, the RBHR Forum brings together representatives from government, business, civil society and the international community for four days of immersive discussions on responsible business and human rights in the Asia Pacific region.

This year's forum, held virtually from 1-4 June, was themed 'A new decade of action', highlighting the need for a collective response to the economic, social and environmental challenges facing the Asia Pacific region, and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The APF facilitated a virtual session on 2 June alongside NHRI, civil society and business representatives, on the unique position NHRIs occupy as independent institutions with a mandate to protect human rights.

"NHRIs at the national level have established strong partnerships with defenders' networks and other civil society organisations to protect human rights defenders and encourage business to take a proactive stance on human rights," said APF Legal and Policy Manager, Phillip Wardle.

NHRIs are able to engage directly with business to advocate for express commitments to respect the rights of human rights defenders.

Phillip Wardle, APF Legal and Policy Manager

Acting Chief Commissioner Khunan Jargalsaikhan from the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia, and Commissioner Roberto Cadiz from the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines also participated in the online session, providing insight into how NHRIs are working to protect human rights defenders against violations by private sector actors.

Other session participants included Dr Meg Brodie, Director, Human Rights and Social Impact Services at KPMG, and Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director at the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA).

Dr Meg Brodie spoke about her experience advising and working with private sector actors to support responsible business practices, while Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu presented on some of the regional initiatives that civil society organisations have undertaken to support NHRIs to protect human rights defenders.

The session also introduced the APF's Regional Action Plan on Human Rights Defenders, which sets an agenda to improve the rights of defenders in the Asia Pacific and includes a focus on business and human rights.

Date: 30 June 2021

Image credits

  1. Workers collect raw cotton at a factory in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, India - Parikh Mahendra N on Shutterstock