From November 25 to 27, 2019, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights hosted this year’s United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. The forum’s mandate is to discuss trends and challenges in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), identify good practices, and promote dialogue and cooperation.
This year’s forum attracted over 2400 participants. Following the message from the 2018 forum, which called on governments to step up their action and leadership, the 2019 forum focused on the need for all governments to demonstrate progress, commitments and plans in moving the UNGP from paper to practice.
The UNGP received the approval of the Human Rights Council over eight years ago and features over 30 principles that give further explanation of commitments that states have already taken on in other contexts, binding or otherwise, while not setting out any new requirements of its own. The principles are designed not just for governments, but also for companies, given the national and international legal frameworks regarding human rights that already apply to businesses operating within state borders.
The forum was held under the theme “Time to Act: Governments as Catalysts for Business Respect for Human Rights.” Delegates representing governments, businesses, civil society organizations and affected groups spent the three days of the forum engaging in open dialogues focused on practical solutions.
Recalling that compliance with the UNGP envisions governments setting out mandatory and voluntary measures at both national and international levels, participants examined the role of governments in fostering business respect for human rights, shared best practices, and identified room for future improvement and opportunities for immediate actions.
Throughout the sessions—and as noted in the latest report of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights—policy coherence has been identified as one of the instrumental elements for the effective implementation of the UNGP. Statements made during the sessions are available here.