The third annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights was held in Geneva, December 1–3. This multistakeholder forum focuses on the prevention and management of the adverse effects that companies have on human rights. SOMO organised a side event on the Forum’s opening day.
Over 2,000 people attended the forum from a variety of fields including: NGOs, businesses, governments, law firms and scientists. There was a notable increase this year in the number of participating companies compared to the previous Forum.
A number of issues formed a common thread during the course of the Forum. A few of the key points included implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the national action plans (NAPs) that countries need to enact in response to the Principles. The International Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) and the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ, an NGO network cofounded by SOMO) published a report that critically examined the four existing NAPs. The Netherlands responded by announcing a broad stakeholder consultation that would address the progress of its National Action Plan on the occasion of its one-year anniversary in December 2014. The International Business and Human Rights Treaty, which is currently in development, was also discussed in detail. This led to new insights and information, which, in turn, led to some actual cases of rapprochement. Thus, Amnesty International announced that it was supporting the treaty proposal, while Ecuador indicated that it found it important to enter into a constructive dialogue with all of the participating parties and the EU hinted that it was prepared to participate in the negotiation process under certain conditions.
SOMO’s side event
The Forum also served as a meeting place for many of SOMO’s partners and was an excellent occasion for lobbying and networking activities. Opportunities for future training and case support were also discussed. Moreover, SOMO assumed a major role on the first day of the Forum: SOMO, together with Accountability Counsel and Inclusive Development International, organised a side event during which a diverse panel discussed access to well-functioning complaint mechanisms and the responsibilities of the financial sector on this issue. One of SOMO’s researchers also presented the recently released issue paper on this subject, which was received with much enthusiasm.