Preview: 4th Annual United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights


The 2015 Forum on Business and Human Rights (16 - 18 of November 2015) will feature an extensive collection of debates, discussions and networking opportunities for human rights defenders. If you are not able to take part in Geneva, the sessions will be streaming live on UN Web TV. It is also possible to take part through social media such as twitter with the hashtag #BizHumanRights.

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The 2015 Forum on Business and Human Rights (16 - 18 of November 2015) will as always feature an extensive collection of debates, discussions and networking opportunities for human rights defenders.  If you are not able to take part in Geneva the sessions will be streaming live on UN Web TV. It is also possible to take part through social media such as Twitter with the hashtag #BizHumanRights.

The programme of the forum is organised in a series of plenary sessions and parallel sessions. The theme for the 2015 Forum is tracking progress and ensuring coherence. The main aim of this year’s forum (including tracking the progress) is to ‘promote policy coherence’ and ‘achieve more rapid change on the ground for rights-holders’. The intention is that this would be achieved through six key areas of discussion:

  • Efforts to track performance and progress in the implementation of the Guiding Principles (special focus on measuring and tracking implementation of states)
  • Policy coherence in global governance frameworks (focus on implication of guiding principles on trade, investment and sustainable development)
  • Policy and practice coherence at the national level (with a focus on national action plans and state owned enterprises)
  • Corporate respect for human rights in practice (special focus on due diligence and supply chain challenges
  • Groups at risk (which includes learning from human rights defenders)
  • Access to effective remedy, (with a focus on judicial and non-judicial remedies)

The current draft programme highlights a number of key opportunities for defender involvement and networking. Below is a brief overview of the programme itself as well as a non-exhaustive list of events that may be of interest.

Key events of specific interest from a human rights defenders perspective

While the Forum itself takes place on 17 and 18 November, the events planned for 16 November form an integral part of the conversation, and several key events on 16 November may be of specific interest from a human rights defenders perspective:

The opening panel of the forum on 17 November focuses on progress and includes statements by the President of the Human Rights Council, the Forum Chairperson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. Some of the events of particular interest from a human rights defenders perspective on 17 November include:

Events of special interest for human rights defenders for 18 November include:

Parallel Sessions of particular interest from a human rights defenders perspective

16 November, 11.40am – 1pm Room XXIV: Recognising indigenous peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources, and challenges in their access to mechanisms for redress

The session is Organised by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy, Incomindios, the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation, CPDE-CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness, the Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme, Red PAZINDE –Consejo de Capitanes Guaranies de Chiquisaca, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines– Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR), the World Council of Churches-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen  Participation. The session will deal with the rights of indigenous peoples’ and the challenges they face in protecting their land as well as the consequences of extractive industries for indigenous communities.

16 November, 3pm - 4.20pm, Room XXI: Balancing rights and State demands: taking stock of the challenges and exploring opportunities to secure rights online

The session is organised by the Global Network Initiative (GNI) and Privacy International (PI). The session identifies challenges for governments and companies in regard to information and communications technology (ICT) users, specifically concerning the balance of the rights to privacy and freedom of expression and compliance with national laws controlling national security and law enforcement. The session is expected to discuss the current laws and policies between governments and ICT companies, the adoption of strategies that can be used to mitigate risks, and what constitutes adequate transparency and accountability mechanisms

16 November, 4:40pm – 6pm, Room XXIV: Land, corruption and human rights: a round-table discussion on the implications of large-scale land investments and constructive responses for human rights

The session is organised by the Centre for Peacebuilding (KOFF), the Swiss Peace Foundation, the ICAR and the Quaker United Nations Office. The session is based around the increase of the sale and lease of largescale land in developing countries by for example foreign investment funds, corporations, local elites and governments and the corruption and human rights abuses it often brings to local communities. The session is an open dialogue discussing national, regional and international frameworks for land acquisition and their challenges, the creation of win-win situations by multi-stakeholder involvement as well as case studies and best practices. 

18 November, 8.20am-9.40am, Room XXIV:  Whistle-blower protection in the context of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The sessions is organised by the French Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Blueprint for Free Speech, ICAR, ISHR and Expolink Europe Ltd. The session will explore gaps and trends in whistle-blower protection, including where whistle-blowers are also human rights defenders. It will do so through discussing a universal protection and definition, prevention of reprisals, businesses and states responsibilities and duties. The panel will share experiences of protection of whistle-blowers, and draw on the lessons learnt in developing mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders.

18 November, 11.40am-1pm, Room XXIV: Enhanced due diligence in conflict-affected areas: the roles of different stakeholders

The session is organised by Al-Haq, the Essex Business and Human Rights Project, International Alert and the Swiss Peace Foundation (Swisspeace). This session takes the conversation to how due diligence can and should be applied in a conflict area. The session discusses the responsibilities and duties of various stakeholders such as the company itself. The panel will firstly introduce the topic and share experiences and results of consultations, then experts will talk briefly followed by the audience being invited to take part through a discussion guided by the moderator.


  • Corporate accountability
  • United Nations
  • Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations, business and human rights
  • UN Human Rights Council