2024 Annual Conference

GANHRI members committed to redouble their efforts to promote and protect human rights in relation to the activities of business, with a particular focus on pressing issues such as climate change and threats to online civic space. 

More than 80 NHRIs participating at the GANHRI Annual Conference, held on 8 May 2024, adopted the Outcome Statement on Business and Human Rights: the Role and Experiences of NHRIs. 

“I welcome the excellent work NHRIs are doing to nurture their relationship with business and thereby strengthen business and human rights practices.” – Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Outcome Statement highlighted the unique contribution of NHRIs to support implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and its ‘protect, respect, remedy’ framework. 

NHRIs committed to use their mandates for human rights promotion, monitoring and reporting, and complaint handling to address human rights issues that arise in relation to business activities and practices. 

Following wide-ranging discussions during the GANHRI Annual Conference, the Outcome Statement emphasised that NHRIs would give priority to engaging with business, governments and civil society in the areas of: 

  • Environment and climate change; by promoting sound policy measures that articulate the role of business and their responsibility to respect human rights; and through monitoring and reporting activities that ensure compliance with national and international standards 
  • Online civic space and digital technologies; by monitoring and reporting on the state of online civic space and surveillance, including on the human rights impacts of digital technologies, with special attention on human rights defenders; through advocating for appropriate laws, policies and practices in relation to the use of these technologies; and by inquiring into human rights complaints related to the use of these technologies. 
  • ‘Smart mix’ of policy and regulatory measures; by contributing to the development of a balanced mix of voluntary and mandatory measures that ensure businesses respect human rights. This includes promoting mandatory human rights due diligence and sustainability reporting. 

“NHRIs play an important role in offering advice and monitoring developments relating to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. They can not only resolve certain problems, but also identify shortcomings on the ground and make recommendations for better protection of human rights. “ –Omar Zniber, UN Human Rights Council President

NHRIs agreed to collaborate, with another and through GANHRI, to share information, good practices and to address complaints with transnational human rights dimensions and facilitate access to effective remedies for victims of business-related human rights violations. 

The Outcome Statement also calls on UN partners to support GANHRI, the regional NHRI networks and individual NHRIs in undertaking this work on business and human rights. 

The GANHRI Annual Conference featured opening presentations from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNDP Administrator, President of the UN Human Rights Council and Asia Pacific Member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. 

Panellists and presenters for the following sessions included high-level representatives from NHRIs, the UN, and civil society. 

“By empowering individuals and communities to realise their rights, including holding businesses accountable, NHRIs are the type of responsive, inclusive institutions that we now need to break our global gridlock and ensure that people can be true agents in shaping their own futures.”  – Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator 

The Outcome Statement adopted at the 2024 Annual Conference builds on the long-standing work of NHRIs to address business and human rights issues at the national, regional and international levels.  

The Edinburgh Declaration, adopted by NHRIs in October 2010 – before the formal endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles in June 2011 – demonstrates the proactive approach taken by NHRIs to use their mandates for: monitoring and reporting; complaint handling; advising government and business stakeholders; and human rights education.  

“We recognise how NHRIs and regional human rights mechanisms play an incredibly important role in facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses; fostering collaboration with other judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms; and in protecting human rights defenders and civil society.” – Pichamon Yeophantong, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights