NHRIs to redouble efforts on business and human rights 

Group shot of participants at GANHRI 2024

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) from across the globe will 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 adopted the Outcome Statement on Business and Human Rights: the Role and Experiences of NHRIs.

The Outcome Statement highlights 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 place a specific focus on 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 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.

The GANHRI Annual Meeting and Conference, held from 6-8 May in Geneva and co-hosted with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, brought together 250 participants from NHRIs, UN agencies, States and civil society organisations.

“In such a challenging global environment, the Annual Meeting was a powerful reminder of how important it is for NHRIs to meet together, learn from one another and support each other in their vital work,” GANHRI Chairperson Maryam Al Attiyah said.

During the Annual Meeting, GANHRI members adopted a statement on the discontinuation of hybrid modalities at the UN human rights bodies and mechanisms in Geneva.

“This decision poses significant challenges to the vital engagement of NHRIs, human rights defenders, civil society organisations and victims of human rights violations within the UN system,” the statement said.

GANHRI members welcomed the recent decision of the Human Rights Council on remote participation for hybrid meetings, adopted during its 55th session, and called for the provision of online live modalities in all in-person meetings of the Council, its mechanisms and the UN treaty bodies, in all sessions throughout 2024.