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International experts gather at World Human Rights Forum to shed light on State’s duty to protect and businesses’ responsibility to respect human rights

The National Human Rights Council (CNDH), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Moroccan General Federation of Moroccan Businesses (CGEM), and other partners, hosted a meeting on Business and Human Rights at the World Human Rights Forum (Marrakesh 2014) on Saturday the 29 of November 2014. The participants discussed, particularly, the strategies that businesses can adopt to honor human rights (challenges and opportunities) and the state’s duty to protect against human rights abuses, and exchanged on some best practices, mainly the plans of action that some governments adopted, such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Talking about the expectation that businesses respect human rights, the participants explained they are not trying, in any way, to condemn businesses, which can play a major role in achieving economic development and in honoring and protecting human rights. It’s rather a fight against corporate practices that abuse human rights. The participants called on the State to honor its duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business; called on businesses to honor their corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and called for greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial; the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The participants made several recommendations to states and businesses alike. They called on businesses to involve stakeholders concern when taking initiatives to honor human rights, adopt human rights friendly approaches in their management, expressly commit their leadership to human rights, which can encourage their partners and suppliers to commit to human rights themselves, ensure respect for human rights in any corporate product or service life-cycle management, etc.

They called on the State to strengthen its efforts to honor its duty to respect. The strongest these efforts are the better; when the State is doing great efforts to respect its duty corporations do great efforts to honor their responsibilities. The participants called on the State to adopt a national plan of action on business & human rights, in cooperation with the stakeholders concerned, to adopt policies that are coherent with its duty to protect human rights and its international human rights commitments, to ensure that effective human rights due diligence is implemented. The State should take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that it owned or controlled, businesses that receive substantial support and services from State agencies, corporations that are listed in the Stock Market, etc. The State is required to punish and hold corporations accountable for any human rights abuses they are responsible for and give priority to the areas that be most affected by such abuses.

The participants shed called on governments to give parliaments and national human rights institutions the power to handle complaints of human rights abuses by businesses and to hold the authorities accountable when they fail to honor the State’s obligation to protect against human rights abuses by businesses. For these national and international experts, it is time now to adopt an international binding convention on business and human rights and to included business and human rights principles in the international cooperation and trade negotiation mechanisms to achieve sustainable economic development and ensure respect for human rights.