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UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

'Business, human rights and conflict-affected regions: towards heightened action'


As part of its mandate to promote the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights launched a project in 2018 to clarify the practical steps that States and business enterprises should take to implement the Guiding Principles in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

Why this project: while it is well documented that the worst forms of business-related human rights abuse tend to happen in conflict-affected contexts, a better understanding of the practical measures that all actors should take to prevent and address business-related human rights abuse is still needed.

Project scope and focus

Against this background, the Working Group's project aimed at identifying and clarifying policies and practices for States and business, including public and private investors, across the full "conflict cycle" and the three "Protect, Respect and Remedy" pillars of the Guiding Principles.

 In this context, the project addressed key issues such as: 

  • What are or should be the home and host States' appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication to protect against corporate-related human rights abuses in conflict and post-conflict situations?
  • What specific measures should business take in conflict and post-conflict situations and what does "enhanced" human rights due diligence look like in practice? How does/should the process to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for actual and potential impacts in conflict and post-conflict situations differ from "non-conflictual" contexts?
  • What does responsible and sustainable investment in post-conflict and reconstruction contexts look like in practical terms? What actions should be taken (and avoided) by actors in the financial sector – both public financial institutions and private investors – to meet their responsibilities under the Guiding Principles, and to use their leverage to support outcomes that do not undermine human rights and sustainable peace?
  • What is the role of business in transitional justice? What are the implications of the Guiding Principles in a transitional justice context?

Working Group report

The Working Group's report 'Business, human rights and conflict-affected regions: towards heightened action' with recommendations to States, businesses and the UN system, presented to the UN General Assembly in October 2020, is available in all UN languages: Read the executive summary. Read the presentation of the report to the General Assembly.

Press release: “Doing business in conflict areas: UN report details actions to avoid fuelling human rights abuse and stoking violence

Presentation at the General Assembly by Working Group Chair Anita Ramasastry, 27 October 2020: Video link (UN Web TV, from 30:35 mins)

Call for inputs

The Working Group invited all interested parties to submit relevant information and materials to help inform the project.

Check the received submissions.

Project methodology

The project was initiated with expert consultations in Geneva in October and November 2018 as well as an open multi-stakeholder discussion at the 2018 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. These discussions helped inform the scoping of the of the project. The project was informed further by:

  • Regional consultations
  • Expert and multi-stakeholder consultations (including at the 2019 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights)
  • Consultations with governments
  • Research (desk-based and interviews with practitioners)
  • A questionnaire distributed to all governments
  • Open call for input

The Working Group sought to develop evidence-based guidance, taking into account both emerging good practices and existing gaps and challenges. It consulted as widely as possible with all relevant stakeholders, including governments, civil society, business, investors, academia, national human rights institutions, trade unions, UN and other international organizations, and affected stakeholders and human rights defenders working on the ground.

Regional consultations

MENA region consultation: Beirut, 22 March, 2019

Asia-Pacific region consultation: Davao, Philippines, 4-5 September, 2019

Africa region consultation: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 20-21 February, 2020

Insights emerging from consultations

Other resources and links