More than 1,000 participants from over 100 countries started on Monday in Geneva the 2nd United Nations Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, making it the largest global discussion on business and human rights to date.
The three-day Forum will bring together, among others, representatives of corporations involved in manufacturing, information and communication technology, mining, oil and energy, agribusiness, banking and finance, as well as people affected by these activities.
"The broad range of participants is what makes this event a success," United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a press release from her office.
"The Forum is a unique venue for bringing together business, Governments, civil society and affected individuals in one space to promote dialogue and cooperation", she added.
The discussions will explore the current situation of human rights in the digital domain, international investment, agroindustry, employment and recruitment, global supply chains, and public and private finance.
They will also focus on key human rights issues such as victims' access to judicial and non-judicial remedy, and rights defenders confronting business-related violations.
"The Forum is a once-a-year opportunity to collectively assess global progress in the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It will address the impact of business activities on human rights, and the challenges still to be tackled - across a range of sectors and issues," Working Group Chair Alexandra Guaqueta said.
The Guiding Principles are globally accepted standards on the responsibilities of States and businesses for preventing and addressing business-related human rights abuse.
They outline what States and business enterprises should do to prevent and address impacts and to ensure access to effective remedies for those whose rights have been adversely affected by business activity.
In addition to the official sessions of the Forum, Governments, businesses, civil society, indigenous peoples, academics, lawyers and national human rights institutions are organising some 25 side events.
The opening day of the Forum will feature Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. The closing session will include remarks from Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011. The five members are Alexandra Guaqueta (current Chairperson-Rapporteur), Margaret Jungk, Michael Addo, Puvan Selvanathan and Pavel Sulyandziga. The Working Group is independent from any government or organization. It reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly. The annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights was established by the Human Rights Council and placed under the guidance of the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises to provide a global platform for the promotion and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.