In July 2012, the UN Secretary General launched a report on the “Contribution of the United Nations system as a whole to the advancement of the business and human rights agenda and the dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”. The report identifies opportunities and provides recommendations for advancing the business and human rights agenda within the United Nations system by embedding the agenda, and particularly the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
While the new consensus on the relevance of business activities in the implementation of human rights and the related uptake of the UNGPs is a significant progress, some caveats apply as the approach of addressing these issues varies significantly in the different UN institutions. The unbridled and unchecked mainstreaming process of the UNGPs within the UN institutions thus bears the risk of fragmentation and inconsistent interpretations of the UNGPs.
The Centre for Human Rights Studies of the University of Zurich has supported the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights since spring 2015 in preparing an extensive mapping study on existing decisions, observations, reports and general comments of the UN Treaty Bodies and representatives of the Human Rights Committee’s special procedures related to the central issues of business and human rights.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has started to work on a General Comment regarding State obligations related to business pertaining to the ESC-Rights. By spring 2016, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will be ready to discuss its first draft of the General Comment at the workshop.
The workshop will foster the exchange of past and current experiences in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles at this timely moment in the drafting procedure. It will strengthen the knowledge transfer between academia and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at a crucial moment during the elaboration process of the new General Comment on Business and Human Rights. As a follow-up research project, a comprehensive guidance instrument might be developed, to foster a coherent mainstreaming of the UNGPs within the UN human rights mechanisms and to avoid the existing risk of fragmentation and interpretation problems.