UN Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum, Asia-Pacific

Posted June 11, 2021

Recordings of the Forum can be accessed here.

Held annually since 2016, the Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum convenes governments, civil society organizations, human rights defenders, trade unions, academia, national human rights institutions, businesses, industry associations and the media for constructive dialogue and peer-learning on how to strengthen responsible business and human rights in the Asia-Pacific region.

The 2021 Forum was hosted online 1–4 June, with side sessions on 28 and 31 May. The Forum took stock of progress and discussed challenges and opportunities for advancing responsible business in Asia-Pacific. Entitled “The New Decade of Action?”, the Forum dealt with the challenge of realizing structural and systemic change to address the root causes of the vulnerabilities and inequalities which have been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic. The urgency of this transformation is reflected in the Decade of Action initiative, which reminds us all that less than a decade remains to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) serve as a crucial blueprint for achieving this transformation, the UNGPs were central to many discussions at the Forum. Indeed, aligning with the UNGPs+10 Project of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the Forum provided a region-specific lens on how to achieve broader business-respect for people and planet by implementing the UNGPs.

The Forum was accessible in 11 languages (including English) with simultaneous interpretation in Bahasa Indonesia, Bangla, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, Thai and Vietnamese, to remove language barriers in the spirit of leaving no one behind.

The Forum featured 43 sessions and 65 hours of content, touching on a wide range of issues across the spectrum of responsible business. While most sessions had various angles, the topics of these sessions included the future of responsible business in Asia, access to remedy and corporate accountability, mandatory human rights due diligence, reaching lower tiers in supply chains, corporate strategies to avoid accountability, digital technologies, public procurement, inclusive business, small and medium-sized enterprises, disinformation and ethical advertising, civic space, human rights defenders, environmental rights, climate change, food systems, green workplaces, living wages, child rights beyond child labour, domestic and unpaid care work, COVID-19 and the garment industry, migration and fashion, migrant workers, workplace harassment, equality, diversity and inclusion, gendered impacts, women’s empowerment in business, the role of youths, national human rights institutions, financial institutions, the media, the fisheries sector, business school education, international trade and investment, and economic, social and governance (ESG) investing.

3211 people participated in the Forum from governments, businesses (in all forms and sizes), civil society organizations, human rights defenders, trade unions, academia, industry and employer organizations, national human rights institutions, the media and multilateral organizations. While the Forum focused on Asia and the Pacific and had at least 2688 participants from that region, there was also participation from other parts of the world, including 254 from Europe, 108 from Africa, 65 from North America, and 54 from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The event was co-organized by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The forum was financially supported by the EU and the Swedish government.

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