Description of the material

Multi-national corporations have endorsed the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: the ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ framework. The question is what does this mean in practice and how should human rights due diligence be undertaken as described in the Guiding Principles?

Application/Development

This paper will describe practical examples of how extractive companies are approaching human rights due diligence and explore challenges to ‘know’ and ‘show’ ‘Respect’ for Human Rights. The paper will also consider the extent to which human rights due diligence makes a difference to international approaches to social and health impact assessment through a worked example for the oil and gas industry in Africa.

Results, Observations, and Conclusions

There is a high degree of overlap between the issues addressed through impact assessment done to international best practice standards and those that need to be managed to respect Human Rights. The vulnerability analysis necessary to address international requirements provides an external frame of reference that means issues associated with human rights are taken into account in the assessment of social and health impacts. Nevertheless undertaking ongoing Human Rights due diligence can make a difference: i) a human rights lens on some of these issues reveals different perspectives which mean data collection, mitigation measures and monitoring for the impact assessment process may need to be adapted; ii) impact assessment needs to be a starting point to establishing a dynamic due diligence process – a concept that cannot be fulfilled in a single step. Not only can project or company activity change, but the operating context and stakeholder concerns change; due diligence of human rights requires on-going monitoring of issues through a Human Rights lens. Where an operating context is highly sensitive, specific studies, additional to an impact assessment may be necessary to understand local complexity.

Significance of Subject Matter (Relevance and why it is worth publishing)

Companies increasingly perceive that Human Rights are a risk to business, not only because of links to social licence to operate but also with regard to meeting legal obligations and the expectations of civil society set by the framework of the guiding principles. But given the shifting rights landscape what does demonstrating ‘Respect’ for Human Rights look like? This paper will point to directions for future practical implementation of Human Rights due diligence.

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