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Day 2  |  8 June

From ‘Consultation’ to ‘Participation’: A pathway to address power imbalances

9:00-10:30 ICT


Consultation with relevant stakeholders is a key component of various business and human rights standards, processes and mechanisms. For example, both the UNGPs and the MNE Declaration underscore the importance of businesses consulting affected stakeholders while undertaking human rights due diligence and establishing operational-level grievance mechanisms. Consultation is also emphasized by States formulating policies, plans and laws aimed at promoting business respect for human rights, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, or conducting an environmental impact assessment.


However, there is growing evidence that States and companies consult rights holders and communities without realizing or addressing the imbalances related to information, expertise and power. The result often is a ‘tick box’ consultation on the terms and timing set by decision makers. Consequently, genuine concerns and grievances of rights holders are either not identified or addressed.


About this session

To address these imbalances between States and companies on the one hand and rightsholders on the other, this session will explore whether an informed and empowered participation of rightsholders in all decision-making processes will be a better approach. Such a participatory approach will recognise the centrality of rightsholders and respect their agency. However, not all rightsholders are the same. Therefore, the session will also examine how multi-layered and intersectional discriminations faced by vulnerable or marginalised people and groups impact their ability to participate effectively in various BHR-related decision-making processes.

Key questions

Panelists will reflect on the following questions:

  • Will participatory approaches better preserve the agency of rights holders in comparison to existing consultation processes?

  • How will the participation of affected rights holders and communities look in human rights due diligence processes and/or operational-level grievance mechanisms?

  • What role could various civil society actors play in ensuring that rights holders participate in decisions affecting them in an informed and empowered manner? 

  • What does participation in various decision-making processes mean for different rights holders and communities from an intersectional perspective, e.g., children, ethnic minorities, migrants, persons with disability and Indigenous Peoples?

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