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United Nations Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum  The New Decade of Action?

09:30 - 11:00 (Bangkok time, GMT+7), 1 June 2021

Background

Ever since the pandemic broke out, COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on society. The pandemic

has profoundly impacted the world of work, with 81 million people losing their employment in Asia and

the Pacific alone. With increased unemployment, young workers are likely to find it challenging to

compete for jobs, and studies indicate that it could take years for those women who exited the labour

force to return to full employment. Emerging research also estimates that COVID-19 has increased the

time needed to close the global gender gap from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. Similarly, migrants and

informal workers remained at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering from its socio-economic

fallout, while border closures and lockdowns leave many vulnerable to exploitation. Finally, the pandemic

raises questions about the universal and equitable distribution of vaccines.

These issues come against a wider context of issues relating to responsible business, including climate

change and environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, rising inequality, shrinking civic space and lack

of accountability, among numerous other issues. As the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has laid bare pre-existing

protection gaps, it has become clear that there is an urgent need for structural and systemic change to

realize sustainable development for all. To be sure, we can make progress on all of these often interrelated

challenges. To do so, however, we must make this a decade of meaningful action.

The call for a decade of action could not be more timely as 2021 marks the final ten years to achieve the

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the SDG

Summit in September 2019, world leaders called for a Decade of Action, pledging to mobilize financing,

enhancing national implementation and strengthening institutions to achieve the Goals by the target date

of 2030. Moreover, June 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the UN Human Rights Council’s

endorsement of the UNGPs. On this occasion, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

(UNWG) will provide a report outlining the progress made to date in implementing the UNGPs. The UNWG

will also present a roadmap for the next decade, setting out an implementation strategy with goals and

targets for States, business enterprises and associations, international organizations and other actors for

the next decade.

Availability of resources and the ability to innovate, scale, and reach make businesses an important

stakeholder in achieving the 2030 Agenda. At the same time, we cannot achieve the SDGs without States

and businesses honouring their human rights responsibilities. As the UNGPs offer a blueprint on how

States and businesses can prevent and address human rights abuses, they have a tremendous potential

to influence the next decade of action positively.

Against this background, June 2021 presents an opportune moment for us to reflect and recalibrate. In

this context, several UN entities in the Asia-Pacific region have joined hands to organize the 3rd UN Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum. The Forum will be held during 1-4 June 2021, and co-

organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United

Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Entity for

Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), United Nations Environmental

Programme (UNEP), and UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG).

About Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum

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, business enterprises and industry associations for constructive dialogue and peer-learning on

how to strengthen responsible business and human rights in the region. The 2021 Forum will convene

stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region to take stock of progress and discuss challenges and opportunities

for advancing responsible business in the region. It will explore how existing vulnerabilities have been

exposed and amplified by the ongoing pandemic and discuss the need to view the crisis as an opportunity

to drive change.

Objectives:

The Forum aims to:

  • Track the progress of governments and businesses in implementing the UNGPs and achieving the SDGs, and assess enablers and barriers in promoting responsible business in the Asia Pacific;

  • Assess the impact of COVID-19 on promoting responsible business in line with the UNGPs and achieving the SDGs;

  • Explore how governments, businesses, civil society actors and others can collaborate on post-COVID- 19 recovery, with a focus on responsible business and standards;

  • Explore how to achieve accountability of States and businesses and ensure universal access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuse;

  • Assess opportunities and the role of the youth in adopting and promoting responsible business in the next decade of action;

  • Raise awareness, enhance commitment and build the capacity of various stakeholders around responsible business and human rights issues and standards;

  • Discuss how to rebuild the global economy in a more inclusive way to increase sustainability and resilience while addressing disproportionate impacts on children, women, migrants, young workers and others;

  • Identify and share good business practices that respect people and the planet;

  • Facilitate learning and networking opportunities for CSOs and human rights defenders, and evaluate how they can advocate for change and overcome barriers to access remedy; and

  • Encourage peer-learning among States, businesses, industry associations, trade unions, CSOs and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in the Asia-Pacific region, facilitating the regional exchange of good practices.

Contact
For questions, please contact unrbhrforum@undp.org