Sharing Experience Workshop on Civil Society Response to Business and Human Rights Violations

The Human Rights and Business Unit within the Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP) held a two-day civil society experience sharing workshop in Paris on the 28th and 29th of January 2019 for Syrian civil society regarding civil society response to business and human rights violations in various states.

In presence of 11 representatives of Syrian civil society organizations and 6 representatives of international business and human rights organizations, the workshop showcased cases of human rights violations by businesses in other states and experiences of civil society in responding to those violations. These case studies were then used to apply lessons learned to the Syrian context.

The first day of the workshop comprised two panel presentations:

● One consisting of representatives from international business and human rights organizations working closely with civil society such as Human Rights Watch, International Alert, The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and The Business & Human Rights Resource Center. Panelists discussed a wide range of forms of advocacy and methods of engagement based on their previous experiences, including the importance of human rights due diligence, non-judicial grievance mechanisms, development bank complaint mechanisms, OECD national contact points, and advocacy through the UN Guiding Principles. Panelists also discussed their experiences in facing and dealing with business and human rights violations, highlighting practical steps that can benefit the Syrian context.

● The other panel included representatives from civil society organizations from different states working on business and human rights issues that may be applicable to the Syrian context such as Dejusticia from Colombia, the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business from Burma, Al Haq from Palestine and a representative from The Business & Human Rights Resource Center’s office in Jordan. Panelists focused on business involvement in grave violations during conflicts, prosecution of corporate actors and types of complicity. Panellists highlighted how important civil society’s role in advocacy and meticulous monitoring and documentation is.

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to a Syrian civil society strategy brainstorming session regarding the various business related human rights issues arising in Syria’s reconstruction, changes they would like to see, how those changes may come about, stakeholders to engage, messaging, needed resources, challenges they may face, and activities civil society can implement to address these issues.

The workshop concluded with a preliminary road map strategizing what civil society can do in response to business violations of international law in Syria’s reconstruction.

The Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU) has been operating since April 2018 under the support of the Swiss Foreign Ministry to raise awareness of reconstruction stakeholders of different levels on the role they play in the Human Rights impact of reconstruction in Syria through interlinked and mutually reinforcing components targeting monitoring and documentation of violations, reporting, research, capacity building for civil society, networking and advocacy. The Unit collaborates with a variety of stakeholders to ensure all business and financial actors are conscious of their role in protecting the human rights of Syrians and that they have the tools necessary to do so.

For more information about SLDP’s work, please follow this link.