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Prevention is better than cure (Part I)- Forum on Business and Human Rights 2019
26 Nov 2019 -  Prevention is better than cure: exploring best strategies by States to prevent attacks on human rights defenders

Session organized by The International Federation for Human Rights - FIDH, Forest Peoples Program, International Service for Human Rights - ISHR, Forum Asia, Rights in Development, Peace Brigades International - PBI, Rafto Foundation, Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad, Publish What You Pay - PWYP, Defend Defenders, Global Witness, Front Line Defenders, DanChurchAid, Institute for Human Rights & Business (IHRB) and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) in collaboration with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

About the session
This 3-hour session will explore states’ strategies to prevent attacks on and protect human rights defenders and their rights, in cases where defenders are being targeted for their work to address impacts of business activities. It will involve the perspective of defenders and affected rights holders and focus on the role that civil society, intergovernmental bodies, and businesses can play to strengthen and supplement state-based mechanisms.

Part 1:
The first part of the session will emphasize the obligation of states to protect human rights defenders at risk by encouraging and/or mandating robust human rights due diligence by both international and national financial institutions and companies. It will showcase strategies that some states are using to reduce the possibility of attacks against defenders.
The session will be opened by a high-level panel, which will offer general reflections about the current situation of attack on defenders. The recipient of the 2019 Human Rights and Business award will launch the ‘zero-tolerance’ pledge on killings and attacks on defenders.
The session will then delve into the specific example of anti-reprisal requirements for development finance, as one important aspect of a preventative approach. It will underline the importance of states needing to improve their efforts to ensure respect for defenders by corporations headquartered or operating in their territories and by finance institutions of which they are owners or members. Recommendations regarding best practices will be drawn from the examples discussed.

Session objectives
The objective of the session will be to have an open dialogue about how to move toward a preventative approach to protection of defenders, working on business-related human rights issues, taking into account the most promising current developments in terms of state protection of defenders on national and international levels. The co-organizing civil society organizations will collect key recommendations emerging from the dialogue, to inform the Working Group’s report on the Forum and further work on this issue.

Key discussion questions
• What are the best strategies states have been using to reduce the possibility of attacks against defenders?
• What are the recommendations for concrete actions by states, companies and investors to address the root causes of violence, criminalization and intimidation affecting collective and individual human rights defenders in the field of business and human rights? What are the specific recommendations in relation to different sectors?
• What’s the potential of the ‘zero pledge’ – why is it important, what is it hoping to achieve and how will it lead to prevention of attacks? What can companies, governments and investors do to support and implement it?
• What’s the potential of investor sensitivity and preventative mechanisms, especially development banks?

Moderator:
Mauricio Lazala - Deputy Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Speakers:
• Michel Forst - Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, United Nations
• Marianne Hagen - State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway
• Shawan Jabarin - General Director of Al-Haq, Vice President of International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)
• Joel Frijhoff - Manager, Responsible Sourcing & Trading Manager, Vattenfall
• Anita Ramasastry - Member, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights
• Mark Fodor - Co-coordinator, Defenders in Development campaign, Development Finance Institutions and Human Rights
• Veronica Cabe - Community Organizer, Coal Free Bataan Movement
• Arantxa Villanueva - Compliance Review Phase Coordinator, MICI (Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB Group)

(Forum on Business and Human Rights)