BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
Business and Human rights in the Central and Eastern Europe
with participation of the UN Working group on Business and Human Rights
September 23-25, 2020
Working languages: English and Ukrainian (simultaneous translation)
The main mission of the Forum is to promote the Business and Human Rights agenda in the Central and Eastern Europe region (CEE), to integrate business, academia and experts communities from the CEE countries to the broader dialogue on BHR issues, to raise awareness and build capacity of the business, civil society organizations, state bodies and academia on UN framework on BHR, to create the platforms to exchange developments and good practices on BHR for the different groups of stakeholders – governmental bodies, businesses associations, CSOs, academia, to ensure communication and exchange with other regions to draw from the best examples, practices around the world, and ways to address the key challenges on UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights implementation etc.
Background. In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the level of UNGPs implementation remains extremely low. There are only a few positive examples in the region of the adoption of National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights (Lithuania, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Georgia). But the implementations of such NAPs are not stories of the success yet.
The countries of the region have the socialist past. Many of them were the part of the Soviet Union for a long time, others bordered with it to be ruled under the Soviet regime or influenced by it in political and economic ways very much.
Despite the quite different historical background, one face a very similar situation regarding corporate responsibility to respect human rights in the CEE region.
In turn, we make the assumption that the low level of corporate respect for human rights is due to the following factors, which are also common for countries in the region, although in different degrees:
- the absence of free private business for a long time, or concentration of State owned businesses in key sectors; strong state control on all economic processes and a large share of state participation in the economy which led to the lack of tradition for business to take responsibility and the lack of expectations of society for responsible business behavior;
- long period of undemocratic political regimes in region or being under its strong influence which led to a lack of tradition of understanding the values of human dignity and personal autonomy which core basis of corporate responsibility to respect for human rights; the idea of human rights was subordinate to state policy; collective interest prevailed over the individual/private, legal regulation was based on the principle of the supremacy of the state will, but not on the rule of law principle;
- the fall of undemocratic regimes allowed civil society strengthening and development, but the main focus of the CSOs is still state’s activities since the state is considered the main threat to human rights. In this sense one finds very few cases in the regions when human rights defenders work with human rights abuses by business;
- business and human rights is practically not represented in high schools’ curriculum and even in higher education producing lawyers, including corporate lawyers, company managers with lack of awareness on business and human rights issues in the most countries of the region.
Countries which are expected to participate: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brazil, Columbia, Germany, Great Britain, Georgia, Denmark, Estonia, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherland, Nigeria, Poland , Slovakia, Slovenia, USA, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Turkey.
Supported by: Coordinator of the OSCE projects in Ukraine