New IBA Reference Annex helps lawyers further understand and take action on business and human rights

Lawyers seeking to advise clients on the relevance of human rights to business, and law firms evaluating their own responsibilities as businesses with regard to human rights, will soon have access to a new, additional tool from the International Bar Association (IBA) to assist them: the Reference Annex to the IBA Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers (the ‘Reference Annex’). – Available from 1 November 2016.

The Reference Annex is an in-depth document designed to further businesslawyers’understanding of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) – the authoritative global standard on business respect for human rights – and similar documents. Developed by the IBA Business and Human Rights Working Group, in collaboration with the IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit (IBALPRU), the Reference Annex explains how the UNGPs can be relevant to the advice lawyers provide to clients, as well as their potential implications for law firms as business enterprises. Itis a companion to the IBA Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers, published earlier this year.

IBA President David W Rivkin stated: ‘The Reference Annex is a highly valuable supplement to the IBA Practical Guide. It takes a complex, emerging area for the profession and breaks it down in terms that are easily understood, without losing sight of the nuances. It helps to demystify the subject of human rights for practical business lawyers, helps lawyers to navigate the shifting boundaries of human rights hard and soft law, and suggests how law firms can integrate respect for human rights across legal advice and firm operations, while balancing professional, ethical obligations. I strongly applaud the Working Group for all of its efforts.’

The Reference Annex is the result of extensive consultation between a diverse group of stakeholders across the legal profession from both within and independent of the IBA membership. The Working Group was first established in 2014, and with the publication of the Reference Annex, completes its appointed task. However, the IBA will continue working with its members and external stakeholders to strengthen its guidance for legal professionals regarding the application of the UNGPs. Among other things, the IBA is preparing training programmes on the issues considered in both the Practical Guide and the Reference Annex.

Underscoring the different, yet complimentary, nature of the two bodies of work, John F Sherman III, Chair of the Working Group and Shift General Counsel, commented: ‘The Practical Guide gives a general overview for lawyers who want to become familiar with the implications for legal practice of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The more detailed Reference Annex will enable lawyers to conduct a more thorough analysis of the subject than the shorter Practical Guide allowed. However, it does not purport to distill all of the available wisdom on the subject. It is only a start.’

The members of the Working Group are: John F Sherman III (US), Nicole Bigby (UK), Stéphane Brabant (France), Umit Herguner (Turkey), Robert Heslett (UK), Tatsu Katayama (Japan), Isabel Jiménez Mancha (Spain), Carmen Pombo Morales (Spain), Horacio Bernardes-Neto (Brazil), Deborah Enix-Ross (US), Andrea Saldarriaga (Colombia and France) and Deidre Sauls (Namibia).

The official launch of the Reference Annex takes place at 18h30 on Tuesday 1 November 2016 at Berwin Leighton Paisner, Adelaide House, London Bridge, EC4R 9HA, UK. The keynote address will be given by Robert BournsPresident of the Law Society of England and Wales. Click here for further information and to reserve your free attendance at the event. 


Editors’ Notes

  1. An embargoed copy of the Reference Annex is available to journalists on application from
  2. The IBA Reference Annex will be available from here from Tuesday 1 November 2016.
    Also available at
  3. Click here to read the IBA Practical Guide on Business and Human Rights for Business Lawyers, published in June.
    Also available at
  4. Click here for information about the IBALPRU’s work in the area on Business and Human Rights for the Legal Profession.
    Also available at
  5. The IBALPRU was previously titled the IBA Legal Projects Team.
  6. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies, it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington, DC, US; while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.


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