IBA opens global public consultation on its draft business and human rights guidance

The International Bar Association (IBA) Business and Human Rights Working Group has opened a global, public consultation on its recently published draft guidance for bar associations and business lawyers (‘Draft IBA Guidance’) on the application of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). All interested stakeholders are invited to submit public comments via a form, which can be downloaded here. The closing date for comments has been extended to 31 March 2015.

Following their unanimous endorsement by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, the UNGPs have become the authoritative point of convergence on business and human rights internationally. They articulate a global consensus that businesses throughout the world should respect human rights. Increasingly, they are reflected in national policy and law, corporate sustainability reporting frameworks and governance, stock exchange listing requirements, international standard-setting bodies, commercial and financial transactions, and in the public and judicial advocacy of civil society. Since these areas are highly relevant to lawyers – particularly those who advise businesses – bar associations and lawyers need to understand the UNGPs and address the implications they have for the practice of law.

Through the advice and services that they provide to business clients, lawyers can add significant value by helping companies to respect human rights. The Draft IBA Guidance results from an international effort to guide the legal profession in integrating the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into the practice of business law. The IBA public consultation forms an essential part of the process of finalising the IBA Guidance,’ said John F Sherman III, Chair of the IBA Business and Human Rights Working Group and General Counsel and Senior Advisor to Shift – an independent, non-profit centre for business and human rights practice chaired by former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Business and Human Rights, and author of the UNGPs, Professor John Ruggie.

The Draft IBA Guidance – the first of its kind since the UN Human Rights Council’s endorsement of the Guiding Principles in 2011 – is divided into two working guidance documents: one for business lawyers, both in-house lawyers and external counsel in law firms;and the other for bar associations.

The guidance for business lawyers is intended to assist them in:

  • understanding the core content of the UNGPs (Part 1);
  • starting to explore the ways in which the UNGPs may be relevant to the advice and other services they provide to business clients (Part 2); and
  • recognising potential implications of the UNGPs for law firms as business enterprises themselves with their own responsibility to respect human rights (Part 3).

The guidance for bar associations considers how they can, with respect to the topic of business and human rights:

  • improve the understanding of the relevance and applicability of business and human rights principles;
  • develop an overall strategy for integrating the UNGPs into the practice of law;
  • raise awareness;
  • educate the legal profession;
  • review ethical codes of conduct;
  • provide guidance and technical assistance;
  • share best practices; and
  • take an active role in public discussions on business and human rights

The IBABusiness and Human Rights Working Group and IBA Legal Projects Team will pursue deeper engagement on the Draft IBA Guidance through focus groups and bilateral meetings with the bar associations and legal professionals of Costa Rica, Namibia and Spain. Subsequent to any revisions following the results of the public consultation, formal approval and adoption by the IBA Council of the Final Guidance will be sought at the 2015 IBA Annual Conference in Vienna, Austria.

Click here to download the Draft IBA Guidance.


Notes to the Editor

  1. To participate in the global IBA public consultation on bar associations and business lawyers download the form from the IBA website here.
  2. To facilitate review, comparison, and consolidation of comments from different stakeholders, the IBA Legal Projects Team will collate responses. It requests that comments correspond to the various sections of the Draft IBA Guidance documents, as set forth in the respective tables of content for the draft Bar Association Guidance and for the draft Business Lawyers Guidance. General comments are also welcome.
  3. The Draft IBA Guidance was published on 23 October 2014 during the IBA Annual Conference in Tokyo. It consists of two documents: guidance for bar associations and guidance for business lawyers, and is the culmination of a six-month consultation and drafting process, working in collaboration with the IBA Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee and facilitated by the IBA Legal Projects Team.
  4. The members of the IBA Business and Human Rights Working Group are:
    • John F Sherman III General Counsel, Senior Advisor and Secretary of Shift
    • Stephane Brabant Co-Chair of the IBA CSR Committee
    • Deborah Enix-Ross IBA Bar Issues Committee
    • Gonzalo Guzman Head of the IBA Legal Projects
    • Umit Herguner American Bar Association and Turkish Bar Association
    • Robert Heslett Law Society of England and Wales
    • Isabel Jimenez Mancha Spanish National Bar
    • Tatsu Katayama Japan Federation of Bar Associations
    • Deidre Sauls Law Society of Namibia
    • Carmen Pombo Fundación Fernando Pombo
  5.  Information about the Working Group and the Draft IBA Guidance can be read here.

  6. On 18 June 2008, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously welcomed the framework proposed by John Ruggie, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. This policy framework comprises three core pillars:

    • Pillar 1 – the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication;
    • Pillar 2 – the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to avoid infringing on the human rights of others and addressing adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved; and
    • Pillar 3 – the need for greater access by victims to effective remedy, judicial and non-judicial.

  7. On 16 June 2011, the Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Guiding Principles seek to provide concrete and practical guidance for implementation of the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework.
  8. 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

    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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