BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE PROJECT
Since the endorsement of the UNGPs, the International Bar Association (“IBA”) has continued its efforts to promote and encourage discussions on business and human rights through various means, including seminars, articles, sessions, and webcasts.
The IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit (“ IBA LPRU”) formed the IBA Business and Human Rights Working Group (“Working Group”), after consultation with various representatives of Associations, Societies and Members, at the 2013 IBA Annual Conference in Boston. The Working Group mandate was to further support the work of bar associations and law societies with respect to business and human rights (“B&HR”) and to further explore the implications of the UNGPs for lawyers through the development of guidance documents.
In developing these guidance documents the Working Group and the IBA LPRU conducted numerous rounds of consultations with IBA committees, bar associations, law societies, individual lawyers, civil society organisations, academics and corporations. Furthermore, three detailed in-country consultations were conducted by the IBA LPRU, in collaboration with the Bar Associations of Spain, Costa Rica and Namibia. These guidance documents became known as the IBA Business and Human Rights Guidance for Bar Associations (“Bar Association Guidance”), and the IBA Practical Guide for Business Lawyers on Business and Human Rights (“Practical Guide”)
At its Annual Conference in Vienna on the 8th of October 2015, the IBA Council adopted the Bar Association Guidance, and committed to consider the Practical Guide.
The IBA approved the Practical Guide at its mid-year meeting in Barcelona on the 28th of May 2016. The Working Group, in collaboration with the IBA LPRU also prepared the Reference Annex to supplement the Practical Guide.
The Bar Association Guidance aims to inform bar associations on how they may promote, launch and develop business and human rights initiatives that are relevant to practitioners in their jurisdictions.
The Practical Guide is intended to assist internal and external lawyers, who are involved in advising businesses globally, to understand:
the core content of the UNGPs based on its framework of three core pillars:
the state duty to protect human rights;
the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and
the role of both states and companies to enable greater access to effective remedy, judicial and non-judicial, for victims of business-related abuses
the relevance of the UNGPs to the advice provided to clients by individual lawyers subject to their unique professional standards and rules (whether they are in-house or external counsel acting in their individual capacity or as members of a law firm); and
the potential implications of the UNGPs’ for law firms as business entities with a responsibility also to respect human rights.
This Reference Annex intends to be consistent with the general principles of the Practical Guide and consists of:
an in-depth review of the UNGPs;
the Interpretive Guide on the Responsibility to Respect prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights; and
the extensive literature, ongoing practices and policies of governments, multi-stakeholder institutions, bar associations and companies.
The IBA appreciates the contribution and hard work from John F. Sherman III, Chair of the Working Group and the key drafter of the Bar Guidance, the Practical Guide and the Reference Annex.