The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and conflict-affected areas: state obligations and business responsibilities

30-09-2012 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 887, by Rachel Davis


The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide authoritative guidance for states and businesses on how to prevent and address business-related human rights harms, including in conflict-affected areas. States need to explore a more innovative range of policy and regulatory options in such situations, whether they are engaging with cooperating companies or dealing with uncooperative ones. Companies need to be able to know and show that they can operate with integrity – and avoid being involved in gross abuses of human rights – and that their risk assessment, mitigation, and remediation processes take full account of the potential risks to affected stakeholders, not just risks to the business.

Keywords: UN Guiding Principles, business and human rights, conflict, responsibilities, risk assessment, Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework.


Rachel Davis is Managing Director at Shift, a non-profit centre dedicated to helping governments, businesses, and other stakeholders put the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into practice. She was previously a senior legal advisor to Professor John Ruggie, the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Business and Human Rights. She is also a Research Fellow at the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School.