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Swedwatch, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and business association Amfori co-hosted a webinar in May on the role of business in assessing and addressing risks to human rights and environmental defenders.

Many defenders face serious verbal and physical threats, harassment, and attacks as civic space is closed by authoritarian regimes around the world. Their situation has worsened considerably since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The webinar, attended by over 160 participants from companies, the public sector and civil society, highlighted the essential role of defenders in holding companies and states accountable for business-related human rights violations and environmental degradation and underlined the critical importance of securing their right to information, participation in the decision-making process and access to remedy and justice.

It also examined the need for businesses to proactively assess and address risks to defenders in their value chains. Early and timely engagement with defenders, including inclusive dialogues to assess risks, and remediation was singled out as a key example of best practice for companies.

Speakers included labour rights defender Sonia Wazed, vice president of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala and Håkan Björklund, Head of Public Affairs at food retailer Axfood.

The speakers were critical of voluntary initiatives taken by businesses which often only provide piecemeal solutions, and welcomed the European Union’s proposed mandatory Human Rights Due Diligence legislation but also emphasised the need for a non-legislative instrument to encourage good practices.

You can view the webinar here.

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