Guiding Principle 7

Because the risk of gross human rights abuses is heightened in conflictaffected areas, States should help ensure that business enterprises operating in those contexts are not involved with such abuses, including by:

(a) Engaging at the earliest stage possible with business enterprises to help them identify, prevent and mitigate the human rights-related risks of their activities and business relationships;

(b) Providing adequate assistance to business enterprises to assess and address the heightened risks of abuses, paying special attention to both gender-based and sexual violence;

(c) Denying access to public support and services for a business enterprise that is involved with gross human rights abuses and refuses to cooperate in addressing the situation;

(d) Ensuring that their current policies, legislation, regulations and enforcement measures are effective in addressing the risk of business involvement in gross human rights abuses.

Commentary

Some of the worst human rights abuses involving business occur amid conflict over the control of territory, resources or a Government itself – where the human rights regime cannot be expected to function as intended. Responsible businesses increasingly seek guidance from States about how to avoid contributing to human rights harm in these difficult contexts. Innovative and practical approaches are needed. In particular, it is important to pay attention to the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, which is especially prevalent during times of conflict.

It is important for all States to address issues early before situations on the ground deteriorate. In conflict-affected areas, the “host” State may be unable to protect human rights adequately due to a lack of effective control. Where transnational corporations are involved, their “home” States therefore have roles to play in assisting both those corporations and host States to ensure that businesses are not involved with human rights abuse, while neighboring States can provide important additional support. To achieve greater policy coherence and assist business enterprises adequately in such situations, home States should foster closer cooperation among their development assistance agencies, foreign and trade ministries, and export finance institutions in their capitals and within their embassies, as well as between these agencies and host Government actors; develop early-warning indicators to alert government agencies and business enterprises to problems; and attach appropriate consequences to any failure by enterprises to cooperate in these contexts, including by denying or withdrawing existing public support or services, or where that is not possible, denying their future provision.

States should warn business enterprises of the heightened risk of being involved with gross abuses of human rights in conflict-affected areas. They should review whether their policies, legislation, regulations and enforcement measures effectively address this heightened risk, including through provisions for human rights due diligence by business. Where they identify gaps, States should take appropriate steps to address them. This may include exploring civil, administrative or criminal liability for enterprises domiciled or operating in their territory and/or jurisdiction that commit or contribute to gross human rights abuses. Moreover, States should consider multilateral approaches to prevent and address such acts, as well as support effective collective initiatives.

All these measures are in addition to States’ obligations under international humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict, and under international criminal law.

What National Action Plans say on Guiding Principle 7