Al-Haq attended the 8th annual United Nations (UN) Business and Human Rights Forum, themed “Time to act: Governments as catalysts for business respect for human rights” which took place on 25-27 November 2019 in Geneva. The UN Business and Human Rights Forum operates as a global and open platform for stakeholders, including civil society, UN Member States and businesses, to share efforts and discussions on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. That being said, this year’s three-day event focused on the role of governments to enhance business respect for human rights.
On 26 November 2019, Al-Haq was named the 2019 recipient of the Human Rights and Business Award at the Forum. Shawan Jabarin, Al-Haq General Director, accepted the 2019 Human Rights and Business Award which recognizes the “outstanding work by human rights defenders in the Global South or former Soviet Union addressing the human rights impacts of business”. The Award was given during a panel entitled “prevention is better than cure: exploring best strategies by states to prevent attacks on human rights defenders”. While accepting the Award, Jabarin stated that the Award is a “recognition for the Palestinian human rights defenders, Palestinian people, and Palestinian struggle in the face of injustice and for the role of law and justice”. Jabarin further stressed that the Award is “a tribute to all human rights defenders, and to the rule of law and justice. It is an affirmation that a business that does not respect human rights is a partner in violations and crimes”.
Furthermore, on 26 November 2019, Al-Haq participated in a panel session entitled “regulating businesses in contexts of conflict and occupation: what more is needed?” and highlighted how businesses play a crucial role in entrenching Israel’s prolonged military occupation and colonization of Palestine, making it sustainable and profitable. Al-Haq presented the case of German HeidelbergCement and its subsidiary Hanson Israel as an example to companies’ active involvement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) in the appropriation of property, pillage, the destruction of the environment and depletion of finite non-renewable natural resources. Additionally, Al-Haq presented on HeidelbergCement’s involvement in numerous human rights abuses against Palestinian landowners and residents, including land rights, the right to work and livelihood, freedom of movement, environmental rights, and the right to development. Al-Haq further highlighted how the activities of HeidelbergCement contribute to undermine the Palestinian right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources, a fundamental principle of international law.
During the panel, Al-Haq called upon states to take measures to ensure that corporations are not involved in gross human rights abuses, to protect and promote the rule of law, equal access to remedy and adequate accountability, to deny access to public support and services for businesses that are involved in gross human rights violations, and to protect against human rights abuses within their territory and/or jurisdiction by business enterprises. Al-Haq further stressed that home states of multinational corporations must recognize the applicable legal framework stemming from the situation of occupation in the OPT and pertinent obligations, namely those relevant to Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, to ensure respect of international humanitarian law and refrain from rendering support to illegal practices, policies and measures, exemplified in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. Finally, Al-Haq stressed on the importance and need for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to release and annually update the UN database of businesses involved in Israel’s settlement enterprise, as a tool for transparency and effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.