Following its long-overdue release, we welcome the recent publication of the update to the United Nations database of businesses facilitating Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 30 June 2023. This release represents an important step forward, and it is crucial that future updates are conducted annually, ensuring accurate and comprehensive information for all stakeholders involved.
Human Rights Council resolution 31/36, adopted in 2016, clearly provides that the database of business activities should be updated annually, thereby contemplating regular reporting and both the addition and removal of businesses from the database, as appropriate. However, the first report under this mandate was released in 2018 and had only presented an outline of the methodology for the database. Two years later, in 2020, the database itself was first released, and no additional updates were published by the Office of the High Commissioner until 30 June 2023. Had the mandate been properly implemented, this year would have seen the seventh substantive report of the database, not the second.
The full implementation of the database mandate has been derailed over the years, primarily due to inadequate political will and ostensible bureaucratic obstacles. These challenges have emerged within a highly pressurised environment, in which certain states have demonstrated hostility to the implementation of the mandate. This has served to shield Israel and those companies benefiting from or contributing to Israel’s internationally wrongful acts from their international legal responsibilities, thereby, entrenching the culture of impunity for these abuses.
The chronic under-implementation of this mandate has been damaging, to the integrity and credibility of both the Office of the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Council. It is unacceptable and sets a dangerous precedent, that a mandate of the Council is largely ignored, especially over such an extended period. We understand that the budgetary process may have initially been flawed, failing to adequately account for the scope of ongoing activities. This flaw, however, lies within the budgetary process itself, and not within the resolution or the mandate issued by the Council. If the issue genuinely had been a matter of budgetary constraints, an administrative solution could have and should have, been found to address it appropriately.
In this context, we welcome the fact that the Office of the High Commissioner has finally published an update on 30 June. We are heartened to see that, according to the report’s analysis, fifteen businesses may have ceased conducting reportable activity during the reporting period, though note that some companies may have adjusted their business structures to avoid falling within the definition of reportable activity. Indeed, this demonstrates the significant impact the database can have in encouraging and promoting compliance with international law. We are concerned, however, that the Office of the High Commissioner has not undertaken the work to identify new businesses that began, during the reporting period, to conduct reportable activity. Such a one-sided approach is not consistent with the mandate of providing a comprehensive update to the Council and runs the risk of being abused by business actors seeking to avoid listing.
The status quo of inadequate implementation of this crucial mandate is unsustainable.
Therefore, we urge the High Commissioner and states engaging at the Human Rights Council to act with urgency to find a solution that enables the full implementation of the existing mandate in resolution 31/36, with clear and regular reporting deadlines, based on sustainable funding for the necessary work. To this end, we welcome the initiative by the Palestinian Mission to table a resolution at the current session of the Council, to facilitate the full and regular implementation of the mandate that was set forth in Human Rights Council resolution 31/36. We urge all states to join in supporting this initiative, to ensure the integrity of mandates of the Council, and demonstrate their commitment to protecting human rights and promoting accountability universally.
The database is a crucial tool for the promotion and protection of the human rights of the Palestinian people. In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as in other cases of apartheid and belligerent occupation, the absence of accountability has enabled the Occupying Power, Israel, to engage in activities in violation of international law with near total impunity. This has also allowed many private actors, including businesses, to contribute to and benefit from, sometimes unwittingly, gross human rights violations. The 2013 report of the UN commissioned the International Fact-Finding Mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the human rights of the Palestinian people, and found that “business enterprises have, directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements”. This has detrimentally affected the lives of millions of Palestinians and contributed to violations of international law. The database, if properly implemented, can be an effective tool in supporting companies in assessing their activities and carrying out their enhanced human rights due diligence, serving as an example and point of reference for other situations.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Human Rights Watch
International Service for Human Rights
A 11 - Initiative for Economic and Social Rights
A Different Jewish Voice - Amsterdam
AFPS (Association France Palestine Solidarité)
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Association "Pour Jérusalem"
Associazione culturale Liguria palestina
AURDIP (Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine)
Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ)
Belgian Academics & Artists for Palestine
Belgian Academics and Artists for Palestine (BAA4P)
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East Saskatoon chapter
Comité de Solidaridad con la Causa Árabe
Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (CEMSOJ)
Corporate Justice Coalition (UK)
Dominican Sisters of Hope
Dominicans of the Roman Congregation
EMPIRE WOMEN DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE
European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine - ECCP
European Legal Support Center (ELSC)
European Trade Union Network for Justice in Palestine
Habitat International Coalition - Housing and Land Rights Network
INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT
International Federation for Human Rights - FIDH
International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste
Law for Palestine
Les Dominicaines Missionnaires Adoratrices
Lok Shakti Abhiyan
Middle East Commission of Pax Christi Germany
National Fisheries Solidarity Movement
Nederlands Palestina Komitee
Newweapons research group-odv
Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO-Norway)
Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees - Fagforbundet
Norwegian People's Aid
Observatori DESC (ESCR Observatory)
Pakistan Fishefolk Forum
Palestina Solidariteit (Belgium)
Palestine Solidarity Alliance (South Africa)
Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU)
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Plateforme des ONG françaises pour la Palestine
Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)
Sadaka-the Ireland Palestine Alliance
Sexual Rights Initiative
Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York
St. Columba Catholic Church
The Canadian BDS Coalition
The Community Action Center / Al-Quds University
The Democracy and Workers' Rights Center in Palestine Palestine - DWRC
The Jus Semper Global Alliance
The Palestine Committee in Norway
The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy - MIFTAH
The Rights Forum
Union juive française pour la paix (UJFP)
United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI)
University of KwaZulu-Natal Decoloniality Action Group
Women in Black - Vienna
المركز الدولي للدراسات القانونية
مركز إنسان للديمقراطية والحقوق
مركز حماية لحقوق الانيان