On Thursday 13 February 2014 Al-Haq's Center for Applied International Law hosted members of the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations' Council (PHROC) for a workshop to discuss developments and opportunities in the field of Business and Human Rights. Al-Haq chose to organize this workshop as part of its ongoing objective to ensure accountability for Israeli and International corporations involved in violations of international law.
The workshop focused on three primary issues. Firstly, Al-Haq sought to discuss with other Palestinian human rights organisations the different means through which corporations violate human rights in the region. To this end, the workshop included a presentation by Al-Haq on the international legal paradigms governing the OPT and the limitations it puts on the activity of the Occupying Power and its subsidiaries, particularly private businesses. This was followed by a discussion of the different economic sectors that benefit from the occupation, and chiefly the settlement enterprise, and the available mechanisms that PHROC can utilise to hold them accountable.
The second aim of the workshop was to augment the participants' knowledge of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and how these principles can be applied to the situation in the OPT. The UNGPs are a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. On June 16 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, making the framework the first corporate human rights responsibility initiative to be endorsed by the United Nations. Al-Haq hopes that by familiarising PHROC members with the UNGPs Palestinian organisations will be more capable of advocating for their respect in the OPT.
The third aim of the workshop was to acquaint PHROC members with the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises and its mandate. In this effort, the different tools available to conduct advocacy within the UN Human Rights Council and in parallel with the work of the Working Group were reviewed. Furthermore, PHROC members examined available options to ensure that the Working Group is made aware of the human rights issues in the OPT that relate to its mandate.
The overall goal of this workshop was to equip members of Palestinian civil society with information and tactics that will increase the impact of their work on the issue of business and human rights, which we believe is an issue of growing importance in the OPT and the region as a whole.