During the 11th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights | OHCHR, QUNO Geneva partnered with American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, the University of Washington School of Law, PAX and Amnesty International to co-organize a virtual side event titled “Responsible Business Conduct - the case of the arms sector”.
The conversation spotlighted an important governance gap in both the business and human rights, and arms control communities of practice - namely, the roles and responsibilities of the arms industry. Although there are frameworks such as, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (see also their Information Note on the Arms Industry), which outline the human rights responsibilities of businesses, and international treaties, such as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which regulates the international trade in conventional arms and focuses more on the role of states in this process, there is a blind spot on the human rights responsibilities of the arms sector and companies throughout a weapons’ s life cycle.
To address this gap, the discussion centred around 3 key questions:
- What type of effective practices do businesses already use to prevent or mitigate human rights impacts of transferred arms? And how should these effective practices be further shared and used?
- How does debate around legislation in the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and national legislation impact the environment for arms producers in terms of binding and voluntary regulation?
- What human rights due diligence policies and processes should entities involved in and with the arms sector (the trade thereof and whole value chain) implement to ensure that their business does not contribute to human rights abuses in countries affected by conflict or suffering political upheaval?
Moderated by QUNO’s Peace and Disarmament Representative, Florence Foster, the conversation featured the following experts:
- Anita Ramasastry, currently Henry M. Jackson Professor of Law, University of Washington School of Law – has also previously led on work on conflict and the arms industry at the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights,
- Rachel Stohl, Vice President of Research Programs at the Stimson Center and Director of the Conventional Defense Program,
- Lana Baydas, Program Director, the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights,
- Cor Oudes, Programme lead Humanitarian Disarmament, Business Conflict and Human Rights, PAX
- and Patrick Wilcken - Researcher/advisor on Military, Security and Policing Issues, International Secretariat Amnesty International.
The diversity of participants and speakers alike led to a rich and candid conversation on the opportunities and developments in their respective sectors.