Why you should care about the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights
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Why you should care about the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

Stonewall will be attending the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights at the end of November, where our new guide on LGBT advocacy for businesses will be launched.

Find out why this forum is an incredible opportunity for businesses to use their power to make a real impact on LGBT rights across the world.

The upcoming UN Forum on Business and Human Rights is a key opportunity to ensure businesses and governments across the world meet their human rights responsibilities towards LGBT people.

The UN Forum is the global platform for information sharing, learning and assessing progress towards ensuring both states and businesses protect and respect human rights in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Governments are central in efforts to ensure business-related human rights violations become a thing of the past.

Taking place in Geneva from 25-27 November, the focus of this year’s forum is the role governments have in encouraging businesses to respect human rights. Governments are central in efforts to ensure business-related human rights violations become a thing of the past and a lack of leadership from governments is one of the biggest challenges in addressing this.

It allows the voices of those impacted by business-related human rights violations to be heard.

The Forum provides an opportunity for all groups involved in efforts to advance business and human rights – states, businesses and civil society – to come together to examine problems and develop solutions to some of the most pressing human rights issues today. It allows the voices of those impacted by business-related human rights violations to be heard by those with the power to effect change, and enables those operating in the field to develop policies and practices that can help remedy these violations.

It would mean that if businesses violate the rights of LGBT people ... they would be liable for criminal charges.

At the Forum, there is also an update on the process to develop a legally binding treaty on business and human rights. When a legally binding treaty is developed, companies will become liable under international law for the adverse human rights impacts of their operations and states will need to enact national laws banning business-related human rights violations. This could have huge impacts on the lives of LGBT people throughout the world. It would mean that if businesses violate the rights of LGBT people, for example by firing people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they would be liable for criminal charges.

At the Forum, Stonewall will be speaking on a panel organised by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality entitled ‘When governments fail to protect: LGBTI rights and the role of the private sector’. The session will focus on how companies can act to support their own staff and move towards promoting LGBT rights in society more widely. Through the panel, participants will be able to gain an understanding of how companies can ensure the rights of their LGBT staff are protected and how to advocate for LGBT equality, empowering those involved to actively support efforts to make equality a reality for LGBT people across the world.

The guide gives a clear overview of what advocacy means for businesses.

During the session, Stonewall will also be launching its new guide ‘Agents of change: A guide to LGBT advocacy for businesses’ kindly sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills. The guide gives a clear overview of what advocacy means for businesses and gives organisations concrete, step-by step advice on how to engage in advocacy in a safe and effective way. The guide is part of a series of Global Workplace Guides, one of the benefits available to members of Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions programme, a best practice forum to promote global LGBT inclusion both inside and outside of the workplace. Businesses that are looking to find out more about becoming members of Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions programme can email memberships@stonewall.org.uk or complete the online form.

Stonewall would like to give special thanks to Herbert Smith Freehills for kindly sponsoring the guide.

‘The global landscape for LGBT+ is ever-changing; progress is far from certain and, in many places, members of the LGBT+ community continue to face inequality, discrimination, and violence. More than ever, the collective voice of business is vital in supporting local communities to create more equal, safe and inclusive places.’ – Justin D’Agostino, Executive Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills.

‘Businesses definitely have a role to play in advocacy. Companies should use the power they wield to foster an inclusive environment, both inside and outside of the workplace. The power that multinational companies wield is more obvious, but SMEs can make a difference too, as hundreds of Singaporean SMEs have shown with their support of Pink Dot SG.’ – Deryne Sim, Lawyer and Spokesperson at Pink Dot SG.

‘As a company you have a significant amount of influence. Your voice is listened to by your clients and your customers, so by using this reach to provide a platform for LGBT groups and communities you can help effect change.’ – Wayne Spillett, Head of Legal, Commercial Operations at Vodafone.

The UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, and Stonewall’s new guide on advocacy for businesses, present an incredible opportunity for businesses to use their power to make a real impact on LGBT rights across the world. By recognising the responsibility that all parts of society have towards making the world a fairer place, we get one step closer to achieving equality and ensuring LGBT people everywhere are accepted without exception.