International Conference on Business and Human Rights: Challenges and Prospects in Georgia

From 31 October through 1 November 2016, the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia, the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the International Labour Organization jointly organized an international conference on the theme - Business and Human Rights: Challenges and Prospects in Georgia.

At the opening of the conference, Ucha Nanuashvili, the Public Defender of Georgia, Pavel Sulyandziga, Chairman of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Janosh Herman, EU Ambassador to Georgia, and Khatuna Tortladze, Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, generally reviewed the business atmosphere of the country.

They noted that, like in many other countries, a number of gaps were identified in the business sector in terms of human rights protection in light of the large energy and infrastructure projects and that no active measures have been taken for keeping balance between business interests and human rights needs. They also talked about the state's obligation to create legal mechanisms for protecting human rights from adverse impact of business and victims’ access to effective defense mechanisms in case of violation of these rights.

The conference participants emphasized the importance of continues economic development, but of course, in compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles and EU requirements, it is necessary to take effective measures to protect human rights, including development of labour mediation mechanisms, inspection of labour conditions, and fight against trafficking and labor discrimination. Since the labour rights have special importance on the agenda of the Association Agreement, the Government should focus more attention on sharing the best practices through international cooperation in order to establish an effective labor inspectorate.

The conference was attended by members of the Parliament and Government of Georgia, invited international experts, heads of international organizations and large business companies operating in Georgia, and representatives of civil society, trade union and national human rights institutions.

During the conference sessions, the issues of discussion were the international and regional frameworks of duties and responsibilities of states and businesses in the field of human rights, implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles by the European countries and stages of development of the issue in Georgia on the basis of European experience.

They also talked aboutthe labor rights, international labor standards, cases of discrimination in the workplace in Georgia, social rights, large-scale projects and their impact on the environment, adequate remuneration, contract forms, safety in the workplace, corporate-social cooperation and review of complaints, including creation and improvement of similar mechanisms inside companies.

On the second day of the conference, participants of the round table evaluated the existent situation of Georgia and talked about practical ways and initiatives in terms of development of corporate social responsibility and the role of the state in this process. They also discussed the issues of development of business and human rights national action plan.

It should be noted the Public Defender has long been talking about the importance of protection of human rights in the business sector, but an event of similar scales was held for the first time in Georgia; Ucha Nanuashvili expressed hope that the international experience obtained during the meetings would help the Georgian authorities to find the depth of the problem and new approaches, as well as to make productive decisions.


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