Preventing Conflicts Over Land - Exploring the Role of Business and the Value of Human Rights Approa

Meeting Report, 11 November 2009

Preventing Conflicts

The Institute for Human Rights and Business convened a consultation on the theme of land‐business, and human rights in Manesar, outside New Delhi, on June 24‐25, 2009.

The 25 participants were selected to represent a crosssection of opinion and experience on human rights issues relating to land and business, from within and outside India. Participants included lawyers, human rights experts, business executives, civil society representatives, and other experts, including a writer, an economist, and activists. 1 The meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule2 and the discussions were frank and open.

The report below does not purport to be an exhaustive report of the meeting. Rather, it sets out the key issues regarding the contentious issue of land, business, and human rights; raises questions that require further thinking, reflection, and deliberation; and suggests recommended steps. In keeping with the Institute’s methodology, there will be more convenings of this nature at other locations in 2010, and at the end of 18 months, in early 2011, the Institute will publish its completed findings on the subject. Views will evolve and grow as the process unfolds. The time‐bound dialogues will be supplemented by research projects and ongoing interaction among a global network of individuals from business, civil society and governments. Towards that end, the Institute will soon create a discussion group on its website, which will be open to those who participated in the meeting in India as well as future participants in the process and others who express an interest and wish to be engaged in dialogue on this subject.

Significant gaps in global and national governance result in companies sometimes operating in places without clarity regarding their responsibilities. With governments often abdicating their obligations, companies find themselves acting in some cases in roles, which should be played by the State, without accountability, mandate, expertise, or authority. There is a clear need for governments to carry out their duties but business must also improve its practices so that human rights protection is not undermined. Arriving at shared understandings of what such practices should include is difficult but progress can be made through sustained dialogue and an iterative process which unfolds over time and involves all relevant actors. The Institute for Human Rights and Business seeks to support such a process concerning the issue of land acquisition. The Institute comes to this subject with no pre‐conceived position beyond acknowledging the supremacy of the law where it is clear, and wishing to promote best‐practices, which are consistent with international human rights standards and principles. This pragmatism allows the Institute to be driven and directed by those who engage in the process. The guiding principles of the Institute’s working methods can be found at its website, www.institutehrb.org.

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