International Corporate Accountability Roundtable

Afternoon Interactive Workshops – Day II 

Rapid Response to Defenders at Risk: Government and Private Sector Approaches

Time:    2:45 PM to 4:15 PM

Room:   Ceremonial Classroom


  • Bennett Freeman (facilitator)

  • Deborah Klepp, US Department of State (facilitator)

  • Carolyn Zander Dallmann, US Department of State

  • Christen Dobson, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC)

Background Information

Growing pressure on civil society and attacks on human rights defenders—both in increasingly illiberal democracies and authoritarian dictatorships—have reached a crisis level.  Governments and business alike are challenged to defend defenders. This workshop will explore some encouraging examples of successful intervention in recent years, and even months, and consider how existing efforts by governments and non-government actors can be strengthened, including how private sector engagement on this critical issue can be strengthened.

Questions posed to and discussed by the panel will include:

  • Where are the gaps in intervention that need to be filled and how can ICAR membership collaborate to ensure improved rapid response to defenders at risk?

  • What are the normative obligations required by the state duty to protect and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights?  

  • What are recent tangible examples of actions by states and companies to support defenders? What are examples of joint or coordinated action?  

  • What are the constraints as well as opportunities for “friendly” governments to engage with states that are threatening defenders? What are the obstacles as well as opportunities for companies to act in certain circumstances?  

  • How do defenders and their civil society supporters overcome “the legacy of distrust” that persists in their relations with business, especially in sectors such as extractives and agriculture and with indigenous communities?

  • Would a global south/north, 24/7 political and diplomatic rapid response mechanism—in turn coordinating with supporting companies—be a useful and timely initiative to consider and develop?

This interactive workshop will be informed by the State Department’s efforts over the last two decades to support defenders around the world using a range of diplomatic and programmatic tools and by the recent BHRRC/International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)-commissioned report Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders, as well as by the role of BHRRC in coordinating action by companies in support of defenders.