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July 9, 2014

Asylum Access Intervenes at the United Nations Human Rights Council

by Asylum Access

Asylum Access recently attended the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva with the purpose of interjecting refugees’ right to work into the discussion about business and human rights. Although Asylum Access has previously attended UNHCR’s Annual Consultations with NGOs in Geneva, this was Asylum Access’s first time making an intervention at the UN Human Rights Council. photo (4). HRC

The intervention was directed toward the Working Group and Forum on Business and Human Rights, which have been tasked with the responsibility to implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Forum also promotes cooperation and dialogue amongst various relevant stakeholder groups, including States, the wider UN system, intergovernmental and regional organizations, businesses, labor unions, national human rights institutions, NGOs, etc., for the purpose of realizing these Guiding Principles.

The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights does not explicitly contain language inclusive for work rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Asylum Access was therefore urging the Working Group and Forum to ensure that the Guiding Principles are specifically applied in the refugee context and that labor violations for refugees are prevented, investigated, punished and redressed through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication. Because the Forum and the Working Group have focused attention to the rights and needs of individuals at heightened risk of vulnerability or marginalization, the exclusion of refugee and asylum seekers from strategic considerations and methods of work in implementing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is indeed a barrier to their effective implementation.

Because NGO participation in the Human Rights Council does not include the right to vote on issues, written and oral statements are tools by which NGOs may advance their policy goals in order to influence the Council’s work. NGOs can engage with special procedures such as working groups, providing them with information and recommendations that will enlighten their mandate; special procedures mandates therefore welcome information by NGOs on the development of international human rights law.

As part of its intervention, Asylum Access presented a short oral statement to the Council, addressing the report of the Forum on Business and Human Rights. The statement was streamed live from the UN Web TV on July 19, and is available for viewing here (1:47:20).  Additionally, Asylum Access submitted a written statement published to the UN Human Rights Council’s official record, A/HRC/26/NGO/22, which sets out specific concerns regarding mainstreaming refugee work rights into the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Asylum Access’s participation at the Human Rights Council is but one tactic in an advocacy strategy to reincorporate the rights based language into international refugee policy that the Refugee Convention sought to establish, and to which States in fact agreed to uphold.

Anna Manuel is a Legal Policy Intern at Asylum Access.  She currently studies law at the University of San Francisco and will be receiving her J.D. and International and Comparative Law Certificate in 2017.

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