Tuesday, November 30 • 7:30am - 8:45am
Business and human rights: Youth as levers of change in Asia Pacific

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Session organized by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and United Nations Development Programme B+HR Asia

Brief descrition of the session:
June 2021 marked the tenth anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Over the past few years, business and human rights (BHR) discourse has progressed significantly in Asia despite ongoing challenges. Most efforts to implement the UNGPs have so far targeted States and businesses, including through awareness-raising and capacity building. However, these efforts do not adequately include or engage with youth. This is a missed opportunity, as today the world is home to 1.8 billion young people, over half of which live in Asia, the largest generation of youth in history. Youth have the potential to galvanise support for responsible business conduct as consumers, investors, political activists, student leaders, lawyers, entrepreneurs, social media campaigners, human rights defenders, and future business executives. In fact, youth have already led on critical human rights issues such as climate change. They are also key to protect the interests and rights of the future generations.
Against this backdrop, this session seeks to discuss challenges and opportunities to the effective implementation of the UNGPs in Asia and explore how to harness the role of youth as “levers of change” in promoting responsible business conduct and holding corporate accountable for harm to people or the planet.

Objectivesof the session:
This session aims to:
  • Highlight challenges, opportunities and progress in the business and human field in Asia Pacific from the experiences of youth;
  • Explore the role of youth in contributing to effective implementation of the UNGPs;
  • Explore strategies aimed at engaging youth to promote responsible business conduct and corporate accountability in Asia Pacific; and
  • Discuss ways to connect the business and human rights agenda with youth-led social movements in Asia Pacific.

Discussion questions:
  • What are some of the key developments concerning the effective implementation of UNGPs in Asia Pacific?
  • What is the role of youth in overcoming challenges to the effective implementation of the UNGPs in the next decade?
  • What are the perspectives of youth pertaining to business and human rights and the role of business in achieving inclusive and sustainable development?
  • How can youth become levers of change in promoting business respect for human rights and corporate accountability?
  • What is the role of schools, universities and UN agencies in educating youth about BHR issues that will shape their future?

Background to the discussion:
The importance of youth in this respect is affirmed by the declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, as part of which States committed to the following: “We will listen to and work with youth. Youth is the missing piece for peace and development. As we benefited from the foresight of the founders of the United Nations, young people today will have to live with the consequences of our action and inaction. For too long, the voices of youth have been sidelined in discussions about their future. This has to change now through meaningful engagement with youth.”
Moreover, in his report “Our Common Agenda”, the UN Secretary-General affirms that “now is the time to think for the long term, to deliver more for young people and succeeding generations and to be better prepared for the challenges ahead.” The report states that “[s]ome countries have created opportunities for younger generations to have a voice in decisions that affect them, through youth councils, parliaments and ministries. However, these solutions have not always avoided tokenism, often remaining peripheral to core political processes. Youth-led protest movements are frequently driven by deep distrust of today’s political classes and desire for proper engagement in decision-making. Yet some authorities have clamped down on peaceful protest, dismissed young people as too inexperienced and treated them as beneficiaries or, worse, as threats rather than equal partners. At the global level, young people have been formally recognized as critical actors within intergovernmental frameworks on peace and security, sustainable development, climate change, human rights and humanitarian action. Yet here, too, engagement is not always meaningful, nor does it guarantee geographical, gender, income and other forms of diversity.”

avatar for Harpreet Kaur

Harpreet Kaur

Business and Human Rights Specialist, UNDP Asia-Pacific
Harpreet Kaur is a Business and Human Rights Specialist at the UNDP’s Regional Bureau of Asia and the Pacific, where she oversees a regional project aiming at promoting responsible business practices through partnerships in Asia. She provides technical and advisory support to governments... Read More →

avatar for Justin Jos

Justin Jos

PhD candidate
Justin Jos is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law and Justice, University of New South Wales, Sydney. He completed his undergraduate law and business administration (BBA LLB) degree from National Law University Odisha, India and Master of Laws (Distinction) from University of Exeter... Read More →
avatar for Chelsea Elizabeth Islan

Chelsea Elizabeth Islan

Chelsea Elizabeth Islan (born 2 June 1995) is an Indonesian actress, model, and activist. She has received two consecutive Citra Award (the Indonesian Film Festival's annual event to honor cinematic achievements) nominations in the Best Actress category for Di Balik 98 (2015) and... Read More →
avatar for Zoha Shahid

Zoha Shahid

Senior Research Associate, Research Society of International Law
Zoha Shahid is a Senior Research Associate at the Research Society of International Law. She has been working on the intersection between business and human rights, and conducted extensive research on the current status of human rights protections within the business sector in Pakistan... Read More →

Nourah Al-Sulaiman

Ensaniyat Project Manager, Migrant-rights.org
I am a 26 year old Kuwaiti with a Bachelors Degree in International Relations and a minor in History. Always having been passionate about human rights and law, I joined the Migrant-rights.org Team as Ensaniyat's Project Manager in 2017 where I have worked with over 140 youth fellows... Read More →
avatar for Surya Deva

Surya Deva

Special Rapporteur on the right to development
Mr Surya Deva took up the role of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development on 1 May 2023. Deva is a Professor at the Macquarie Law School and Director of the Centre for Environmental Law at Macquarie University, Australia. He conducts research in the areas of business... Read More →
avatar for Mohan Rabidas

Mohan Rabidas

President, JAGORON Youth Forum

Mulan, Myanmar

Youth Activist from Blood Money Campaign
I am a youth activist to enhance volunteering spirit, activism in our community and to defend democracy, justice, and human rights. I am also a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Alumni of Professional Fellowship Program - Civic Engagement.Before the coup, I promoted... Read More →

Tuesday November 30, 2021 7:30am - 8:45am CET
Virtual Plenary room