The Top 10 Business & Human Rights Issues for 2016

The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) published the Top 10 Business & Human Rights Issues for 2016 on Human Rights Day. The ten issues selected are the result of a global online survey which the IHRB conducts every year online and which we also advertised. We are excited about the ten issues selected by the participants from all over the world.



The Top 10 does not rank of issues by importance, but displays a group of selected issues which the online community found most important. Some issues such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, climate justice and mega-sporting events have been predictable to make it on the list for 2016. Other issues like fighting discrimination, human trafficking and forced labour as well as supporting human rights defenders can be counted as a permanent part of the Business & Human Rights agenda. An issue which often remains in the dead corner is the right to privacy and big data. It is very laudable that voters have voted for it and that IHBR took it up on its agenda for 2016.

Putting the UN Guiding Principles into Practice

Operationalising the UN Guiding Principles also forms part of the Top 10 issues: states need to apply what they demand from companies to themselves when they act as economic actors. Companies must improve on tracking and improving their corporate performance on human rights if we are to believe their promises on accountability.

Despite all the enthusiasm for the Guiding Principles, their third pillar has still a long way to go before states and companies move away from their long-standing aversion against holding legal persons liable. The right to remedy is the hottest potato in the group of the ten selected topics. Domestic judicial systems for victims of corporate abuse remain de facto ineffective in all countries. 2016 will show which results the current efforts to increase remedy at the national and international levels will yield.

The list in fact seems endless…

… and this is both good and bad. Mere voting for top 10 issues is just the result of selection among numerous issues listed by IHRB. The long list signals not only the acknowledgement by the institution and thus by its followers of the current many problematic topics, but also their engagement in covering and advocating for them. This is something good, while the bad thing is having such a long list of problems. For example, the topic of defending the defenders in the Top 10 is thus not a mere aspiration, but the need for a worldwide solidarity that would locally empower people for some additional boldness in actions aimed at protecting their rights.

Top List to Brief Ourselves on Business & Human Rights

The presentation of the Top 10 issues by the IHRB provides good introductions into ten different fields and includes informative hyperlinks. Without the Top 10 the authors of this blog might have remained completely unaware of the Oslo Principles stating the obligations for states and companies to ensure climate justice. Additionally, as great proponents of interdisciplinary work, (a sample of which you find in Theresa’s post for 8 March 2015) it is a positive thing for us to see how the list shows the Business & Human Rights angle in all aspects of economic life.

The Top 10 is perfect if you have little time, but want to find out what can be expected to be high-up on the agenda of the Business & Human Rights movement in 2016. Click here to read for yourself.


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