Business and Human Rights Working Group Issues Policy Statement

The New York City Bar Association’s Working Group on Business and Human Rights has issued a pioneer policy statement setting forth its goals and objectives for promoting awareness of, and respect for, human rights issues in the business context. The Vance Center’s Human Rights Program had initiated the process of developing the statement through a working group appointed by the Association’s president, which collaborated with standing committees to draft it. Overall engagement by state and city bar associations in the United States has been limited and none has formally adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights[1].

The policy statement provides a broad framework outlining the Working Group’s mission, including, in collaboration with the City Bar’s standing committees, resolving to endorse the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Furthermore, acknowledging New York City’s role as a hub for global business and the impact that business decisions made in New York have both locally and globally on human rights, the City Bar, through the policy statement, resolves to adopt a strategy to guide the legal profession to consider the growing impact of commercial activities on human rights, environmental sustainability, and the rule of law when serving as advisor to their clients.

Created in 2019, the Working Group on Business and Human Rights is composed of members from various committees of the Bar and co-chaired by Irit Tamir, Director of Oxfam’s Private Sector Department, and Viren Mascarenhas, a partner in King & Spalding’s New York office. Vance Center Programs Director Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste acts as the Working Group’s coordinator. Its mandate is to (1) consider whether the City Bar should adopt a policy on Business and Human Rights (BHR) and (2) develop and implement a strategy to educate and engage the legal community and the broader public with regard to BHR. An Advisory Committee composed of experts in the field of Business and Human Rights across several industries and countries provides strategic guidance to the Working Group.

The Working Group initiative follows on the Vance Center’s past and ongoing activities to promote BHR principles. In 2015, the Vance Center’s Human Rights and Access to Justice Program launched a Business and Human Rights Initiative, which has drawn on the expertise of law firms in the United States and abroad to contribute to the continuing development of best practices in this area. As part of this initiative, the Program has advised international NGOs and organized conferences on these issues.



[1] According to research conducted by the Vance Center as of April 2019.