Joint Open Letter to the High Commissioner Re UN Database on Business Enterprises with Activities Related to Israeli Settlements in the OPT

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Programby CIHRS

Ms. Michelle Bachelet
High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson – United Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
27 November 2018
Joint Open Letter to the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Re: UN Database on Business Enterprises with Activities Related to Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Dear Ms. Bachelet,

The undersigned organisations welcome your appointment as the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights. As organizations whose work focuses on business and human rights issues, we are writing to ask your Office to publish an online, dynamic, and regularly updated Database of businesses active in Israeli settlements. We take this opportunity to continue our dialogue with your Office regarding why the ongoing process to establish the Database is significant for our work and the work of OHCHR, particularly as a normative development for Business and Human Rights in the contexts of armed conflict and occupation.

In 2016, Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36 mandated the creation of a mechanism to prevent and remedy certain activity by business in the settlements Israel maintains and regularly expands in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) contrary to international humanitarian law. While the undersigned organisations acknowledge the efforts and progress made thus far in establishing the Database in line with Resolution 31/36 of the Human Rights Council, further work is needed to strengthen the working procedures and normative framework for the Database and enable the regular updating and review of companies included in the Database in line with due process.

As we have noted in our communication to your Office in November 2017 and February 2018 – almost three years following the establishment of the Database mandate – the results of this process are not being transmitted with the necessary transparency. Further delays in the publication of the Database will only serve to undermine its establishment, and the important work done by your Office and others, including members of civil society, to realise this necessary initiative to promote state and business responsibilities to protect and respect human rights.

With a view to continuing our support for the Office’s work in establishing the Database, the undersigned organisations would like to reiterate the following:

  • The Database is a preventive measure that could enable states and corporations to make decisions that pre-empt their involvement in violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Database could also facilitate states’ compliance with their obligation not to recognise as lawful the illegal situation created and maintained by Israel’s settlement activity in the OPT, and not to assist in its maintenance. The Database could serve as a signpost to businesses and shareholders, who may have failed to grasp the situation and legal implications of their operations and relationships in certain types of activity in the OPT. The Database could thereby have a deterrent effect for other businesses considering investments and activities in Israeli settlements or with settlement-based actors in the OPT, and in similar business environments in occupied territory maintained for the benefit of the nationals of the occupying state.
  • By making the Database a living and public online platform, in line with its mandate in Resolution 31/36, the Database could serve as a transparent measure of mutual engagement and dialogue between corporations, on the one hand, and the UN and civil society organisations, on the other. Corporations who review and terminate illicit dealings could have their positive engagement immediately highlighted in public to set an example of responsible business conduct, in particular in conflict affected areas. By releasing the details regarding its findings, and the course of the review process leading to the findings and conclusions, from your Office’s communications with companies, your Office could ensure adequate transparency of its procedures.
  • The Database could become an instance that marks a crucial normative development of international law on business and human rights, including in situations of conflict and occupation. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) reiterate states’ obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law in situations of conflict, and explicitly provide for companies’ responsibility to respect standards of international humanitarian law. Meanwhile, a binding instrument is currently being formulated and discussed at the UN Human Rights Council in relation to business activities of a transnational character and human rights standards, indicating the commitment of the international community to end corporate involvement in human rights abuses and their profiting from grave breaches of international law. The proposed draft treaty in its format from July 2018 is based on the UNGPs, which also underscore business and state respect for international humanitarian law, including the absolute prohibition on the unlawful appropriation of land and the transfer of the nationals of the occupying state into the occupied territory, and the forced displacement of civilians under occupation. The Database could become a tangible tool to strengthen implementation of international law and the UNGPs in conflict areas. The Database could also be an effective mechanism to put into practice existing human rights obligations in the area of Business and Human Rights and assist States in such efforts.

In the OPT, as in other cases of ongoing foreign occupation, the absence of accountability has enabled occupying states to engage in activity in occupied territory with near impunity while leaving many private actors, business and individuals, to contribute to and benefit from, sometimes unwittingly, gross human rights violations. This detrimentally affects the lives of millions of Palestinians, depriving them of their basic human rights, including the right to self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources. The realisation of the mandate set out for the Database could become a model initiative for the promotion of international law in the OPT.

In line with the foregoing, 100 Palestinian, regional and international organisations, undersigned, urge you to:

  1. Create a public online regularly updated platform of business enterprises engaged in business activities related to Israeli settlements that have been screened and contacted, in accordance with the OHCHR’s report from 26 January 2018 pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36;
  2. Ensure that adequate resources are allocated to ensure that the Database is kept up to date, as mandated by the Human Rights Council;
  3. Encourage States, particularly those in the process of developing National Action Plans (NAPs) on business and human rights, to reference the significance of the UN Database in their advice to companies, domestic authorities, and diplomatic missions with regards to operations and activities in the OPT and Israel

We thank you for your consideration of our letter. We remain at your service should you require further information.

Yours sincerely,

  1. 11.11.
  2. Addameer
  3. AKULBI
  4. Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights
  5. Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man
  6. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
  7. Al-Quds Association
  8. ALTSEAN Burma
  9. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
  10. Amnesty International
  11. Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ)
  12. Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR)
  13. Article 1 Collective
  14. Association Belgo-Palestinienne
  15. Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  16. Bisan Centre for Research and Development
  17. Both ENDS
  18. Broederlijk Belgo-Palestinienne
  19. Broederlijk Delen
  20. Bytes for All, Pakistan
  21. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  22. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  23. CIDSE
  24. CNCD-11.11.11.
  25. Clean Clothes Campaign
  26. Conectas
  27. Cultura è Libertà
  28. Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-Palestine)
  29. Diensten en Onderzoek Centrum Palestina (docP)
  30. EMCEMO
  31. EuroMed Rights
  32. Facing Finance
  33. FGTB-ABVV
  34. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
  35. Filastiniyat Organisation
  36. Finnish-Arab Friendship Society
  37. Forum for Human Rights in Israel/Palestine, Switzerland
  38. Friends of the Earth International
  39. Fundacion Entica Integral (La FEI)
  40. Gents ActiePlatform Palestina (GAPP)
  41. Gibanje za pravice Palestincev
  42. Global Legal Action Network (GLAN)
  43. Habaq for Human Rights Training and Development
  44. Hurryat
  45. Ibriq, per la causa e la cultura Palestinese
  46. ICAHD Finland
  47. Intal
  48. International Accountability Project (IAP)
  49. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
  50. Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  51. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  52. Jerusalem Legal Aid Centre (JLAC)
  53. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
  54. Justiça Global – Brasil
  55. Kairos Sabeel Nederland
  56. La Centrale Générale-FGTB
  57. Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Center (Nigeria)
  58. Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)
  59. Manchester Palestine Action
  60. Mother’s School Association
  61. MUSAWA
  62. Mwatana for Human Rights
  63. Nederlands Palestina Komitee (NPK)
  64. Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA)
  65. NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark
  66. Palestina Solidariteit Limburg
  67. Palestina Solidariteit vzw
  68. Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC)
  69. Palestinian Family Planning & Protection Association (PFPPA)
  70. Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO)
  71. Palestinian Youth Union
  72. PAX Christi International
  73. Pax Christi Vlaanderen
  74. Pax for Peace
  75. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates
  76. QADER for Community Development
  77. Quaker Peace and Social Witness
  78. Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
  79. Salaam Ragazzi dell’Olivo, Comitato di Trieste
  80. Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  81. SolSoc
  82. SOMO – The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations
  83. Stop the Wall Campaign
  84. The Association of Norwegian NGOs for Palestine
  85. The Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility
  86. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights
  87. The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH)
  88. The Palestinian Working Woman for Development
  89. The Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)
  90. The Sahel Foundation for the Defense Human Rights, Support for Education and Social Peace
  91. TIYE International
  92. Transnational Institute (TNI)
  93. Trócaire
  94. TuK Indonesia
  95. Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
  96. Viva Salud
  97. Vrede vzw
  98. War on Want
  99. Women in Black (Vienna)
  100. Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC)