Contemporary and emerging human rights issues

The URG aims to be ahead of the curve in identifying and offering timely policy analysis and advice on human rights concerns relevant to today’s world. Concern for human rights is central to many of the contemporary world’s most important challenges. From environmental protests in Asia to debates about the nature of sustainable development in New York, and from concern about the welfare of cross-border migrants to growing interest in the power of technology to support freedom of speech – human rights are never far from the spotlight. Through its work on contemporary and emerging human rights issues, the Group looks to help policy-makers and policy-influencers understand the dynamics of a particular issue and its possible evolution and implications, as well as provide policy recommendations thereon.

Our projects

Human rights, climate change and disaster-induced cross-border displacement

Climate change has enormous implications for the enjoyment of a wide range of internationally protected human rights. This is especially the case for people in already vulnerable situations. Over the past 8 years, the international community has taken a number of steps to leverage human rights law and principles to strengthen international responses to global warming. One of the most important human impacts of climate change will be on displacement. Already millions of people are forcibly displaced each year by natural disasters. With the effects of climate change, the frequency and intensity of such disasters will further increase, as will the number of people being displaced across borders. Yet, at present the international protection framework for such scenarios is insufficient.

This project will present a critique of attempts, led by the Human Rights Council and its mechanism, to promote a ‘rights-informed’ approach to climate change policy. In will present recommendations to ensure that the new climate change agreement due to be penned in December 2015 in Paris will serve to promote and protect human rights. The project will also provide counsel on how the international community should address the global protection gap for persons displaced across borders in the context of disasters.

Environmental human rights defenders: emerging challenges and solutions

According to the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and various international NGOs, environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) are a group of growing importance and a group at particular risk. Yet little is understood about them, about the particular challenges they face, or about how the international community might best support them.

This project will aim to listen to EHRDs and thus to understand their situations and the challenges they face. This understanding will then form the basis of policy recommendations for how the international community can best protect their rights and support their work.

Human rights and the post-2015 Development Agenda

The importance of mainstreaming human rights with other key areas of UN work is well established. This is particularly important in the case of the UN’s post-2105 development agenda that has enormous potential to promote sustainable development and the enjoyment of human rights.

This project will present a critique of the success, or otherwise, of the international community’s efforts to mainstream human rights into the post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The road from principles to practice: Today’s challenges for business in respecting human rights

Over the last decade, the field of business and human rights has seen a dramatic evolution, from a situation in which companies and human rights activists were at odds, to one in which stakeholders have begun to approach a common understanding of the risks, challenges, and opportunities involved.

This project seeks to analyse levels of respect for human rights among businesses around the world through an annual global survey, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The survey of nearly 900 CEOs is designed to understand their views, perceptions, strategies and actions in the area of human rights and the degree to which the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have been translated from principles into practice.

The project was initiated and sponsored by the Universal Rights Group. It also benefited from the support of DLA Piper, Lilly, Mazars, the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI), Telenor Group, the International Chamber of Commerce, IPIECA, the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The survey received guidance from the UN Working Group on business and human rights.