Vance Center leads Latin American and Caribbean Bar Association Discussion on Business and Human Rights
The Vance Center held a virtual session: “Bar Associations and the Business and Human Rights Agenda: A Regional Vision 10 years after the Guiding Principles” as part of the United Nations VI Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The session brought together more than a dozen bar associations from the region and focused on: 1) the role of lawyers in the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; 2) the intersection between the Guiding Principles and the ethical responsibility of lawyers; 3) the role of bar associations; and 4) the experience of bar associations that have adopted the Guiding Principles. The session concluded with a discussion among the bar association representatives on how these organizations can lead in the implementation of the Guiding Principles in the region.
Vance Center Programs Director Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste moderated the session and led the discussion with the following panelists:
- Alejandra Parra, Head of BHR practice at Kunstmann Spiess – Abogados
- Douglass Cassel, Counsel, King & Spalding
- Maria Noel Leoni, Regional Manager for Latin America, BHR Resource Center
- Samantha Rowe, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton
- Silvia Marchili, Partner, White & Case LLP
The session focused on the challenges that bar associations and lawyers in the region face in engaging with the Business and Human Rights agenda, including the difficulty of enforcing soft law principles, lawyers’ general lack of knowledge of the Guiding Principles. Looking forward, the bar associations agreed to work to ensure greater awareness of the Guiding Principles among their members and more broadly.
The session was organized by the Vance Center’s Human Rights and Access to Justice Program’s Business and Human Rights Initiative. Launched in 2015, the initiative draws on the expertise of law firms in the United States and abroad to contribute to the continuing development of best practices in BHR. As part of this initiative, the Program has advised international NGOs and organized conferences on these issues. The Vance Center led discussions within the New York City Bar Association that culminated in the creation of the City Bar’s Business and Human Rights Working Group in 2019 and the adoption in 2020 of a Policy Statement on Business and Human Rights that endorses the Guiding Principles.