Vance Center Co-Sponsors Business and Human Rights Events

May 2021

The Vance Center has organized a series of events with the New York City Bar Association’s Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Launched in 2019 at the initiative of the Vance Center, the Working Group aims to define policies and programs in this increasingly important area of Legal Practice. As it concludes its second year of work, the Working Group is seeking to raise awareness and educate the legal and business communities and other interested stakeholders on key business and human rights issues.

Strategies to Align Human Rights and the Environment Series – June 3 and June 17, 2021

The global environmental crisis has reached a tipping point. Action by governments and policy makers is now urgent, but businesses also play a critical role in correcting, reversing, and preventing negative environmental trends.

A two-part speaker series will explore how the evolving norms around the business responsibility to respect human rights provide an essential framework for addressing corporate environmental harms. Examining what it means for businesses to consider a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a human right, industry representatives and advisors will share challenges and experiences of building robust and effective human rights programs that incorporate environmental risks, as well as providing an update on trends in regulation and litigation in this area of which companies should be aware.

The first event, Strategies to Align Human Rights and the Environment: An Industry Perspective, on June 3, 2021, 12:00pm – 1:30pm, will explore what it means for companies to view environmental issues through a human rights lens, discuss the challenges and opportunities that a human rights approach to addressing environmental risks presents for companies, and offer practical advice for integrating human rights and environmental programs. Registration is available here.

The second event, Strategies to Align Human Rights and the Environment: An Advisory Perspective, on June 17, 2021, 12:00pm – 1:30pm, will explore how lawyers can most effectively advise clients on environmental and human rights risks including best practices to prevent, address, mitigate, and remedy harms when they occur. The panel will include an update on developments in corporate environmental and climate change litigation as well as other means of disputes that companies may face. Registration is available here.

Ten Years On: What the UNGPs Mean for the Legal Profession – June 25, 2021

The tenth anniversary of the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights marks a decade of attention and progress in the involvement of the private sector alongside government in addressing the persistence of human rights violations. As we mark this milestone, we realize as well how far we still need to go. Notably, the International Association of Lawyers, the International Bar Association, and the American Bar Association will join the New York City Bar Association in hosting this event. This one-day conference highlights the strides made and challenges that remain and focuses on the key role assumed by lawyers in effectuating and implementing the Guiding Principles.

The keynote address will be given by Anita Ramasastry, member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Additional speakers include: Sheila Boston, President of the New York City Bar Association; Jorge Martí Moreno, President of the International Association of Lawyers; Sternford Moyo, President of the International Bar Association; and, Patricia Lee Refo, President of the American Bar Association.

The six panels will be:

Panel 1: Trends in Human Rights Due Diligence Legislation and Implications for Lawyers

Panel 2: Litigating Human Rights Violations – Opportunities and Challenges in Europe and North America

Panel 3: Latest News on the Alien Tort Statute

Panel 4: Business and Human Rights Practice for Lawyers – How to support your corporate client

Panel 5: Ethical Considerations for Lawyers on BHR – Norms vs. Compliance

Panel 6: The United Nations Perspective

The full program agenda and list of speakers are available here. Registration for the event is available here.

In June 2020, the Working Group in collaboration with the City Bar’s standing committees and the Vance Center, proposed and the City Bar Association adopted a pioneer policy statement on Business and Human Rights. The policy statement endorses the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. 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, resolved 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.

This initiative follows on the Vance Center’s past and ongoing activities to promote Business and Human Rights principles. In 2015, the Vance Center 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.

For more information please visit the Working Group’s webpage: or contact Marie-Claude Jean-Baptiste at