IBA publishes business and human rights guidance for bar associations and lawyers

TheInternational Bar Association(IBA)Business and Human Rights Working Grouphas published guidance for bar associations and business lawyers on the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘Guiding Principles’) – the first guidance of its kind since the UN Human Rights Council endorsement of the Guiding Principles in 2011.

Released in draft form today, the IBA Guidance is divided into two working documents, one for bar associations (11 pages) and the other for business lawyers practising as in-house counsel and in law firms (60 pages).

The main aims of the Guidance for Bar Associations are to:

  • Encourage bar associations to improve the understanding of the relevance and applicability of business and human rights principles;
  • Urge bar associations to develop an overall strategy for integrating the Guiding Principles into the practice of law;
  • Provide information to heighten awareness of the implications of the Guiding Principles; and to
  • Serve as a training tool for current and future legal professionals.

For business lawyers, the new Guidance:

  • Explores the ways in which the Guiding Principles may be relevant to the advice that business lawyers provide clients, consistent with their professional ethical responsibility as lawyers to uphold the law, to act in their clients’ best interests and to preserve client confidences;
  • Reviews potential implications of the Guiding Principles for law firms as business enterprises with their own responsibility to respect human rights, focusing on services rendered to clients; and
  • Will assist the representation of the legal profession in the design of business and human rights policies before policy makers, governments and legislatures.

The culmination of a six month consultation and drafting process, working in collaboration with theIBA Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR)Committeeand facilitated by theIBA Legal Projects Team, the IBA Working Group Guidance reviews the implications of the Guiding Principles for the global legal profession and provides practical support for their implementation.

IBA PresidentMichael Reynoldssaid, ‘In recognising the essential role that lawyers play in upholding the rule of law, and that they can provide advice on human rights in client business transactions in a manner that greatly enhances the value of their legal services, the IBA Guidance aims to support the development of a global strategy for the integration of the Principles into legal practice. The Guiding Principles recognise that the responsibility to respect human rights is a global standard of expected conduct for all businesses, and that measures are required to address the impact of human rights on commercial practices and enterprises. The promotion of integrity standards and the rule of law are at the core of the work of the IBA, and through our leadership we intend to mobilise the legal profession to take affirmative steps to integrate the Guiding Principles in the services they provide to their clients.’

The IBA Guidance was presented and discussed at the 2014 IBA Annual Conference in Tokyo, Japan, during the IBA ShowcaseWe’re all human rights lawyers now – the convergence of business and human rights and what it means for you.

Over the next 12 months, the IBA Business and Human Rights Working Group will solicit feedback from several national bar associations, including the Spanish National Bar, the Law Society of Namibia, and the Costa Rican Bar Association.

John F Sherman III, Chair of the IBA Business and Human Rights Working Group commented, ‘Since the endorsement of the Guiding Principles, businesses are increasingly turning to their legal advisors for assistance on their implementation. This guidance is designed to support those bar associations and business lawyers to understand the implications of the Guiding Principles to effectively counsel their clients and ultimately help business enterprises to fulfil their responsibility to respect human rights’

The members of the IBA Business and Human Rights Working Group are:

  • John F Sherman IIIGeneral Counsel, Senior Advisor and Secretary of Shift
  • Horacio Bernardes-NetoChair of the IBA Bar Issues Commission; Brazilian Bar Association
  • Stephane BrabantCo-Chair of the IBA CSR Committee
  • Gonzalo GuzmanHead of the IBA Legal Projects Team
  • Umit HergunerAmerican Bar Association and Turkish Bar Association
  • Robert HesletttLaw Society of England and Wales
  • Isabel Jimenez ManchaSpanish National Bar
  • Tatsu KatayamaJapan Federation of Bar Associations
  • Deidre SaulsLaw Society of Namibia

Click here to download the IBA Guidance.


  1. On 18 June 2008, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously welcomed the framework proposed by John Ruggie, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. This policy framework comprises three core pillars:
    • Pillar 1 – the State duty toprotectagainst human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication;
    • Pillar 2 – the corporate responsibility torespecthuman rights, which means to avoid infringing on the human rights of others and addressing adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved; and
    • Pillar 3 – the need for greater access by victims to effectiveremedy, judicial and non-judicial.
  2. On 16 June 2011, the Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Guiding Principles seek to provide concrete and practical guidance for implementation of the ―Protect, Respect and Remedy‖ framework.
  3. The 2014 IBA Annual Conference is taking place in Tokyo, Japan, from 19–24 October 2014. It is the most prominent gathering of international lawyers. Typically, the conference connects lawyers, barristers, judges, industry captains, regulators and academics from across the globe. They gather for an intense week of networking, learning and discussion. Topics include: corporate social responsibility; oil and gas; globalisation; anti-money laundering; the rule of law; and anti-corruption. However, this is not an exhaustive list of subjects to be addressed. The programme for the conference contains full speakers’ and session details. For full information on the Conference click here.
  4. The International Bar Association(IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.The IBA’s administrative office is in London. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, US, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court Programme(IBA ICC) is managed from an office in The Hague.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute(IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.