Bennett Freeman: Business, Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders
Civic freedoms and human rights defenders have moved to the forefront of the business and human rights agenda over the last half dozen years, as the closing of civic space has intensified and defenders have come under attack. New frameworks, policies and guidance for corporate support of civic freedoms and defenders have been established—and there are examples of positive action that may be emulated. But the legacy of distrust cases a shadow over such alignment, especially as SLAPP suits attempt to silence company critics. Yet there are shared interests and values that can turn adversaries into partners— if not allies– in some situations. Can conflicting and converging interests and values be reconciled to create common agendas?
Bennett Freeman will draw on his work as lead author of Shared Space Under Pressure: Business Support for Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders and recent efforts to engage business to support civic freedoms and human rights defenders around the world.
Bennett Freeman is an Associate Fellow in the International Law Programme at Chatham House and advises multinational corporations, foundations and NGOs on policy and strategy related to human rights as Principal of Bennett Freeman Associates LLC. He is a co-founder of the B4Ukraine coalition pressing western companies to exit Russia and he co-founded and led the diplomatic efforts of the Cotton Campaign to end massive state-imposed forced labor in Uzbekistan. He served as Senior VP for Sustainability Research and Policy at Calvert Investments from 2006-15 and as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 1999-2001 as a Clinton presidential appointee.