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Alliance MBS to hold event at prestigious UN forum

The Business and Human Rights (BHR) Catalyst at Alliance MBS will be running a panel at the prestigious United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva later this year.

It is the first time that the Catalyst has been given the opportunity to put together a session at the conference which, in just a few years, has quickly become the leading global platform for debating how corporations can fulfil and honour their responsibility to respect human rights. Alliance MBS is also one of the first business schools across the world to run such a panel at the conference.

Such issues have risen up the agenda in response to the rise in awareness of human rights abuses that take place in the context of commercial activities. In response the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed its ‘guiding principles on business and human rights’ (UNGPs) in 2011 which act as global standards for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.

Major coup

Professor Ken McPhail from the BHR Catalyst and Director of Research at Alliance MBS, said having such a presence at the conference was a major coup for both Alliance MBS and The University of Manchester.

“To be running a panel at what has become the leading global event of its kind really puts Alliance MBS on the map among key players in this whole field. The UN is really keen to engage with business and academia on this whole agenda, and is particularly interested in engaging with business schools.”

The panel session has been organised by Dr Lara Bianchi, Research Associate and Co-ordinator at the BHR Catalyst, and will explore the subject of women workers in global supply chains.

The session will build on research by Professor Stephanie Barrientos from the Global Development Institute at The University of Manchester, who will sit on the panel which will be moderated by Professor McPhail. Other panellists include representatives from business and the Ethical Trading Initiative.

The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights is also closely involved in the session and will set the scene with introductory remarks at the beginning of the panel. The Group recently made a commitment to mainstream gender in the Business and Human Rights discourse.

Leading role

After the conference Alliance MBS is also hosting a joint event at the University of Geneva with New York University Stern School of Business to which it is inviting business schools from around the world to discuss how to incorporate human rights research and teaching in business education.

Added Prof McPhail: “It is a perfect opportunity while we are in Geneva to further build our global contacts across academia and industry, and to also further embed our close relationship with New York Stern which was one of the very first universities to create a business and human rights centre.”


Meanwhile the BHR Catalyst has appointed international human rights lawyer Andrea Shemberg as a Simon Industrial Fellow. From 2013-2016 Andrea was co-lead of the Investment & Human Rights Project at the Laboratory for Advanced Research on the Global Economy at the London School of Economics.

Previously she has served as legal advisor to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative (SRSG) on Business and Human Rights and has led the SRSG's work on investment. She has also advised the SRSG on a range of international law issues, and helped develop the UN guiding principles.

She is also currently working on the responsibility of companies to respect human rights while investing in Iran, among a range of other initiatives on investment and human rights.

Andrea will now act as a key contact for the Catalyst with a number of organisations and institutions.

Said Andrea: “It is exciting that a business school is taking up the issue of business and human rights and I look forward to helping ensure the Catalyst has impact in the field.”

A briefing paper for the AMBS event is available here. 

*Details of the UN conference which runs from November 27th to 29th can be found here. For further information about the Alliance MBS panel contact

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