Our key takeaway: Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) annual World Report shows that human rights are negatively impacted the world over. In 2023, no government had a perfect record on human rights and many of them continued to allow or enable companies to harm human rights. And in 2023, human rights impacts were evolving. As climate change continued to intensify last year, existing social, economic and political challenges were exacerbated by climate-caused humanitarian disasters, pressure on shared natural resources like land and water, and disruption of food systems and livelihoods. Companies contributed by leveraging courts to gain access to new areas for mining, farming, ranching, infrastructure and oil and gas extraction. In addition, the spread of increasingly sophisticated new technologies developed by companies, like generative AI, allowed governments to impose surveillance, internet shutdowns and facial recognition leading to physical detention, curtailing the work of human rights defenders, journalists and political dissidents and limiting freedom of expression. Further, marginalised groups like women and girls, LGBTQI+ people, disabled people, older people and minorities were disproportionately impacted by evolving challenges and new policies aimed at curbing their rights - in addition to entrenched discrimination. The lessons for the private sector are clear: there are no “safe” places for human rights. Wherever companies operate, source and sell their products and services, it is critical that they conduct due diligence to understand the ways in which the operating context—including laws, policies, government action and inaction, vulnerable groups and climate effects—can negatively impact people in their value chains.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its annual World Report (January 2024):