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Training Workshop on Business Transparency and the Right to Access Information

OHCHR’s Technical Cooperation Programme in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), in partnership with the Saudi Human Rights Commission, and the UN Global Compact Network in KSA, held a two-day training workshop on Business Transparency and the Right to Access Information, in KSA.

In his opening speech, Mu’ayyad Mehyar, Programme Coordinator of OHCHR-Technical Cooperation Programme, in KSA, highlighted the overall objective of the training workshop, which is tosupport companies and businesses in respecting the public’s right to information, aiming to become more responsible and transparent, by setting the parameters for norms, standards and practices of how businesses adhere to UN Guiding Principles, including the effective adherence to human rights due diligence, and to standards and practices of transparency, access to information and business reporting and communication.He emphasised the importance of raising awareness of national and international practices by businesses concerning business transparency, access to information and business reporting and communication.

In addition, he anticipated that participants would gain an understanding and knowledge of different national and international businesses practices and different ways in which internationally recognised norms and standards can be incorporated into businesses’ context, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

From her side, Lene Wendland, the Chief Of Business and Human Rights Section at the OHCHR in Geneva, emphasised the importance of how companies should meet their respective responsibilities in respecting human rights by “knowing and showing” this at different levels, including policy commitment, due diligence processes and Policies to enable remediation and setting up mechanisms that enable complaints to be heard. Moreover, Lene Wendland highlighted that companies should be prepared to communicate how they address their human rights impacts externally, especially when concerns are raised by affected stakeholders including having it being of appropriate form and frequency, and being sufficient to evaluate the adequacy of how companies addresses human rights risks.

From his side, Marius Lukosiunas, UNESCO Advisor, in Paris, explained the principles of a strong Access to Information Law, whether at the level of where everyone can exercise the right to request, receive and disseminate information, where anonymous requests are allowed and requested bodies ask for contact address of the response, but not more stressing on the fact that no one has to give reasons for the request. He added that there must be reasonable deadlines to receive information and refusals have to be reasoned and are appealable. He then emphasised that there must be in place effective and timely appeal procedures before independent forum/a.

Dr Siniša Milatović, from UNDP HQ in New York, underlined the importance for business and companies to ensure sustainability reporting, including reporting with reference to UN Guiding Principles and a meaningful ESG reporting. The aim is to transparently communicate their efforts towards sustainability and demonstrate their commitment to operating in a responsible and ethical manner.