Rachel Davis

Rachel Davis is a passionate advocate for human rights who has played a critical role in shaping the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Guiding Principles have set the benchmark for how business must operate in a human rights context around the world. Today, as co-founder of New York based non-profit Shift, Ms Davis continues to influence the way those principles are implemented across industries, communities and geographies.

From 2006-2011, Ms Davis was a senior legal advisor to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on business and human rights, Harvard Professor John Ruggie. There, she helped develop the authoritative global standard of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and advised on all aspects of the relationship between the Guiding Principles and national and international law.

In 2011, Ms Davis co-founded Shift – the leading non-profit centre of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles, headquartered in NYC. Shift works with leading multinational companies, public and private sector financial institutions, governments and civil society partners to advance practical implementation of the Guiding Principles. Ms Davis has led work over the last decade on standard-setting, human rights and sports, financial institutions, conflict and international law. As Vice President, Ms Davis helps shape Shift’s strategy and oversees a range of collaborations, including leading Shift’s work to influence policy-makers to integrate the UN Guiding Principles into the rules that govern business. 

Ms Davis has unique experience advising and leading efforts to embed respect for human rights into the operations of global sports governing bodies. Rachel was the Chair of FIFA’s Independent Human Rights Advisory Board while it operated, between 2017 and 2021. She has advised the International Olympic Committee on human rights since 2018, including co-authoring recommendations for the IOC on a comprehensive human rights strategy with former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, which the IOC has committed to adopt. She was also a member of the Expert Advisory Group to the Australian Human Rights Commission on human rights risks in connection with the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Ms Davis is also a Senior Program Fellow with the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and is the co-author of the leading study on the costs of company-community conflict in the extractive sector. She has experience at the highest levels of the Australian legal system and internationally, having clerked at the High Court of Australia and at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. She has a particular interest in Indigenous peoples’ rights, having advised the Australian Federal Attorney-General’s Department on Indigenous affairs and acted as Ruggie’s liaison with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues during his UN mandate.

Ms Davis has a Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School and Bachelors degrees in Law and Politics from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where she also lectured and published in law. She is a (non-practicing) lawyer qualified in New South Wales and is an Australian and British national.