Posts Tagged ‘Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’

Mary Lawlor opinion: Time for action, the role of human rights defenders in crisis and in a just recovery

February 11, 2021

On 4 February 2021 the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre published an opinion piece by Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human rights Defenders:

Human rights defenders (HRDs) all over the world face continuous harassment, threats and intimidation, with some even getting killed in response to their work protecting and defending human rights. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, attacks against HRDs have continued with many facing greater risks as some governments misuse the situation to further curtail civil rights, deny participation in public decision-making, and deploy state forces to repress legitimate, peaceful protests and obstruct access to justice.

Many of these attacks are related to business activities. In 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented the killing of 357 HRDs, half of whom worked on land rights, protection of the environment, minority rights and indigenous people rights. These violations are often carried out in the context of extractive industries, energy production, agro-industrial development and other business activities. When human rights are under threat from business activities, HRDs stand up and put themselves at risk to protect these rights and their communities. For an overview of all such HRDs, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

A landmark example is that of HRD Mungunkhun Dulmaa in Mongolia. In 2017, the Mongolian Government entered into a mining agreement with Steppe Gold, a Canadian gold mining company. The local community complained about the environmental impact of the agreement, the associated gold mine, and allocation of land to step-mines – lands which had been used by the community for generations. In 2018, members of the affected community staged a protest and were attacked by private security guards, hired by the company. When Ms. Dulmaa tried to video-record the assault as evidence she was detained, beaten and sexually harassed, and the video was deleted from her phone. A year later, when she attempted to report the incident to local police, Ms. Dulmaa received death threats via text, warning her to stop her work. Here, the lack of engagement by companies with potentially affected communities is blatant. In 2020, my predecessor and the UN Working Group on business and human rights sent a communication regarding Ms. Dulmaa’s case to both the Mongolian Government and the company, but neither responded. This signals a real lack of accountability. If we really want to ‘build back better’ and achieve a just recovery, human rights and HRDs need to become a priority for both states and business.

Five steps companies should take to address risks to HRDs in the context of just recovery:

  1. Implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) through adequate engagement with rightsholders. A recent report from Trinity College, Dublin on 50 large companies and 10 states showed that companies either don’t know or don’t care about the UNGPs. A key part of the implementation of UNGPs is engagement with potentially affected rightsholders and their representatives, including independent trade unions and other civil society organisations. So far, this is not happening: for example, in the Know the Chain benchmark, all companies scored zero on their efforts to support freedom of association. This must change if we want to ‘build back better’: from the earliest possible stage of each project and throughout their supply chains, companies need to engage with potentially affected communities, workers and HRDs representing and supporting them. This needs to include critical voices and companies must give due consideration to the possible objections of HRDs, even if these may render their work and projects more costly, less profitable or even less viable.
  2. Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from affected communities, especially indigenous ones, is non-negotiable. It is an essential part of the effective due diligence called for in the UNGPs and a platform to prevent conflict. HRDs, typically leaders in their communities, can help business develop the kind of precise, contextualised understanding of local situations they need if they intend to prevent and address the potential threats to human rights arising from their activities. In assessing risk, both companies and investors, and the social auditors they hire to help them do so, should give adequate weight to independent civil society and community-level information and evidence. This is fundamental when considering actions for just recovery.
  3. This engagement with HRDs and rightsholders must continue for the duration of any business project, because opinions can change over time. Therefore, companies need to constantly keep their door open to HRDs and their input.
  4. Companies should create public HRDs policies and processes. Business needs to commit to the recognition of communities, HRDs and trade unions as partners by systematically including them in human rights policies and due diligence. They need to commit to a zero-tolerance approach to violence in their supply chains, and enforceable agreements with unions, and consistently prevent, monitor and address risks HRDs face in them.
  5. Companies should also stand with HRDs when they are attacked and release public statements denouncing threats and attacks. Such steps should be taken in consultation with HRDs themselves to increase effective actions that prevent harm and most importantly build trust with HRDs and local communities.

It must be acknowledged some private businesses are already taking positive steps when it comes to protecting HRDs, but most of them do not. This is extremely disappointing and indicates a very strong need for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD). As the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs, I strongly support the growing momentum worldwide for mandatory HREDD, and advocate for an early inclusion of rightsholders and HRDs in the legislative process. These laws need to ensure access to justice and the right to an effective remedy, include a business duty to conduct effective, meaningful and informed consultations, and introduce robust safeguards for HRDs and whistle-blowers. An uncritical return to business-as-usual in the post-pandemic period would only perpetuate the deep inequalities between companies, workers and local communities, whereas we have a precious opportunity to reimagine and rebuild an economy that serves and respects the rights of all its participants.

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/

3rd Human Rights and Business Award goes to Myanmar Migrant Workers Rights Network

November 17, 2020

On 17 November 2020, during the annual United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) as recipient of the 2020 Human Rights and Business Award. [see my earlier today: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/17/2020-un-annual-forum-on-business-and-human-rights-hopefully-not-business-as-usual/]

Migrant Workers Rights Network is a grassroots member-based association that works to protect the rights of migrant workers who live and work in Thailand, the majority being from Myanmar. The organization was founded in 2009 by nine Myanmar migrant leaders after seeing extensive exploitation and abuse of migrant workers in Thai factories, the seafood industry, agriculture, and construction. They decided that empowerment of migrants is the best way for migrant workers to protect themselves.

For more on this and similar awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/fd511ca0-10f0-11ea-8f61-d1d879c27588

For last year’s award see; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/human-rights-and-business-award/

——

2020 UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights: hopefully not business as usual

November 17, 2020

Monday 16 November the UN Annual Forum on Business and Human Rights kicked off — with high-level business commitments to prevent human rights violations in their operations, to prepare for next year’s ten-year anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and to realise the ambition to “build back better.”

Richard Howitt of Supply Chain  is providing daily updates on the UN Human Rights Forum 2020. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/19/business-and-human-rights-where-to-go-in-the-un/]

The opening of the Forum gave a sobering assessment of how the COVID crisis has reversed business and human rights gains. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that COVID restrictions were being exploited to suppress rights and to silence dissent. She pointed out that supply chains had suffered most, with female workers disproportionately affected. 

UNICEF’s Sanjay Wijesekerg said decades of progress on child labour and child marriage were being lost. He was one of a number of speakers throughout the day calling on governments to use their financial leverage during the crisis to enforce respect for business and human rights. 

In a special session on lessons from the pandemic, Tony Khaw — Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for semi-conductor producer NXP — explained how they had been able to help foreign migrant workers, always the most vulnerable in the company’s workforce across 26 countries, who were unable to return home because of travel restrictions; and Shubha Sekhar, Director of Human Rights: Eurasia & North Africa for The Coca-Cola Company, described how human rights specialists had been embedded in the company’s crisis-management teams.

Both companies found the advantage that comes from the fact that “due diligence” meant they had already established highly developed relations with suppliers, which had enormous benefits to both companies and to the supply chain when the crisis hit. Small businesses and jobs were saved, but security of supply remained protected. 

Corey Klemmer, Director of Engagement at impact investor Domini, said investors also saw how companies with strong human rights records had been shown to be more resilient. The business case for human rights respect clearly exists in bad times, as well as good.

However, a second theme running throughout the day was what UN Global Compact Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo called a “growing disconnect” between companies adopting human rights policies and taking action to implement them.

The fourth Corporate Human Rights Benchmark annual report — launched today at the Forum — finds the most improvement this year has been in public commitments to respect human rights by business, but that a large number of companies had failed to record improvement during the year; and still, 79 of the 230 companies assessed scored zero for human rights due diligence.

The day’s closing CEO panel put this down to an issue of leadership. 

UN Working Group Chair Anita Ramasastry said the leading companies were the ones “where the CEO can speak easily about the Guiding Principles and not just having a company human rights statement. It means employees, investors, stakeholders and consumers really notice.”

Meanwhile, for anyone afraid that cross-industry collaboration between companies on broader societal issues might impinge on their competitiveness, the best answer came from Michele Thatcher, SVP and Chief Counsel at PepsiCo, who said: “We even found ourselves at Coca Cola headquarters in Atlanta, talking human rights.”

Another key finding in the Human Rights Benchmark report was in a study of automotive companies, which finds almost no correlation between companies who rate well on climate action and those who do so on human rights. The two appear to be treated entirely separately by the industry — it’s as if the term “climate justice” had never been invented. 

The case to link the two was made by former Irish President Mary Robinson, who used the Forum to appeal to companies to work directly with human rights defenders at the local level — “as they understand the link between the environment, development and rights.”

A positive sign that the linkage is being better understood came from the World Business Council on Sustainable Development’s Filipo Veglio, who explained how the organisation has now changed its membership criteria to require a commitment to human rights, too.

What links the two major themes to emerge from the day — whether COVID or climate — is the need for companies to take steps to assist vulnerable people in supply chains, and to ensure their needs are taken into account in the change processes in which business is engaged. 

Richard Howitt will be providing daily updates on the UN Human Rights Forum 2020.

In the meantime on 11 November 2020 the Business ad Human Rights Resource Centre published:”The dirty side of development finance

…Human rights abuses and lack of meaningful consultation are a common feature of many of the so-called “development projects”. Human rights defenders, civil society and local communities all over the world have been denouncing the inherent, structural problems of the current development model for years. Yet, banks keep burying their head under the sand, failing to recognise these problems and to address them…

When the Inter-American Development bank and other financiers began talking about building three hydroelectric dams along the Pojom and Negro rivers, the word ‘development’ became the smokescreen for giving freeway to corporations. The pristine hills of Ixquisis, where local indigenous communities of Mayan descent had been living for centuries, were plundered, polluted and militarized…

In Armenia, for the past two years, local residents have been protesting against the development of the Amulsar gold mine. Built near the touristic spa town of Jermuk by the international mining company Lidyan, the mine would pose a threat to the environment and livelihoods of the local people. As the company plans to use cyanide to leach gold concentrate, the precious water sources in the area are in danger…

In Kenya, the Sengwer indigenous communities in the Embobut forest have been facing forced evictions, loss of livelihood and violent attacks because of a conservation project approved in the name of “sustainable development”…

In Nepal, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is funding a 220 kV transmission line project in the Lamjung district, failing to respect the right of the local indigenous communities to free, prior and informed consent. Project documents were primarily provided in English and, even in those rare cases where consultations took place, communities could not participate meaningfully and negotiate compensation rates…

https://sustainablebrands.com/read/supply-chain/un-forum-on-business-and-human-rights-day-1-the-most-vulnerable-are-always-in-your-supply-chain

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/development-finance-linked-to-human-rights-abuses-worldwide/

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2020ForumBHR.aspx

Interview with Sarah Bireete, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Governance Uganda

October 3, 2020
The Business and human rights resource Centre on 18 august 2020 published an interview with Sarah Bireete, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG), Uganda

Sarah Bireete – Personal Archive

Sarah Bireete is an energetic human rights defender from Uganda, who is currently busy setting up a working group on civic space research in the country, while also running the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG), a constitutional watchdog. We sat down with her to explore her views on trust between business and civil society, and how multinational companies should respond to a growingly heavy-handed response to protests in the country.

Hi Sarah! Please tell us about you and your work!

I am a lawyer, a Human rights activist, and the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG), a constitutional watchdog in Uganda. I also have my own social media channel, Good Morning Uganda, followed by over 20000 followers.

How are businesses in Uganda affecting civic space and human rights in general? Are they cooperating well with civil society or is there something that could be improved?

The first thing is that international companies should observe the laws of the country in which they operate and the international law and best practice. But the practice is that most international companies that come from democratic countries, where they respect people’s rights, when they come to Uganda they tend to be blind to people’s rights, especially labour rights, people’s protection, especially in risky sectors like the flower farms. We have had experiences in the country where women worked with no protection against the pesticides, and they experienced health hazards, which made them unable to fend for families.

One of the most shocking experiences was from the flower sector, where one of the embassies was protecting an irresponsible investor from their country against the labour rights of local people. It was really amazing that ambassador called the HRD directly, and threatened them to keep quiet about labour rights of ordinary women working on flower farms.

Enno Schröder Flower farm around Kampala, Uganda

In the oil sector as well, most multinational companies are ignoring the basic human rights, the right to property, clean environment, fair and prompt compensation. Civil society believes that most of them are not helpful as they are not upholding practices that are respected in their own countries and are not following best practices established by international processes, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. We are struggling with this, because we expect multinational companies to come in with an upper hand, and improve practice in oil governance in the country. What we expect is a partnership with developed countries, in line with international protocols governing diplomacy, and with companies based in this countries – this would help us improve the welfare of the people in the least developed countries. We don’t expect big companies to come in and negatively affect people and shrink space for civil society.

Is there trust between multinational companies and civil society in Uganda? Can multinational companies help civil society protect and expand civic space in some way?

Trust between civil society and multinationals gets eroded when we see them coming in to exploit the most vulnerable of our people.

Multinational companies come into the country and give work to mainly low wage workers – they have limited knowledge, they are vulnerable, they need to make a living for their families – and then they get exploited by people that we would expect would have higher protection standards. This erodes people’s trust because it appears as though they are just trying to exploit the situation, instead of trying to improve the welfare of society they’re coming into. But in the context of the business and human rights approach, we as civil society need to work a lot with these companies to show them that they shouldn’t lower standards – they should maintain the same standards as in their countries of origin.

Multinational companies should also work with civil society actors to help us push back against the government if it is shrinking civic space and to push the government to help improve the welfare of the people, as they make profit.

We have seen more attacks on journalists and opposition figures in Uganda in the past year, and more heavy-handed response to protests – how should have the business community reacted?

When there is unrest in the country, the companies will not be able to do their business they came to do. When people are not happy and are agitated, they will not deliver at their place of work. So these businesses need to come into the country, and make human rights a condition for them doing business in a country: that would ensure human rights are observed. In their conversations, they should tell the government that if they continue to violate human rights, they might suspend business there.

We expect multinationals to say to government ‘these are not the standards we expect to work in. They cannot make profit when country is not governable, so they should help improve the situation and tell government that they cannot violate human rights because it will make situation worse for everyone.

Business and human rights: Updated list of companies supporting HRDs

September 30, 2020

Business support for HRDs & civic freedoms does exist but is not widespread. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre just updated its list of 29 companies that do.

One of the most important and urgent opportunities for responsible business is to support civic freedoms – freedoms of association, assembly, expression and privacy – and the people who exercise the rights to defend all human rights. There is a clear normative responsibility for companies to respect human rights, as set forth in the Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs), and companies also have a discretionary opportunity to go above and beyond these defined responsibilities and expectations. The UNGPs are a hard floor, not a low ceiling, for company action to support civic freedoms and human rights defenders (HRDs). This page gathers the latest news on business action in support of human rights defenders and features a collection of company and investor policies that mention HRDs.

You can download the List of statements and commitments on HRDs & civic freedoms (last updated in August 2020) from:

https://www.business-humanrights.org/fr/th%C3%A8mes-majeurs/human-rights-defenders-civic-freedoms/how-companies-investors-can-support-hrds/

This would seem to fit nicely with the Open call for input by the UN: June 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the unanimous endorsement by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). A major step forward in efforts to prevent and address business-related human rights abuse, they provide a global authoritative framework for State duties and business responsibilities to achieve the UNGPs’ vision of “tangible results for affected individuals and communities, and thereby also contributing to a socially sustainable globalization.”

UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights is undertaking a new project to chart a course for a decade of action on business and human rights. This effort, informed by wide-ranging stakeholder consultations, will take stock of achievements to date, assess existing gaps and challenges, and, most importantly, develop an ambitious vision and roadmap for implementing the UNGPs more widely and more broadly between now and 2030.

Open call for input – ‘Have your say’ PDF: English

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/29/covid-and-human-rights-shifting-priorities-also-for-companies/

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/UNGPsBizHRsnext10.aspx

4 June 2020 Webinar on business and human rights in the context of COVID-19

May 27, 2020

Having just posted a report on the prolifiration of intergovernmental responses to the Corona virus pandemic [https://wp.me/pQKto-4ob], it perhaps good to point to the webinar that Business & human rights is organising on 4 June 2020 on Risks and Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

This webinar will have a focus on the risks and protection of HRDs, particularly labour rights and land/environmental defenders and ensuring their participation in the post-pandemic recovery.

Date & Time: 4 June, 4.15 – 5.15 (ICT) / 10.15 – 11.15 (BST)

It will have two parts: a closed and an open session. The closed session – happening on Jitsi – will be a safe space for civil society organisations, human rights defenders, including labour rights and land and environmental defenders, labour unions, and journalists to jointly define practical recommendations on what governments and companies can do to address human rights situation, particularly of labour, land, environmental defenders and civic freedoms, in the context of COVID-19. This part of the webinar is invite-only.

The second part – happening on Zoom – will be an open session, will be an opportunity for civil society, defenders, and journalists to interact with government and business representatives and discuss how companies, governments and civil society can work together to ensure all stakeholders are able to shape recovery efforts, and make sure they are human rights compliant. Anyone is free to join us in the public session by RSVP-ing below.

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

April 9, 2020

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak: Human rights defenders & civic freedoms

Public health measures and expanded government powers amid global pandemic pose added threats to freedoms and rights of human rights defenders, including those focusing on business-related human rights impacts. Some governments, and other actors, are using this crisis to attack defenders in new ways, stifle civic freedoms, and push through restrictive measures. Defenders become easier to target, when they isolate, which is compounded by the loss of protective accompaniment and the lack of media attention to their situation. In several countries, rural and indigenous defenders have lost their livelihoods and are experiencing lock-downs – including those in conflict zones – and are less able to raise concerns about harmful business projects as a result. There are also reports of factories using the pandemic to justify dismissal of labour rights defenders. Tech companies may also violate the right to privacy of defenders, as they cooperate with governments to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Some companies are keeping their businesses active, for example in Peru and Colombia, despite the local opposition – and some sectors are likely to use the crisis to lobby for lower regulations, as we are already seeing in Indonesia and the United States, which could lead to more tension and violence in the future. This crisis also underlines that businesses benefit from defenders being able to work freely: this is now more evident than ever, as silencing of health professionals that tried to raise alarm on COVID-19 early, helped turn this ‘potentially containable threat into a global calamity‘, with enormous consequences for businesses and the economy.

The Centre has a section that features the latest news on how the pandemic and the response to it is affecting human rights defenders that raise concerns about businesses, and their impacts on the rights to food, access water, labour rights, environment, housing and health. It also highlights impacts on fundamental freedoms, such as freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, that these defenders need to be able to organize and work. Finally, it will be tracking new ways of protesting and organizing by these defenders and groups amidst the pandemic, and new demands in response to it.

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See  In Depth Area for more on COVID-19’s implications for business & human rights

 

Compilation of recommendations to companies and investors on HRDs and civic freedoms

February 1, 2020

Several national and international non-governmental organizations, think-tanks, coalitions and UN bodies and experts have made recommendations to businesses and investors about how to ensure respect for human rights defenders and civic freedoms. This non-exhaustive list brings together these recommendations.

Recommendations for companies and investors:

Name / Title:

Description:

Business sector:

Authors – type of organization(s): 

Date and Year:

Zero Tolerance InitiativeThe Geneva Declaration Declaration made by defenders of human rights and environment and supporting NGOs, with recommendations for states, companies and investors  All sectors Affected communities’ representatives, national and international NGOs November 2019
Action plan from the World HRDs Summit  Action plan made by defenders of human rights and environment and supporting NGOs, with recommendations for states, companies and investors  All sectors Affected communities’ representatives, national and international NGOs December 2018
Situation of human rights defenders – A/72/170 UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs’ report on HRDs working on business and human rights, with recommendations to states, companies and investors All sectors UN Expert July 2017

Recommendations for companies:

Human rights defenders and civic space – the business and human rights dimension Working Group on Business and Human Rights, as part of its mandate to promote the UN Guiding Principles, decided to give focused attention to the issue of HRDs and civic space – this is the summary of UNWG’s efforts on this issue to date and includes draft guidance for companies  All sectors  UN Working Group Ongoing
Shared Space under pressure: Business Support for Civic freedoms and HRDs Guidance document on business support for civic freedoms and HRDs All sectors International NGOs (informed by interviews with business representatives, HRDs, national and international NGOs) August 2018
Thematic overview: Civil society and the private sector CIVICUS’ 2017 State of Civil Society Report addressed the theme of civil society and the private sector, gathering a range of informed views from 27 different stakeholders that wrote about different aspects and produced a set of recommendations for the private sector  All sectors  National and international NGOs January 2017
Cross-regional group of human rights defenders called on business to take action for their engagement and protection Joint statement from 40+ civil society organizations, with guidance for businesses All sectors National and international NGOs 2016
Human Rights Defenders and Business: Searching for Common Ground Report with case studies, analysis and recommendations for businesses  All sectors International NGOs (informed by HRDs and national NGOs) December 2015

Recommendations for investors and financial institutions:

 Uncalculated Risks: Threats and attacks against human rights defenders and the role of development finance Report with 25 case studies and recommendations for international financial institutions  Finance & banking International and national NGOs June 2019
Guide for independent accountability mechanisms on measures to address the risk of reprisals in complaint management Toolkit that aims to assist independent accountability mechanisms (IAMs) to address the risk of reprisals within the context of their complaint management process  Finance & banking Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (IDBG) January 2019

This list will continue to be updated – please notify the NGO at zbona(at)business-humanrights.org, if there is a set of recommendations missing from it.

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/compilation-of-recommendations-to-companies-and-investors-on-hrds-civic-freedoms

International Civil Society Week: 3 human rights defenders engaging business

May 4, 2019

Sutharee Wannasiri (Thailand)

Sutharee Wannasiri

Sutharee has been supporting the 14 Myanmar workers that have denounced labour rights abuses at the Thammakaset Farm in Thailand. She has actively engaged in public advocacy to demand business accountability on labour rights abuses, and an end to the judicial harassment workers are facing in retaliation for reporting these. To date, Thammakaset Farm has filed more than 13 criminal and civil complaints against the workers and the local CSO staff from Migrant Worker Rights Network and the journalists supporting them, including her – many of them are ongoing. The majority of the cases have been dropped by the courts.

Sutharee said:

“It is also the responsibility of international brands that buy from Thailand to make sure the companies they are sourcing from are not engaged in judicial harassment that creates a chilling effect on whistleblowers and other defenders. They should establish mechanisms that allow workers and defenders to communicate with the brands directly and ensure that they are protected from any retaliation from suppliers during the investigation. The results should be made public and bring accountability for the abuses.”

 

Amanda Segnini (Brazil)

Amanda Segnini

The organization engajamundo focuses on youth empowerment in Brazil, with a particular focus on climate change. Its main goal is to make young people ware of their power to transform their communities. The organization is concerned about how civic freedoms will be negatively affected under the new government of President Jair Bolsonaro. Engajamundo is open to dialogue and ongoing engagement with companies if there is an alignment in values. Amanda believes that companies and civil society could engage more with one another if they find a shared purpose.

Amanda said:

It might be right for companies to say something in support of activists that are under attack – but only if they have been working with the community long-term and have an ongoing relationship with them: for example, if they work with local producers and source responsibly from them. If such a community is under attack, a brand should say or do something in their support. But if they only say something without having that relationship, it’s like they are just ‘riding on the wave’, taking advantage of the buzz. Companies also should not censor civil society they engage with. For example, once we were invited to take part in a corporate event, but they tried to censor what we wanted to say. We decided not to participate in the end.”

 

Sasa Uzelac (from Serbia)

Sasa Uzelac

Sasa is the Solidarity Center‘s Regional Coordinator for South East Europe. Solidarity Center was established by AFL-CIO, and is the biggest international organization supporting trade unions and associations working to protect labour rights in South East Europe. He says trade unions and workers’ associations are increasingly under attack from governments, companies, and far-right political organizations and movements. Sasa says the tide of far-right populism is creating additional problems for organizations and people advocating for labour rights. Workers’ rights are being endangered on a daily basis by “ruthless” employers and “mindless” government officials. Freedom of association, decent working conditions, and human rights in the field of work are at risk due to governments’ failure to sanction unlawful activities by employers.

Sasa said:

“The best thing brands can do is to introduce union practices from their country of origin, rather than exploiting the weaknesses of the local system and local practices in their operations. But sadly they are not doing that to a high enough standard in this region. When big international companies enter the market, they should also make sure that the health and safety standards are brought to the levels of their countries of origin.”

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/human-rights-defenders-discuss-engaging-with-business-at-international-civil-society-week-in-serbia

First time major companies say that human rights defenders are essential for profitable business

December 13, 2018

Ana Zbona, Project Manager of Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre writes about a primeur in her area: for the first time major companies have said that that human rights defenders and civic freedoms essential for profitable business,

Image: Companies supporting the statement

The statement is the first of its kind, with supporters including Unilever, Adidas, Primark, ABN AMRO, Anglo American, Leber Jeweler, Domini and the Investors Alliance on Human Rights. It stresses that when human rights defenders are under attack, so is sustainable and profitable business….Human rights defenders, civil society organizations, international organizations and progressive governments have been insisting for years that if civic freedoms which allow citizens to propose solutions to social problems, and to push governments to respect and protect human rights, are eroded, so are any prospects for sustainable development and just and inclusive economic growth. Now, these voices have been joined by a group of well-known brands and investors who are vocal about how they, too, depend on the rule of law, accountable governance, stable investment environments and respect for human rights. Read the statement here.

However, see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/13/new-human-rights-ranking-for-businesses-shows-dismal-progress-for-most-firms/

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/human-rights-defenders-and-civic-freedoms-essential-for-profitable-business-say-major-companies