Posts Tagged ‘Business and human rights’

2021 global data report from the CIVICUS Monitor

January 18, 2022

The new #PeoplePower2021 report shows where civil society conditions are improving and getting worse. A closer look at top violations & trends.

2021 global data report from the CIVICUS Monitor

  • 9 out of 10 people live in countries where civic freedoms are severely restricted 
  • Country downgrades include Poland, Singapore, Nicaragua, Jordan and South Africa
  • Detention of protesters is the top violation of civic freedoms in 2021
  • COVID-19 continues to be used as a pretext to restrict rights across the globe

The fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association continue to deteriorate year after year worldwide, according to a global report released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online research platform that tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories. The new report, People Power Under Attack 2021, shows that the number of people living in countries with significant restrictions on civic rights, including the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, amount to almost 89% of the population this year. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/26/10th-edition-of-civicuss-state-of-civil-society-report-2021/

The CIVICUS Monitor data shows that year after year, there is significantly less space for people to exercise fundamental freedoms: only 3.1% of the world’s population lives in countries rated as ‘open’.

Nearly two billion people live in countries with the worst rating, ‘closed’, where the authorities are routinely allowed to imprison, injure and kill people for attempting to exercise their fundamental freedoms. China, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and 21 other countries fall under this category – Nicaragua and Belarus joined their ranks this year. 

It is nearly two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus is having a dire impact on civic freedoms globally, one that will have lasting impact if remedial action is not taken. Our research shows the detention of protesters and the use of restrictive laws to muzzle dissent are becoming more prevalent, as governments use the pandemic to introduce or implement additional restrictions on civic freedoms. 

“Governments across the world are setting a very dangerous precedent by using the health emergency as a smokescreen to crack down on protests and enact or amend legislation that will further limit peoples’ rights. Specifically, disinformation legislation is being enacted and used to criminalise speech, a concerning practice that could become the new norm to crush dissent,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civic Space Cluster Lead. 

This year, 13 countries have been downgraded and only one improved their rating.  The CIVICUS Monitor is particularly concerned about civic space restrictions in Europe, where four countries dropped a rating: Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, and Poland. Europe has the greatest number of ‘open’ countries, but year after year we continue to see signs of serious deterioration.

Also alarming is the deterioration of civic space conditions in Africa, where South Africa, Botswana, Mali and Mozambique all dropped ratings. In the Americas, Nicaragua joined Cuba in our worst category, ‘closed’. The Middle East and North Africa retained its status as the region with the worst civic rights record, with Jordan being downgraded to ‘repressed’. In Asia, Singapore also fell into the ‘repressed’ category, as a persistent clamp down on dissent and opposition voices continues. 

https://monitor.civicus.org/widgets/world

“What we are seeing is not a proportional reaction to a health emergency, where restrictions are meant to be extraordinary measures to deal with a crisis that is temporary. On the contrary, governments are using the pandemic as a pretext to further accelerate the crackdown on human rights that we have been documenting over the past years.” 

Although only one country – Mongolia – improved its rating in 2021, it is important to highlight the resilience of civil society. Governments have not been successful in silencing alternative voices or limiting their activism. Despite increasing restrictions, civil society has found ways to continue to speak up and claim their rights.  

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, providing evidence and research that help us target countries where civic freedoms are at risk. The Monitor has posted more than 550 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2021. 

Civic freedoms in 197 countries and territories are categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology that combines several data sources on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

As the climate crisis intensifies and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbate social and economic inequalities, the efforts of civil society are fundamental to achieve tangible results and systematic change. However, a new report by CIVICUS shows how activists, human rights and environmental defenders face profound barriers: not only are governments and businesses failing to take urgent steps to mitigate the climate crisis; they are also actively trying to silence activists, disrupt and prevent climate actions and repress environmental, land and Indigenous rights defenders. In addition, companies play a crucial role in limiting human rights activism.

CIVICUS’ report highlights the role of companies across the world in perpetrating, contributing to, or allegedly benefiting from attacks on human rights defenders and rights groups, including: Feronia PHCFormosa Plastics GroupSOCFINNewmont Mining CompanyXiang Lin SI LtdGreat Season LtdChevron EnergySomkhele and Tendele Coal Mining, PanAust, Oxec, OCP Ecuador and Petroecuador, SG Interests, Celtejo, Mineral Commodities (Ltd) (MRC) and Mineral Sands Resources, PetroTal, Enbridge, Lydian Armenia, andthe RWE Group. The report also highlights positive developments from Chevron and the Mizuho Financial Group.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) had already asked most of these companies to respond to the allegations included in the report, previously. Responses can be found in the companies’ dashboard. BHRRC asked RWE Group to respond to the allegations; RWE’s response is included below.

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/reports-publications

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/civicus-report-highlights-role-of-companies-in-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-amid-increasing-restrictions-on-civil-society/

AFREWATCH wins Business and Human Rights Award 2021

December 14, 2021

At the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, the 2021 award recipient was announced: AFREWATCH — a small, courageous organization headquartered in Democratic Republic of Congo that focuses on the human rights and environmental impacts of extractive companies in Africa.

Here a 3-minute video announcing the award: https://www.humanrightsandbusinessaward.org/announcement-2021-recipient-of-the-human-rights-and-business-award/. The video features two Advisory Network members announcing the award (Abiodun Baiyewu and Seema Joshi), followed by the Executive Director of AFREWATCH (Emmanuel Umpula) accepting the award.

AFREWATCH researches and reports on abuses by mining and oil companies and by governments; engages with government officials to advocate for improvements in law and practice; presses for extractive companies to pay their fair share of taxes, and helps grassroots community organizations build their capacity.  

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

https://www.humanrightsandbusinessaward.org/award-recipient/afrewatch/

Norway’s Telenor in Myanmar should do more than pull out – it should not hand sensitive data to the regime

October 26, 2021

The Norwegian firm took a principled stance to Myanmar’s coup. The same can’t be said for its exit from the country, writes Aung Myo Min, Minister of Human Rights in Myanmar’s National Unity Government., on 25 October 2021.

Praising Norway as a global leader when it comes to protecting human rights defenders and Telenor for acting in principled ways following the attempted coup by pushing back against the military junta’s illegal directives, the author is perplexed that in July, “after considering all possible alternatives and events,” Norway’s largely state-owned telecoms provider agreed to sell its Myanmar operations to the Lebanese firm M1 Group. According to the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), M1 is “infamous for its business activities in countries with violent totalitarian and extremist regimes.” In 2012, telco MTN Syria, a subsidiary of MTN in which M1 is the major shareholder, undermined protest leaders by blocking text messages at the behest of the Bashir al-Assad regime. In 2013, MTN installed “lawful surveillance equipment” for its mobile network in South Sudan during a crackdown on government critics by state security forces.

It is to be feared that M1 group will hand over user details of some 18.2 million Telenor users to the military junta, placing human rights defenders even more clearly in the crosshairs.

Telenor has operated in Myanmar since 2014, a decision that back then, according to the Group, was informed by “a thorough human rights impact assessment as part of the due diligence.” The Norwegian Government holds a 53 percent stake in Telenor.s.

The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, in coordination with 474 Myanmar civil society organizations, has lodged a complaint against the sale with the Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and, after an initial assessment, the watchdog found merit in the claim. Mediation may well follow. This offers Telenor and the Norwegian government an opportunity to salvage something significantly more valuable than telecoms assets and investments: their reputations.

Telenor says that its decision to sell “was not motivated by financial or strategic objectives,” but guided by its “commitment to its values and standards.” This commitment requires scrutiny. The potential sale of Telenor requires assessment of any adverse human rights impact and prevention or mitigation where they present.

https://thediplomat.com/2021/10/telenor-in-myanmar-norways-human-rights-reputation-is-on-the-line/

FIDH launches “SEE YOU IN COURT” campaign

September 29, 2021

The disastrous impact that multinationals have on the environment can no longer be denied. The human right to live in a healthy environment concerns us all, therefore, FIDH and its member organisations are launching coordinated legal actions across the world. The companies implicated and States which allow it to happen must be held accountable.

The first legal actions

It is time to recognize the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right and to hold companies accountable for their actions.

  • Environmental impact = human impact Because human rights and the environment are interdependent, it is crucial that States recognise the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right. Hundreds of organisations are fighting for a UN resolution to achieve international recognition of this.
  • Restoring a healthy environment to affected communities In the face of environmental disasters and human rights violations, the balance is still too often tipped in favour of the companies involved. Ensuring access to justice for those most affected and passing laws which hold multinationals accountable are also means to protect the planet.

https://seeyouincourt.fidh.org/?lang=en#

In memoriam John Ruggie, father of “Business and Human Rights”

September 28, 2021

On 22 September 2021, Harvard announced the death of Professor John Gerard Ruggie, last week.

A post by Gerald L. Neuman describes him as a major figure in international relations and human rights. Ruggie was the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  In the human rights field he is most famous for establishing a viable foundation for addressing the human rights responsibilities of business corporations, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011).  A brilliant strategist, Ruggie engaged in extensive consultation, study, analysis and persuasion to rescue the business-and-human-rights project from the polarized confrontation that had brought it to an impasse.  His invaluable book Just Business:  Multinational Corporations and Human Rights (2013) provides a model for the multi-dimensional negotiations that enable such achievements. John’s unique blend of kindness, rigour, insight, and attentive listening will be sorely missed.

Photo of John G. Ruggie sitting in his office.
John G. Ruggie is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/07/11/more-on-un-process-toward-contentious-treaty-on-business-and-human-rights/

UN Experts urge EU to take the lead on protecting human rights defenders in context of business

September 7, 2021

The European Union has a chance to set an example for the entire world by protecting people who risk their lives standing up for human rights in the context of business activities, said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, joined by the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises known as the Working Group on Business and Human Rights), Mr. Surya Deva (Chairperson), Ms. Elzbieta Karska (Vice-Chairperson), Mr. Githu Muigai, Mr. Dante Pesce, and Ms. Anita Ramasastry; and Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

The European Union legislative initiative on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence “must include safeguards for human rights defenders,” they stated on 6 September 2021.

The European Union, as the world’s largest single market, has a golden opportunity to advance the safety and security of human rights defenders who are working around the globe to build more just societies, often at great personal risk,” Lawlor said. “A robust, binding regime in the EU covering companies of all sizes would provide a powerful model for other parts of the world.”

Human rights defenders often risk their lives confronting violations along supply chains, Lawlor said. “Parent companies must carry out human rights and environmental due diligence throughout their supply chains to ensure human rights defenders are not subjected to reprisals from their subsidiaries, sub-contractors and suppliers,” she said. “The EU must ensure that where such retaliation happens, these companies can be held accountable.”

In the 10 years since the Human Rights Council adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, business compliance has remained extremely low. In the same period, increasing numbers of human rights defenders have been killed for their work. The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has recently developed guidance setting forth expectations that businesses address risks to defenders and that States address this as part of their own mandatory human rights due diligence regulations.

People who stand up for human rights related to environmental protection, community land rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, poverty, minorities and business accountability – often intertwining issues – are most at risk of being attacked or killed.

Where human rights defenders come under attack in the context of business activities it is a clear sign of other underlying human rights issues.” Lawlor said. Potential risks for human rights defenders should be seen as a key component of companies’ due diligence duty to identify and assess human rights risks connected to their projects, and must be specifically included in the expected EU proposal.

Business enterprises must also be obliged to consult with defenders under the EU initiative, and the door should be kept open for defenders to bring issues to companies’ attention at every stage within business projects,” Lawlor said. “

“Now is the time for the EU to give new life to its founding principles by delivering a strong law that could help reduce the number of lives lost in defence of human rights,” Lawlor said.

https://www.miragenews.com/golden-opportunity-for-eu-to-take-global-lead-626609/

Annual Report 2020 RAFTO foundation

April 14, 2021

Annual Report 2020 Human rights work in a challenging year

The Rafto Foundation’s Executive Director Jostein Hole Kobbeltved summarizes last year’s efforts to promote human rights and support human rights defenders.

2020 did not turn out as planned, for anyone. The global Covid-19 crisis is not just a health crisis, but also a human rights crisis. Emergency laws have been used to suppress human rights defenders. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 83 countries have introduced laws restricting freedom of expression. This often occurs where civil society is already under pressure. At the same time, human rights defenders have started to use new and creative tools to be able to continue their work.

The 2020 Rafto Prize, which was awarded to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/cb80c53f-6f2a-473d-a3a1-03993cc6a5c6] spotlighted the reign of terror and continuing absence of a constitutional state in Egypt ten years after the Arab Spring. It shone a light on the brave human rights defenders of the ECRF who, at particular personal risk, document human rights abuses and support those being persecuted by the increasingly authoritarian Egyptian authorities. Because of strict travel and meeting restrictions, both the announcement and presentation of the Rafto Prize were made digitally. What started off as a challenge became an opportunity to reach a wider international audience than ever before.

The 2020 Rafto Prize awarded to Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
The 2020 Rafto Prize awarded to Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

Support for Rafto Laureates and human rights defenders

The Rafto Foundation continued its targeted efforts to support our Rafto Laureates, in Poland where the pressure on the constitutional state is only growing [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/dac46850-c254-11e8-8caa-a5bb244824e6]and in Kashmir where the persecution of human rights defenders is simply alarming [https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/81468931-79AA-24FF-58F7-10351638AFE3]. We have also helped the network of Rafto Laureates and our network of women human rights defenders to continue their work by strengthening their digital infrastructure and security. We have supported Rafto Laureates under pressure and highlighted the human rights situation in a number of our Rafto Prize countries, including Belarus, Iraq, Uganda, China and India.

#1000RobesMarch in Warsaw on 11 January 2020 where Rafto organised a Norwegian delegation that participated in the demonstrations.
#1000RobesMarch in Warsaw on 11 January 2020 where Rafto organised a Norwegian delegation that participated in the demonstrations.

Increasing human rights competence among businesses

Together with businesses, we have continued to develop our sector-specific work in the finance, seafood, construction and maritime industries. We have leveraged the synergies between our local presence in the Human Rights City Bergen and our international partnerships. 2020 saw the launch of FUTURE-PROOF, a regional collaboration platform for business and human rights, for which engagement among businesses in the Bergen region has continued to rise. We scaled up our cooperation with the CEMS network and our first fully digital Masters in Business and Human Rights attracted a record number of participants. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/01/applications-open-for-raftos-business-and-human-rights-course-in-norway/]

The KAN coalition, which is campaigning to establish Norwegian human rights due diligence legislation for business and which the Rafto Foundation helped found, was officially launched in autumn 2020 with a number of Norwegian businesses as members. The development aid programme to combat modern slavery, to which the Rafto Foundation has contributed, was launched and represents a welcome boost to Norwegian initiatives in this area.

Outdoor school at the Human Rights Cairn at Vidden in Bergen.
Outdoor school at the Human Rights Cairn at Vidden in Bergen.

Education adapted to a new era

For our democracy and human rights education, it has been important to support schools and teachers in handling the challenges presented by the pandemic. We have revised our programme to include digital education, outdoor courses and training adapted to infection protection at both the Rafto House and in schools. This has enabled us to reach more than 7,500 students and teachers over the whole of western Norway in the most demanding of years. We have also increased the focus on our education platform, the Rafto model, and signalled the need for more resources to meet the growing demand from schools following the launch of our new curricula.

DOWNLOAD THE ANNUAL REPORT 2020: DOWNLOAD THE ANNUAL REPORT

Facebook launches a human rights policy and fund for human rights defenders

March 17, 2021

According to Reuters on 17 March 2021 Facebook said it was launching a corporate human rights policy and a fund aimed at supporting human rights defenders facing online threats.

Facebook has – belatedly, according to some – released a global corporate human rights policy, along with a fund supporting those defending human rights. Rather than introducing any new rules on content, the new policy essentially codifies and regulates the company’s existing practices and introduces more transparency. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/03/more-on-facebook-and-twitter-and-content-moderation/]

This new policy sets out the human rights standards we will strive to respect as defined in international law including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs),” says Facebook’s director of human rights, Miranda Sissons, in a blog post.

“And it sets out how we will apply these standards to our apps and products, policies, programming, and overall approach to our business.”

The most critical human rights issues, such as risks to freedom of expression, will be reported to the company’s board of directors. Meanwhile, Facebook will release an annual public report on how it’s addressing human rights concerns stemming from its products, policies or business practices.

And a new fund – the amount’s undisclosed – will give offline support to those defending human rights under threat, starting in Asia later this year. This is expected to involve offering security to activists and journalists.

“We’ll also build on our existing work to protect defenders’ accounts — efforts that include combating malicious actors who are targeting them, protecting them from incorrect content removals using Cross Check, offering advanced security options, taking steps to thwart unauthorized access to the accounts of defenders who are arrested or detained, and partnering with human rights organizations on outreach and training,” says Sissons.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/emmawoollacott/2021/03/17/facebook-promises-more-support-for-human-rights/?sh=fad8f837353a

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-human-rights/facebook-launches-fund-for-human-rights-defenders-facing-threat-idUSKBN2B8305?il=0

A Tool Kit for Human Rights in Business Education

November 26, 2020

Just beginning to take shape, the field of business and human rights (BHR) promises to become an important element of teaching and research at leading business schools. As part of the effort to accelerate the evolution of this area, the Global Network of Business Schools was founded in 2017 by the Center for Business and Human Rights at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester, and the Geneva School of Economics and Management at the University of Geneva. This network now comprises 39 business schools. More information about the network’s annual meeting and activities can be found here: https://bhr.stern.nyu.edu/global-busi-ness-school-network. On a parallel track, the larger Global Business School Network (GBSN), which connects more than 100 leading business schools from 50 countries to improve access to quality and locally relevant management education for the developing world, is an essential partner in this effort. Many of the schools in the GBSN orbit are located in the global South, where many human rights issues are playing out in real time. Adding human rights to the business school curriculum provides an exciting opportunity for new forms of collaboration among these schools and their counterparts in Europe and North America. GBSN is well-positioned to serve as a resource and community for schools implementing recommendations in this toolkit

About this tool kit edited by Dorothée Baumann-Pauly, Michael Posner and Dan LeClair: Representatives from a number of business school, both professors and administrators, have worked jointly to assemble this tool kit. It includes information and resources explaining the increasing relevance of human rights in a business school context and provides resources that can be helpful to those in other business schools who wish to become involved. Specifically, this document provides an overview of readily available teaching resources, research outlets, and various ways of institutionalizing human rights at business schools. It includes contributions from representatives of schools that are already including human rights in classes, public programs, and research. These testimonies highlight some of the key building blocks for successfully integrating human rights into the business curriculum. The appendix provides a list of contacts at key business schools that stand ready to offer you further advice on how to initiate a human rights program at schools.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/17/2020-un-annual-forum-on-business-and-human-rights-hopefully-not-business-as-usual/

WEBINAR: Situation of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in the Asian region

November 26, 2020

One often thinks that indigenous issues play mostly in the Americas but the Webinar on Strengthening the Protection of Indigenous Peoples in Asia: “Situation of Indigenous Human Rights Defenders in the Asian region and the responsibility of Business Enterprises to respect Human Rights” show another picture.

Date and time: 26 November 2020, 14.00 -15.30 ICT
Location: Virtual
Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes

“Suppression of the right to freedom of association and attacks against and criminalization of indigenous human rights and environmental defenders across the region are closely linked to large-scale development projects and, in certain subregions, to conservation efforts. Threats against indigenous human rights defenders are exacerbated by the intensifying global competition over natural resources and by increasing militarization where State and non-State actors collude to grab indigenous lands for profit.”
– Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Regional consultation on the rights of indigenous peoples in Asia September 2020

Download for more details information

See also: https://aippnet.org/joint-statement-asia-indigenous-peoples-pact-foundation-networks-indigenous-women-asia-silenced-issues-violence-against-indigenous-women-time-covid-pandemic/

Strengthening the Protection of Indigenous Peoples in Asia: “Land rights, Environment and Climate change in the Asian region”