Posts Tagged ‘Business and human rights’

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”

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

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

UNDP launches a Global Initiative on Business and Human Rights

July 8, 2020

With thanks to Reliefweb for posting on 7 July 2020 here UNDP’s launch of a project to implement the human rights and bussines agenda.

Excerpts from the speech by Mourad Wahba (Assistant Administrator of UNDP and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States):

UNDP has been working on advancing the business and human rights agenda since 2016 when we started a regional programme in Asia, built around the participation and partnership of governments, businesses, Civil Society organisations, National Human Rights Institutions, trade unions and other stakeholders. Our work has been strongly aligned with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, ILO and the OECD.

Our collaboration will now grow. Last week, UNDP launched a Global Initiative on Business and Human Rights building on our achievements in Asia, which will incrementally expand to the rest of the world.

The Global Initiative will have four main fronts:

  1. Supporting governments in developing and implementing National Action Plans;
  2. Strengthening access to justice for victims of business-related human rights abuses;
  3. Advising corporations on how to address human rights risks; and
  4. Enabling peer-learning for government officials, businesses, civil society and national human rights institutions.

We are honoured to partner with the Working Group and OHCHR, to chart the lessons learned since the adoption of the Guiding Principles and accelerate their implementation. Over the coming 12 months we will be hosting regional consultations, which will guide the development of a joint Roadmap for the Next Decade of Business and Human Rights.

Our network of five regional offices and 170 country offices will be leveraged to ensure all relevant stakeholders, including representatives of vulnerable and marginalised groups, are consulted on the way forward.

UNDP believes that the elaboration of this Roadmap should be guided by the goals set in the 2030 Agenda and the Secretary General’s Call to Action for Human Rights….

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/28/ngos-demand-that-rules-against-strategic-lawsuits-against-public-participation-slapp-are-upgraded/

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/project-launch-business-and-human-rights-towards-decade-global-implementation

Defending Defenders: Challenging Malicious Lawsuits in Southeast Asia

June 8, 2020

SLAPPs on the increase

shutterstock_1049504825

The work of human rights defenders (HRDs) to expose harm by companies around the world has never been more important, but the space to do so is increasingly under threat as unscrupulous companies and governments around the world use the legal and judicial system to harass critics.

Logo

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are a powerful tool to silence by forcing defendants in a costly fight for their freedom of expression and their organisations’ existence. This year’s Corporate Legal Accountability Annual Briefing by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre provides an in-depth analysis of nine emblematic case studies from Southeast Asia, and outlines the legal framework in which these lawsuits are brought, including emerging anti-SLAPPs regulation. The briefing also examines the legal and other tactics companies have used to silence HRDs; and analyses the legal strategies that lawyers have employed to successfully defend against SLAPPs while highlighting the role that courts have played in the region in either allowing or dismissing SLAPPs.

Key Findings

  • SLAPPs take place in a broader context of judicial harassment. 40% of all attacks on business-related HRDs globally [2015-2019] were judicial harassment, with numbers growing at an annual rate of 48%.
  • Judicial harassment appears to be the tactic of choice deployed by businesses operating in Southeast Asia to punish or silence defenders. Nearly half (44 %) of all attacks against HRDs in South East Asia constitute judicial harassment.
  • We recorded 127 cases of judicial harassment against HRDs in Southeast Asia between 2015 and 2019, including at least 30 SLAPPs, making Southeast Asia one of the most dangerous regions in the world for HRDs facing such threats.
  • In order to effectively fight SLAPPs in Southeast Asia and globally, we need robust legal frameworks that prevent companies from filing SLAPPs in the first place and allow courts to identify, call out and dismiss them as soon as they are filed. To make this happen, governments, businesses and investors, alongside defenders and civil society (and the lawyers who defend them), need to act decisively for the protection of civic freedoms and human rights defenders.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/28/ngos-demand-that-rules-against-strategic-lawsuits-against-public-participation-slapp-are-upgraded/

Full Briefing

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