Posts Tagged ‘business’

Business and Human Rights: where to go in the UN

November 19, 2015

from Special Issue on Business and Human Rights by the ISHR, October 2015

For human rights defenders interested to find their way in the myriad of procedures and soft law surrounding the issue of business and human rights:

The UN established in June 2011 a Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
The key mandate of the Working Group is to promote the effective and comprehensive dissemination and implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, using the usual range of tools available to Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council (country visits, thematic reports, and individual communications).In order to discuss the trends and challenges in the implementation of those Guiding Principles and to promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights, a Forum on Business and Human Rights has been held every year since 2012 and is open to all relevant stakeholders, including in particular human rights defenders. There is an increasing focus on human rights defenders in the agenda of the Forum, with two specific panels dedicated to human rights defenders in 2015 focusing on women human rights defenders and on the role of business in protecting defenders respectively.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association have both expressed concern about human rights defenders working on these issues, with the previous Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders devoting a report to the issue of human rights defenders working on major development projects and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association devoting a report to the issue of freedom of association and the extractive industries.

In June 2014, the Human Rights Council mandated an Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG), tasked with commencing work towards the drafting of an international legally binding treaty on business and human rights. In July 2015 the IGWG had their first session, more information and reports can be found here.

Finally, the UN Global Compact initiative, is intended as a practical framework for the development, implementation, and disclosure of sustainability policies and practices by businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles.

Malaysia and the EU: NGOs ask for more forthright action

November 25, 2014

An “Advocacy Note” published in November 2014 by FIDH and SUARAM addresses the whole specter of human rights in Malaysia and how the EU should respond. Here are the parts that specifically concern human rights defenders:

FIDH and SUARAM draw the EU’s attention towards the following human rights challenges and call on Brussels to work with Malaysian civil society on the proposed solutions.

1. Publicly challenging Malaysia’s records on human rights

2. Addressing the impacts business activities on human rights

3. Using Treaties’ negotiations to obtain genuine human rights commitments

4. Supporting civil society activities

FIDH and SUARAM believe that the EU has overall been supportive of the work of human rights NGOs in Malaysia. The EU Delegation and Member States’ missions regularly meet with civil society and human rights activists, bilaterally or through the EU’s Human Rights Working Group, to discuss issues such as women’s rights, the elimination of racial discrimination, and freedom of expression. The EU Delegation maintains regular exchanges with NGOs, sends observers to trials against human rights defenders, and promotes the content of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

In recent years, the EU has provided financial support to NGOs working in the field of women’s and children’s rights, non-discrimination, freedom of the media, and indigenous people. With the current reduction of staff in the EU Delegation [7], civil society will now have to turn to Global Calls for Proposals to find support for its activities rather than seeking financial support directly at Delegation level through Country Based Support Schemes (CBSS). FIDH and SUARAM fear that such a change may have consequences on the effectiveness and sustainability of civil society activities. Many NGOs may not have the capacity to respond to the Calls for Proposals or to absorb the important amount of finance offered in calls designed for large- rather than middle-sized projects. It is therefore important for the EU to find alternative ways to support civil society beyond small emergency grants, for example in the form of funds at the regional level or sub-grants to local NGOs.

The EU must also step up its political support to civil society. The EU must push for the amendment of the 1966 Societies Act, which offers no judicial remedy to an association whose registration has been suspended or refused by the authorities. The EU must ensure that FTA provides for a genuine enabling environment for civil society.

Failure to do so would create a democratic gap in terms of monitoring of the agreement. The negotiation process should be an opportunity to hold tripartite discussions between the EU, Malaysian authorities, and civil society. The EU should offer technical advice to Malaysian authorities to reform the Societies Act and ensure the new version complies with international standards.

The fact that Malaysian authorities continue to criminalise peaceful assembly after the Court of Appeals declared a section of the Peaceful Assembly Act as unconstitutional is proof of the political will to repress peaceful assembly. This issue should be addressed by the EU at the highest levels of the political dialogue. The EU should also address the issue of recent calls made by Malaysian government officials to adopt legislation similar to the Indian Foreign Agents Registration Act, which would provide a legal basis for monitoring of foreign funds to civil society organisations.

Recommendations

FIDH and SUARAM call on the EU and its Members States to (inter alia):

• Demand the immediate release of individuals convicted for political reasons, notably under the Sedition Act.

• Establish a human rights roadmap in cooperation with Malaysian authorities and civil society, in order to achieve tangible results before the FTA are agreed.

• Ensure that human rights are included in the negotiations and the structure of the future Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Malaysia. 

• Place the support for civil society, human rights defenders, local communities, and indigenous peoples at the centre of their interactions with Malaysia. EU and its Members States must:
— Urge the Malaysian authorities to ensure that all citizens’ human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are respected;
— Press Malaysian authorities to amend the Societies Act to bring it in line with international standards, and provide technical support to that effect;
— Press for effective and immediate investigation into serious cases of human rights violations, and the formation of an Independent Police Complaint and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to investigate allegations of torture and deaths in police custody;
— Demand that Malaysian authorities set a date for the country visit of the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Freedom of Assembly and Association and extend an invitation to the UNSR on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UNSR on Freedom of Religion;
— Organize a civil society seminar before the EU-Malaysia human rights and political dialogues;
— Include civil society in sectoral discussions and in the negotiation process of the FTA;
— Propose alternatives to make up for the end of Country Based Support Schemes in order to ensure financial support to the work of human rights NGO.

Encourage Malaysian authorities and companies to adopt binding regulations and a business investment framework to prevent human rights violations by economic operators and ensure accountability in the case abuses take place. Regulations must be in line with international human rights standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

• Prepare a strategy on business and human rights that ensures that current and future investments by EU-based companies do not negatively affect human rights in Malaysia. This strategy, to be designed with Malaysian authorities, companies, and civil society, should aim at setting up binding regulatory measures corresponding in line with international standards.

• Work with Malaysian authorities to ensure that their development plans do not negatively affect human rights.

Advocacy Note: A committed but too shy EU support to human ….

Register for the 3rd annual Forum on Business and Human Rights: 1 to 3 December 2014

November 17, 2014

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organises the third annual Forum on Business and Human Rights, from 1 to 3 December 2014 in the Palais des Nations, Geneva.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

The Forum will last three days and focus on trends and challenges in the implementation of the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” and in implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework (A/HRC/17/31) and promote dialogue and cooperation on issues linked to business and human rights. The Forum is under the guidance of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and open to multi-stakeholder participation, including States, business, civil society, and affected individuals and groups. See also my earlier posts: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/business/

Registration for the 2014 Forum is currently open via the online registration system:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2014FBHRParticipation.aspx.

The draft programme of the Forum is now available at:www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Business/ForumSession3/DraftProgramme.pdf

For further information about the Forum, please see the Forum website:www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum.

 

2nd Werner Lottje Lecture on 10 November in Berlin with Alejandra Ancheita and Michel Forst

October 18, 2014

2000 appr Werner LottjeOn 10 November 2014 will take place the 2nd Werner Lottje Lecture. This annual event – organised by Bread for the World and the German Institute for Human Rights – honors one of Germany’s most influential and visionary human rights defenders, who died in 2004 [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/werner-lottje/]. As Werner Lottje was one of the founders of the Martin Ennals Award, the organisers have in mind to invite every year one of the Final Nominees of the MEA as main speaker. The theme this year is again directly linked to Human Rights Defenders (“Current challenges in the Protection of HRDs”) . The main elements in the programme are: Read the rest of this entry »

Espionage on Human Rights Defenders reaches further than Governments

April 13, 2014

In a very interesting post in Dissident Voice of 12 April, Binoy Kampmark picks up on the item I referred to on 9 April (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/snowden-alleges-spy-agencies-have-targeted-human-rights-defenders/) about Snowden’s allegation that human rights defenders were also the subject of surveillance. He not only shows the discrepancy between the (rather positive) Guidelines on HRDs by the State Department and what NSA is actually doing, but also provides a link to a November 2013 report by Centre for Corporate Policy, a Washington, D.C. thinktank, titled “Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations,” which shows that aversion to dissent is endemic, and attracts birds of a feather in both government and corporate circles. According to the report, the precondition for such espionage is that the non-profit organisation in question “impairs or at least threatens a company’s assets or image sufficiently.” The targets are varied, including “environmental, antiwar, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups.

Irresistible: Espionage, Dissent, and NGOs | Dissident Voice.

NGOs give cautious welcome to UK Government’s Action plan on human rights & business, but want better enforcement

September 11, 2013

The UK government recently launched an Action Plan on Business and Human Rights by Vince Cable and William Hague.

On 5 September the CORE Coalition, whose members include Amnesty International, Oxfam, CAFOD and War on Want, supported by the Trades Union Congress, share the plan’s clear expectation that UK companies respect human rights throughout their global operations and supply chains, but question whether the governments proposals will be sufficient to reduce corporate abuses. CORE calls on the government to take effective steps to ensure companies respect human rights. The plan builds on the government’s commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, agreed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. The principles set out what states need to do to protect people from corporate human rights abuses and the actions that businesses should take to respect human rights. “While it’s positive that the plan sets out clear expectations for UK companies to respect human rights wherever they operate and explicitly applies to businesses’ supply chains in the UK and overseas, there’s little clarity on how the government’s approach will require companies with the worst human rights records to change their behaviour. Sharing good practice and offering guidance for businesses are important but are not enough on their own,” said Marilyn Croser, Coordinator of the CORE Coalition. Anne Lindsay, CAFOD’s Lead Analyst on the Private Sector said: “For local communities in countries such as Colombia, Peru and the Philippines, the key question is, will this action plan prevent abuses of human rights by companies or just maintain the status quo? We welcome the references to protection of human rights defenders and investment agreements for example, but these principles need to be linked to a much more comprehensive set of follow up actions.” Oxfam’s Robert Nash, Private Sector Policy Adviser added: “This is a welcome signal to businesses that corporate abuses must be tackled. However, plans must go further to strengthen protection for vulnerable communities and the means for them to seek redress. This includes identifying and addressing failures on vital issues like the governance of land, transparency and accountability of investments, human rights requirements and empowering women, who are often the most at risk yet the most likely to be excluded from having their voices heard.” The absence of clear commitments to improve access to justice for victims of corporate human rights abuse overseas and the reliance on voluntary corporate self-governance to ensure businesses respect for human rights is of particular concern to CORE and its member organisations. Murray Worthy, Senior Economic Justice Campaigner at War on Want commented: “This plan places the burden of responsibility for businesses’ respect for human rights in the hands of the companies responsible for violations of human rights. Such voluntary self-regulation has been found wanting for years. It failed to prevent the deaths through negligence of over 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers in the Rana Plaza disaster earlier this year. Now the government wants to extend this model so that even private military and security companies become self-regulating. The government needs to be more rigorous in preventing human rights abuses by UK companies.” Meanwhile, Owen Tudor, Head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department, said: “Global businesses mustn’t be allowed to avoid their ethical duties, and governments must work with unions and campaigners to hold them to account… The UN and the ILO have set international standards for corporate behaviour and this action plan is a key element in making sure multi-nationals meet those standards. Globalisation has let too many businesses undercut livelihoods at home by exploiting people abroad. Unions will seek to build on this action plan but won’t hesitate to demand stronger action if it is needed.”

via UK action plan on human rights urged to go beyond business as usual | Ekklesia.

Outcome of ISHR side-event on business and human rights defenders

June 3, 2013

ISHR-logo-colour-highLast week I informed you that the Geneva-based NGO, International Service for Human Rights Finally, organised a side-event on business and human rights defenders (co-sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and promised to keep you informed of the outcome. Thanks to the quick reply from Phil Lynch, Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defenders and corporate accountability before the UN Human Rights Council

May 31, 2013

Today an interesting meeting took place in Geneva as a side event to the UN Human Rights Council on the topic: “Human rights defenders working on corporate accountability: How can the Human Rights Council contribute to their protection?”ISHR-logo-colour-high

In its report to the Human Rights Council, Read the rest of this entry »