Posts Tagged ‘human rights and business’

Major piece by departing High Commissioner in the Economist

August 31, 2018

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who steps down on 1 September wrote a long and hard-hitting piece under the title “Grassroots leaders provide the best hope to a troubled world” in the Economist of 30 August 2018. Just some excerpts here, please read the whole thing:

If they are growing in number it is because (with exceptions) many other politicians are mediocre. They, too, are focused on their own image, the vanities associated with protocol and re-election. Too busy with themselves, or too afraid to stand up to the demagogues and for others, they seem to shelter in the safety of silence and shuffled papers. Only when they leave public office do some speak up, discovering their courage rather belatedly. Many come and go; no one really notices.

In consequence, too many summits and conferences held between states are tortured affairs that lack profundity but are full of jargon and tiresome clichés that are, in a word, meaningless. What is absent is a sincere will to work together, though all will claim—again, under the lights and on camera—that they are wholly committed to doing so. The systems for states to act collectively at higher levels in pursuit of solutions are decomposing. There are signs of it everywhere we care to look.

….

I believe it is only a matter of time, for example, before we see a Takfiri confrontation with Buddhist extremism in Asia. Where this is likely to occur, geographically, and who is likely to be involved, can already be surmised. The how and the when are, as always, indeterminate. It will depend on the outcome of regional presidential elections and how the situations in Cox’s Bazaar and Myanmar play out. The current signs are not encouraging. What is clear is that our systems for fixing this are broken.

When Myanmar inflicts enormous suffering on the Rohingya—burns them in their homes, cuts the throats of their children, rapes and terrorises, sends 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh in only three weeks—and the government pays no penalty for this—what are we saying to the perpetrators? Or to the victims? And to other potential perpetrators across the globe? Xi Jinping openly backs the government of Myanmar and, unusually for the US, given the extent of the horrors, President Trump did not even mention Rakhine when he addressed the UN General Assembly in September 2017. Strong evidence indicates the Burmese military and others may have committed acts of genocide. How much more cruel can humanity be, and how much chaos and pain are we fomenting?

….

And when multiple stress fractures already exist—the result of decades of mediocre leadership—all that’s required is a tripwire. To heal those fractures, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, we must think differently, think more about human rights, and do this with some urgency.

A fracture within society is often shorthand for human suffering or the existence of burning grievances. Before conflicts begin, suffering stems from three types of human rights violations. One is the denial of fundamental freedoms, such as of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly, creating a situation where life and fear of the state become inseparable. A second is the deprivation of basic services, such as legal and social protections or rights to education and healthcare, which often only confirms the hold of political elites over others. And third, feeding the first two, discrimination, structural and deep, propped up by racism, chauvinism and bigotry.

When multiple stress fractures already exist—the result of decades of mediocre leadership—all that’s required is a tripwire

…If we do not change course quickly, we will inevitably encounter an incident where that first domino is tipped—triggering a sequence of unstoppable events that will mark the end of our time on this tiny planet.   Can we swerve in time?   

My hope lies in a set of people not widely known internationally, but familiar to those in the human rights community. Unlike the self-promoters—the elected xenophobes and charlatans—these people do have courage. They have no state power to hide behind: instead, they step forward. They are the leaders of communities and social movements, big and small, who are willing to forfeit everything—including their lives—in defence of human rights. Their valour is unalloyed; it is selfless. There is no discretion or weakness here. They represent the best of us, and I have had the privilege of knowing some of them personally, while others are well known to my office. 

Suffering reflects a massive dereliction of the duty to serve, by those who exercise sovereignty on behalf of their people

This is what true leaders look like. Bertha Zuniga Caceres from Honduras, the young daughter of the murdered environmental activist, Bertha Caceres, who has bravely continued her mother’s struggle. Dr Sima Samar in Afghanistan, who leads the country’s independent human rights commission and is utterly fearless, even when threats to her personal safety abound. The same could be said of Senator Leila de Lima in the Philippines, who has now been arbitrarily imprisoned without trial for 18 months. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa from Burundi, a gentle yet principled soul, undeterred even after his son was murdered and he himself survived repeated attacks.

I have also been deeply impressed by the dignity and courage of Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo, an extraordinary human being by any measure. Likewise, I have been humbled by the determination of Angkhana Neelapaijit from Thailand, whose husband, a lawyer, disappeared in 2004 leaving her to become a most courageous activist, fighting against enforced disappearances. 

There are others too, from Bahrain for example: the Khawaja family, Nabeel Rajab, Maytham Al Salman and Ebtisam Al Sayegh, who have all have shown extraordinary courage in the face of considerable adversity. Hatoon Ajwad Al Fassi and Samar Badawi in Saudi Arabia: courageous leading voices for the rights of Saudi women, both currently in detention. Amal Fathy in Egypt and Radhya Al Mutawakel in Yemen are also two brave individuals who have put their own safety at risk as they have spoken out against injustice and on behalf of victims of human-rights violations. 

Likewise, Ludmila Popovici, an activist against torture in Moldova. In Poland, Barbara Nowacka has been active in organising protests against measures to pull back women’s rights. Sonia Viveros Padilla in Ecuador is fighting for the rights of people of African descent. Close by, in El Salvador, Karla Avelar, the courageous transgender activist, deserves high praise—as does the Peruvian Maxima Acuna, a well-known environmental human rights defender.   

I could continue. There are grassroots leaders of movements against discrimination and inequalities in every region.  These names are just a sample of the real store of moral courage and leadership that exists among us today.      

While some speak from an individual vantage point, fighting specific battles on behalf of their local communities, others lead broader social movements. World-wide, they are not coordinated. But what if they were? What would happen if all the movements supported each other, openly and actively?  

There are grassroots leaders of movements against discrimination and inequalities in every region…the real store of moral courage and leadership among us.

……What if this coordinated, focused, human-rights movement had the backing of business leaders? There are business leaders who are also real leaders, and who have thought seriously about human rights; people like Barbara Novick of Blackrock, Paul Polman of Unilever, Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Deepmind’s Mustafa Suleyman. This has never been done before; but if we did do it, it might just deliver a sort of shock therapy to those dangerous or useless politicians who now threaten humanity. Maybe, just maybe, it would be enough to stop the rot, so that when a fool tips that first domino or strikes the tripwire they hurt no one but themselves, and we can hope that the injury is only a slight one.  

I leave you with that thought. This is my parting note: one of courage and defiance, and a longing for the leadership of the just.

__________

https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/08/30/grassroots-leaders-provide-the-best-hope-to-a-troubled-world?

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See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/22/change-of-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-at-the-un-optimism-warranted/

Venice School Of Human Rights: program for 9-16 June 2018

February 23, 2018

Banner Venice School PCDN

The Venice School of Human Rights (created in 2010) wants to highlight that the respect for human rights is the responsibility of all, that “Human Rights are our responsibility”.

THE PROGRAMME

After a first joint session, participants will be divided in the three thematic clusters following the choice made upon enrollment. Clusters will focus on Business & Human Rights, Human Rights Defenders and Women, Peace and Security.

Cluster on Business & Human Rights: recent trends and developments

Under the leadership of Giulia Di Tommaso, an international lawyer with over twenty years of global experience in Legal and Public Affairs on a wide range of business issues, the course explores the interdisciplinary components of the Business and Human Rights agenda and provides thoughtful insights on the most recent developments from experts representatives from Academia, International Organizations and Institutions (EU, UN, FAO, OECD), and the private sector

Cluster on Human Rights Defenders

Under the responsibility of George Ulrich, Program Director of the European Master in Human Rights and Democratization (EMA), the cluster on Human Rights Defenders will review a cross-section of instruments, policies and coordination mechanisms that have been devised to protect and facilitate the work of human rights defenders. It will also explore possibilities for reinforcing the work of human rights defenders through a targeted engagement with international, regional and national human rights mechanisms as well as civil society organisations operative in areas intersecting with the work of local human rights defenders giving particular attention to contexts of imminent threat to human rights, notably conflict and post-conflict situations and situations of repressive governance, as well as sexual and gender-based violence.

Cluster on Women, Peace and Security in a growing extremist and militarised world: Agenda, implementation gap and the transformative approach & potential of CEDAW

The cluster under the leadership of Kalliope Agapiou-Josephides, Chairperson of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EU Agency) and former Vice-President of the European Inter University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation will provide a state of the art critical appraisal on the Women, Peace and Security agenda in a growing extremist and militarised world and stimulate reflection on achievements, key challenges and ways ahead. Participants will have the opportunity to refine their knowledge on both empirically and theoretically informed analyses and highly benefit from discussions with experienced field activists, leading scholars and world-class decision-makers.

Opening and Closing Lectures

The Opening Lectures of the School will be held by Manfred Nowak, EIUC Secretary General and Dalia Leinarte, Chairperson of the CEDAW Committee. Manfred Nowak, Professor of international law and human rights at the University of Vienna, has been the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and member of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Dalia Leinarte, Professor of Family History at Vilnius University is the Director of the Gender Studies Centre at Vilnius University and  Member of the working group for Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

The Closing Lecture of the School will be held by Ambassador Mara Marinaki, the Principle Gender EEAS Advisor on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Ambassador Mara Marinaki is a law graduate from the University of Athens, and holds an LL.M in International Law from the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.

Dates: 9 – 16 June 2018

Application deadline: 23 April 2018

For any query about the Venice School of Human Rights you can drop a mail to veniceschool@eiuc.org or visit https://eiuc.org/school

https://pcdnetwork.org/blogs/venice-school-of-human-rights-4/

Davos should address human rights violations say UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

January 24, 2018

As global leaders converge in Davos for the World Economic Forum, a group of United Nations experts called attention to the critical importance of human rights to the Forum’s objective this year which is: “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”. “What we are seeing in the world today is the economically disenfranchised yearning for a fairer economic system that spreads the rewards of economic development to all,” said Anita Ramasastry, who chairs the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. “The inclusion of human rights objectives into political and economic decisions are crucial if economic reforms are to tackle the root causes of populism, global unrest, climate change and inequality”. [for some of my earlier posts on this topic: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/business-and-human…]

The experts stressed how Government and business leaders meeting in Davos wield the power and influence to set the world on a more inclusive and sustainable path. They recalled how world leaders had pledged “to realize the human rights of all” and “to leave no one behind” as core aspirations of United Nation Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, and called on business leaders to support this pledge.

Governments and businesses should use the occasion of Davos to announce concrete actions to bring about positive change”, the experts said. “First of all, Governments and businesses must act in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by taking steps to respect the rights of workers across supply chains and avoid that business operations cause or contribute to adverse human rights impacts”.

The experts welcomed that the 2018 World Economic Forum includes a session on the “Global Prospects for Human Rights”, on the occasion of this year’s 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the same time, they regretted that human rights were inadequately captured in the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2018, released on 17 January 2018.

We call on Governments and business leaders at Davos to remind reach other that human rights are not a fringe issue but at the very core of what needs to be done to address the most pressing global risks,” the experts concluded.

The UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was established by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011. Its current members are: Ms. Anita Ramasastry (current Chairperson), Mr. Michael Addo, Mr. Surya Deva, Mr. Dante Pesce (current Vice-Chairperson) and Mr. Pavel Sulyandziga.

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22603&LangID=E

 

University of New South Wales adds to its human rights institute

December 8, 2017

UNSW’s new centre of innovation on human rights is taking shape as the world marks Human Rights Day on 10 December.

eleanor_roosevelt.jpg

Former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Announced by UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs earlier this year, the Australian Human Rights Institute will further the interdisciplinary aims of the University’s 2025 Strategy  UNSW’s investment in the institute of $13 million to 2025 will allow research to be applied to real-world human rights violations, making an impact on communities in Australia and around the world when they are most in need of innovative responses.

Research will be focused on three areas: human rights and business, human rights and health, and gender justice. Australian Human Rights Institute Director Professor Louise Chappell says the new work will build on the strong foundations of the Australian Human Rights Centre, established in the Faculty of Law in 1986 and led for the past 13 years by Professor Andrea Durbach.

A cross-cutting theme emerging for the institute is the rapid advancement in technology, which has some negative human rights implications but also offers interesting new solutions. “It’s really clear that AI could create further frightening aspects of violence such as remotely controlling what’s happening in someone’s house,” Professor Chappell says. “But that same technology could also be turned around by victims of domestic violence, in this case, so that they’re able to protect themselves and link to support networks faster than ever before.”

Another aim of the Institute is to mentor the next cohort of rights defenders, linking emerging scholars with senior experts and UNSW’s deep networks in the human rights field.

The Institute will launch in early 2018 and is planning a program of lectures and other events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If you like to get updates about the Australian Human Rights Institute, sign up for emails here.

https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/business-law/new-unsw-institute-takes-shape-world-marks-human-rights-day