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Updated On: Tuesday, December 12 2017

Promoting Human Rights in Businesses

Content by: South-South News

29 November 2017, New York, USA | South-South News — Calling for more advocacy on human rights in business sectors, human rights experts reiterated that placing respect for human rights is at heart of new business models to ensure sustainable global supply chains.

Speaking at a UN forum on business and human rights, Peggy Hicks from the UN human rights office (OHCHR) highlighted the need to build a better understanding of human rights for the general public.

She reiterated that it matters as the world is rapidly changing and facing challenges such as conflicts and natural disasters, large-scale migration, renewed nationalist and populist movements.

The three-day forum opened in Geneva on November 27, bringing together more than 2,000 participants from trade unions, states, human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations, business and multinational organizations. The theme of the forum is “Realizing access to effective remedy.”

Human rights defenders called for states to meet their duty to protect human rights and for governments and business to empower human rights defenders for their role in improving business operations.

The Executive Director of OXFAM International, Winnie Byanyima, said, “It is important that they pay their fair share of taxes. Stop tax dodging because it is the revenues that they pay in taxes that pay for schools, clinics, roads, all the things that mostly poor people need to claim their rights – to lift themselves out of poverty and misery.”

Maryam Al-Khawaja, a Bahrain human rights defender, said, “When companies are going into countries to build business to invest and so on, they should be asking where are the human rights defenders? How are the women human rights defenders treated in those countries? And then make a decision on whether they are going to invest and help.”

Kalpona Akter, a human rights defender and labor rights advocate from Bangladesh said that the main challenge of businesses compensating workers is the lack of will power from the owners.

The success of the 2030 sustainable development agenda was also pegged to human rights. Marcela Manuben, the Vice President of Integrated Social Sustainability said “the SDGs present also a fantastic opportunity not only to society but to businesses because business cannot be healthy if it is not a healthy society.”

Byanyima also said that businesses must balance among “commercial interests, human rights and sustainable development,” instead of “trying to fit in the regulations.”

She explained that now the balance is in favor of businesses, as “commercial interests weigh heavily against the rights of workers, suppliers, the human rights of all the people in their supply chain.”

The forum examined gaps in in existing efforts and review emerging good practices and innovations in realizing access to effective ways of addressing grievances in business.

 

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