Samedi, Juin 24, 2017

Leadership and leverage: Embedding human rights in the rules and relationships that drive the global economy

Leadership and leverage: Embedding human rights in the rules and relationships that drive the global economy

Geneva 17/11/2016

Curtains close on 5th World Forum in Geneva.

Geneva 17/11/2016: The curtains have just been drawn on the 2016 world forum on business and human rights and historically so, the over 2500 delegates get back home with a fully loaded valise, not of Swiss chocolates but of ideals and standards that must be met in the area of business and human rights. With over 67 different sessions spread over three days and with an experienced array of speakers from governments, the business community, civil society, indigenous communities, the UN and other international organisations, the 2016 forum has been remarkable in that it created a sort of unanimity over the need to do more in developing regulatory frameworks at national level that help both governments and companies perform better respectively in human rights protection and respect. Best practices in development of National Action Plans on business and human rights need to be copied across all the countries and their development should be all inclusive to ensure that these do not contain gaps especially in relation to those affected communities and groups that are most often marginalized. Far from being an academic and theoretical exercise, this year's forum drew from wide on-the-field experiences and examples from the most complex cases of violations at different levels of the value chain to buttress the point that change is absolutely necessary and immediate. The CEO of Anglo-American for example puts it in these words "we learn more from the bad news stories". The compelling stories told during this forum, if made public, could trigger severe consumer action to sanction businesses that do not respect human rights by boycotting their products and services, or action by compliant multinationals to sanction some of their partners by cutting off partnerships for lack of human rights sensitivity. But the spirit of the forum was uniquely in line with the "leave no one behind" principle. According to Apple's example, while multinationals need to drag along their reticent subsidiaries and partners to better human rights compliance, rights holders also have to be part of the solutions creation process - consultations and participation in preparation of National Action Plans, representation in decision making on business issues that touch on their human rights etc.

The importance of effective remedial mechanisms especially judicial mechanisms has also been strongly emphasized and Governments challenged to take important steps to ensure access to remedy for victims of human rights abuses by ensuring the independent and effective functioning of judiciary mechanisms. However, the effectiveness of non-judicial mechanisms and grievance procedures cannot be overemphasized as these have proven preferably successful, timely and less costly compared to judicial mechanisms. Human rights are not an issue for the big companies and governments alone, but all businesses no matter how small. In this regards, reflection on how Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs) can be supported to meet their responsibility to respect human rights brought to light the fact that a large number of companies operate as SMEs and their awareness needs to be raised on human rights especially to void unacceptable patterns of behavior. Leadership and leverage: Embedding human rights in the rules and relationships that drive the global economy

Ahead to 2017 and beyond

During the closing session, it could be felt, and reasonably so, that while many people are fade up with purely political discourse that does not follow with meaningful action on the ground, the 2017 forum should focus on what achievements have been made over the past twelve months. This will give the forum the impetus it deserves to drive some power into governments’ desire to do more to implement the UN Guiding Principles. Testimonies of human rights defenders who have lost their lives defending communities against human rights violations by businesses left delegates thinking critically of the next steps. Should this critical thinking continue, then the 6th forum in 2017 is likely to generate more prospects than ever.

Fonyuy Kiven in Geneva