Human Rights Advocacy and Business (Philippines, 23rd-27th June, 2008)
Exploring current international norms, standards and mechanisms for more effective domestic advocacy on human rights in the context of violations committed by business enterprises is the main theme of the third Human Rights Advocacy and Business held in Manila, Philippines on 23-27 June 2008. More than thirty participants from various parts of the Asia Pacific region – Australia, India, Fiji, Indonesia, Philippines, China, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Bangladesh, and Cambodia - gathered together to learn, share and enhance their capacities and skills on human rights and business.
‘Business can be an ally if harnessed; if unharnessed it could be detrimental’, thus the words of wisdom uttered by the Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines, Stale Torstein Risa, at the opening of the program. Recognizing the need of third world countries for business opportunities to spark economic development, the ambassador further posed a vital question: should it be a ban against multinational companies or good governance and good business practices that must be observed?
Indeed, as profit is still the primary motivating factor for business, even the latter option could be difficult to implement. This and the fact that corporate entities are composed of undemocratically elected men and women make it more problematic to transfer human rights obligations from the states to corporations. Gerald Pachoud, the special adviser to the United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary General (SRSG) on Human Rights and Business, Prof. John Ruggie, presented the report of the SRSG’s two-year mandate in mapping out current international standards and practices regarding business and human rights. The SRSG report brings back the centrality of the state’s duty to protect human rights from the excesses of business activities. But it also points out the emergence of a growing body of international standards by which corporations could be made accountable, directly or indirectly, to individuals and communities.
As a whole, the program was a huge success. Based on the evaluation of the participants, the program met its objectives and the participants’ expectations in enhancing their knowledge and skills particularly on emerging global standards and mechanisms on human rights and business. The program likewise provided them with a region-wide network of human rights advocates with whom they can establish links and solidarity. After the program, the participants have found a vast network within which to seek for advice or even for words of encouragement and support.
The Project Report is here.