Information & Communication Technology

Bridging Sport and Human Rights in Africa

17 April 2019

By Alison Biscoe, Manager, Programmes & Partnerships, Centre for Sport and Human Rights (hosted by IHRB)

This article was first published on the Centre for Sport & Human Rights. IHRB founded the Centre in 2018, is supporting its development through 2020, and is closely involved in the developing work featured in this article.


 

Sport has a strong footprint across all 54 African nations, and Africa as a continent appears increasingly interested in playing a more prominent role in the hosting of future sporting events.

South Africa hosted the continent’s first World Cup in 2010, and Morocco appears keen to be the second, with its bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and discussions about potentially bidding again for 2030 with neighbouring countries. The International Olympic Committee has also looked to Africa for potential hosts, and only accepted bids from African countries for the next Summer Youth Olympics in 2022. Senegal was selected and will become the first African nation to host an Olympic event in just three years’ time.

Sport has a strong footprint across all 54 African nations.

These are encouraging developments for Africa on multiple levels. But hosting such events also carries risks for people linked to sport - from athletes to construction workers to fans, just to name a few.

 

Two Disparate Worlds

To advance dialogue on the challenges and opportunities of hosting major sporting events in African countries, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights recently hosted a roundtable discussion in Rabat, Morocco. The workshop was attended by a range of participants including African National Olympic Committees (NOCs) from the Olympic, Commonwealth, and Francophonie sporting traditions.

The dialogue in Rabat also benefited from the perspectives of human rights experts.

Africa is home to more National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) than any other continent.

Africa is home to more National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) than any other continent – 32 in total. NHRIs are well placed to engage with their counterparts in the world of sport to ensure that human rights are respected at every stage in the event lifecycle. A growing number of African countries have taken positive first steps towards developing national action plans on business and human rights (NAP) which are also of relevance to the world of sport. Six countries are currently in the development phase of new NAPs (Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zambia), and a further four countries are engaging with their respective NHRIs or local civil society organisations to develop NAPs (Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania).

These foundations hold strong potential for bridging two well established, but disparate, communities on the continent – that of sport on the one hand, and human rights on the other. 

 

Seizing the Opportunity

During the workshop, it was recognised that significant human rights developments on the continent have been “reactive” responses to atrocities, such as apartheid in South Africa, or the genocide in Rwanda. Too often, human rights are presented as punitive and legalistic responses with too little attention to holistic thinking about what might happen in future, how to mitigate risks, and ultimately, how to use a human rights-based approach to create and maximise opportunities.

In other words, rights-based interventions and conversations in Africa have not always been associated with solutions or opportunities. This could be true too of developments around sport, if the sport and human rights movement is not careful.

Rghts-based interventions and conversations in Africa have not always been associated with solutions or opportunities. This could be true of developments around sport, if the sport and human rights movement is not careful.

The actors responsible for the activities, products, and operations of sport – sports bodies, local organising committees, hosts, and other organisers, from the grassroots to the elite – have the responsibility to prevent adverse impacts their work can pose to people, and remedy harms that do occur. These range from safeguarding against abuses to children in and around sport, ensuring equal access for fans, preventing displacement of communities hosting sporting events, as well as addressing risks of trafficking or forced labour. 

At the same time, prevention and remedy strategy is inextricably linked with the question of legacy.

Sporting events are often proposed to municipalities as having multiple long-term benefits, such as improved infrastructure, job opportunities and development of local communities. The challenge lies in making sure these benefits are realised in practice, and felt by the majority of the local people. There has been a notable trend towards public referenda to decide whether hosting a major event is something the local population wants, and in the majority of cases, people have actually voted against hosting. This is largely because, historically, local populations are simply not seeing the benefits of these events. 

A human rights-based approach offers the opportunity to redefine “legacy” of sporting events and what they can bring to communities hosting them. Beyond the positive power sport holds in uniting otherwise disparate and divided groups and people, a rights-based approach can also legitimise sporting events by helping ensure tangible benefits are felt by those most affected. Sports activities and sporting events can be a catalyst for positive social, economic and environmental impact going forward, but only if respect for human rights is part of the equation.

Prevention and remedy strategy is inextricably linked with the question of legacy.

 

Bridging the Divide

Our discussions in Rabat identified four key concepts that are critical to embedding human rights in African sport:

  1. The reasons why respect for human rights is part of the business of sporting organisations need to be clear and incentivised – that means national and local implementing organisations with limited resources need easy to use guidance and capacity support.
     
  2. The positive human rights and development opportunities linked to sport and hosting sporting events also need to be clear to national human rights organisations, so that they can support their national sports federations in adopting human rights-based approaches.
     
  3. By embedding human rights into ongoing processes around issues such as child safeguarding and sustainable development, the benefits of a rights-based approach will be more readily demonstrable to those responsible for successful delivery of sport and sporting events.
     
  4. While many countries experience similar human rights challenges, the methods of tackling them between Francophone and Anglophone countries are sometimes different. These differences must be recognised and respected as there is much to be learned from all countries in advancing respect for rights.


The Centre for Sport and Human Rights is committed to working with partners in Africa and helping build understanding and collective action on the links between sport and human rights. There is a great opportunity now to come together and ensure that the positive power of sport is maximised and that meaningful legacy is ensured. We thank all those who joined us in Rabat for a valuable discussion that we look forward to building on this in the months and years ahead.

 
 

Information & Communication Technology

The Gig Economy Doesn’t Have to be an Exploitative Economy

16 April 2019

By Mick Rix, National Officer, GMB Union

On the 4th February 2019 the UK Union GMB and international courier company Hermes announced a ground-breaking deal. Their collective-bargaining agreement – the first ever recognition deal of its type – has potentially enormous implications for gig economy workers in the UK and possibly further afield.

 

Ensuring Workers' Rights Are Central in the Future of Work

As a result of engagement between the two organisations, Hermes’ 15,000 courier drivers, previously categorised as self-employed, can now choose to become ‘self-employed plus’.  This provides benefits such as holiday pay and individually negotiated pay rates that allow couriers to earn at least £8.55 per hour over the year.  In addition, those self-employed plus couriers that join the GMB Union will benefit from full GMB representation.

GMB has been calling attention to companies classifying their workers as self-employed in order to avoid certain employer responsibilities and costs. 

GMB has been calling attention to companies classifying their workers as self-employed in order to avoid certain employer responsibilities and costs.

GMB’s case against Uber, for example, made international headlines when the company that has come to be known as the poster child for the gig economy was told by the UK Court of appeal its business model undermined employment rights in the UK, and that its drivers had to be classed as ‘workers’ within the meaning of the UK law. Uber is now appealing to the UK Supreme Court in a persistent and prolongud attempt to resist employer status over its workers.

GMB had backed a case against Hermes at an employment tribunal on behalf of 194 drivers who were fighting to be recognised as workers rather than self-employed. In June 2018 the employment tribunal ruled the couriers were wrongly classified as self-employed and were in fact workers. However, the UK legal system does not recognise class actions - so the court’s ruling does not automatically apply to all Hermes couriers.

In a choice all too rare in the business world, Hermes decided to engage with GMB in a series of confidential negotiations – rather than pursue an appeal against the ruling.

Despite this, in a choice all too rare in the business world, Hermes decided to engage with GMB in a series of confidential negotiations – rather than pursue an appeal against the ruling.

After a series of meetings, and a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing, GMB and Hermes arrived at a resolution. We negotiated a collective agreement, covering all couriers, offering an opt-in model to give enhanced conditions to the couriers who wanted them.

 

Self-Employed Plus

The so-called ‘self-employed plus’ model gives drivers the right to paid holidays, with an arrangement for cover to be provided by Hermes. It also includes enhanced payments, protection of earnings so they don't fall below the minimum wage, fair treatment if couriers go on emergency leave or need medical treatment, and a union recognition agreement, which allows for collective bargaining and representation.

Whether drivers opt in or not, all will have the right to GMB representation.

GMB and Hermes are still in the early stages of finalising the agreement, and the self-employed plus model is still to be rolled out to the wider workforce. But the model illustrates the choices all companies engaging in the gig economy must face up to. You can either wait until Government ensures there is legal framework – which could be some time. Or good employers and good trade unions can do what has shaped industrial relations for more than 130 years; sit down, talk, and reach an agreement.

Full credit to Hermes. They’re showing that the gig economy doesn’t have to be an exploitative economy. 

The gig economy presents important dilemmas for workers, businesses, and unions.

Workers get flexibility and autonomy, but fewer rights, freedoms, and benefits. Companies get a flexible workforce it can deploy as it chooses, but may not get worker loyalty. Unions find it harder to organise or collectively support workers who are not formally recognised as such by employers. It also poses challenges within organisations where part of the workforce is unionised, as it does with competing firms or business models that must reckon with existing laws covering labour-management relationships.

Finding the sweet spot is not easy; the GMB-Hermes agreement shows a possible way forward.

As James Moore of the UK Independent said, “It is to the credit of all those involved, and an example of what can be achieved outside of a broken political system if people put their minds to it. And it has the potential to serve as a way forward for other companies operating on a similar model to Hermes which have come under sustained, and largely justified, attack in recent years.” 

Full credit to Hermes. They’re showing that the gig economy doesn’t have to be an exploitative economy. Other employers both in the UK and worldwide should take notice that this is how it’s done.

Other employers both in the UK and worldwide should take notice that this is how it’s done.

 

 

Image: Maarten van den Heuvel

Information & Communication Technology

Rights and Wrongs - Can Machines Override Human Judgment on Air Safety?

28 March 2019

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Over the years, air travel has become remarkably safe – in 1977, four out of one million flights met with accidents; today, the number of flights has grown exponentially, and the accident rate has fallen to 0.4 out of a million. Air travel is safer than most other modes of transport. Many more people die in road accidents each year than in air crashes.

Initial accounts reveal practices that are deeply troubling for their potential impacts on passenger safety.

And yet, trust in air safety is now shaken. Two crashes within five months involving a modern aeroplane – the Boeing 737 Max – have raised serious concerns. Investigators are examining evidence from the two crashes – in Indonesia in October (in which 189 died) and in Ethiopia in March (in which 157 died) – and before long we will know what happened. Initial accounts reveal practices that are deeply troubling for their potential impacts on passenger safetyand underscore the need for more rigorous due diligence. 

The first concerns the process of developing and operating new planes and pressures to cut corners. True, accidents, including freak occurrences, can occur. Equipment can malfunction. But most journeys are expected to be uneventful precisely because of the magnificent choreography of pilots, air traffic controllers, mechanics, designers, and many others. 

Designing, developing, and manufacturing new aeroplanes takes time, and competitive pressures compel companies to speed up the process.

Designing, developing, and manufacturing new aeroplanes takes time, and competitive pressures compel companies to speed up the process. Competition also forces downward pressure on costs, which means manufacturers offer no-frills planes, adding features and charging more for them, and seek ways to keep adding earnings over time. That’s fine with what are genuine frills, such as entertainment equipment on board, but not so if it involves upgrading safety features. According to a New York Times report, Ethiopian and Lion Air, which suffered the recent crashes, had not installed optional updates for which Boeing was charging extra. To be sure, the updates were not required by regulators, and many other airlines have not paid for those updates.

Ethiopian and Lion Air had not installed optional updates for which Boeing was charging extra.

Boeing’s business strategy compels it to cut costs because rival Airbus has been making rapid in-roads. Boeing decided to upgrade its existing aircraft – 737 – as a quicker option than developing a new plane, which would have taken another decade to receive regulatory approvals. An enhanced 737 requires fewer regulatory approvals, the reasoning went. Boeing also benefited from a US fast-track approval process in operation since 2005. Initial reports suggest the 737 Max crashes occurred because a new automated anti-stall system (known as MCAS) possibly functioned in unanticipated ways. The aircraft, all 371 of which are now grounded worldwide, has 5,000 orders worth $600 billion. This has implications beyond Boeing, and could affect the US economy.

Commercial exigencies should not prevail over safety concerns.

Commercial exigencies should not prevail over safety concerns. And while it is too early to tell if deregulation led to procedural short-cuts that allowed 737 Max to start flying commercially earlier, the fact is that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permits Boeing to self-regulate certain aspects of its manufacturing, as the Wall Street Journal reported. This meant qualified, FAA-trained Boeing employees monitor and evaluate certain production processes and certify to make the plane airworthy. Without questioning the integrity of the individuals involved, this is problematic at many levels; in particular, it raises the second major problem – of conflict of interest.

If individuals certifying aircrafts are also employed by the manufacturer, they will inevitably face dilemmas. There is no off-the-shelf ‘right’ answer when such arrangements are in place, but this raises many questions the company has to ask constantly. That is why an independent authority – public or private – should be certifying crucial manufacturing processes. 

The other conflict is more critical – of regulatory capture, although the US is not the only country affected by it. Boeing has 30 in-house lobbyists and 16 outside firms representing its interests over tax laws, defence contracts, and other regulatory measures, including safety. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Federal lobbying records show that more than 10 of Boeing’s government-affairs staff lobbied the FAA last year on the issue of certification as the company worked to bring new airplane models to market.” In 2018, Boeing spent $15.1 million on lobbying, which made it the fourth-largest lobbyist among companies, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics. Lobbying is not illegal, nor should it be. It has to be transparent.

The state’s duty to protect, in this case, implies ensuring that its regulation is fit for the purpose of ensuring safety.

It is a matter of concern where the US Congressman who chairs the sub-committee that oversees the FAA represents a district in Washington State where Boeing is a large employer. The industry and some politicians have applied pressure on the FAA to make safety reviews quicker and less costly while ensuring safety. This ought to raise questions because it can lead to regulatory decisions that can have adverse impacts on human rights, including the right to life, safety, security, and correspondingly, the company’s duty of care to its employees and its customers. US lawmakers are concerned. Several are focusing on the Organization Designation Authorization programme, under which the FAA delegates some aspects of safety certification to the manufacturer. Senator Richard Blumenthal says the programme leaves “the fox guarding the henhouse.” Congressional hearings starting this week will be an opportunity for lawmakers to examine the issues in detail, in particular the self-audits. This goes to the heart of the UN’s Protect-Respect-Remedy framework for business and human rights. The state’s duty to protect, in this case, implies ensuring that its regulation is fit for the purpose of ensuring safety. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights comes into play because the company has the responsibility to conduct due diligence to minimize risks to human rights, and it must change practices that may have allowed any short-cuts in its own audits and be willing to accept external examination. And lawmakers must develop an adequate remedy that prevents the recurrence of procedures or practices that permit abuses.  

The third problem goes beyond politics and concerns our faith in technology. Human error can cloud sound judgment; technology is meant to make it easier to avoid mistakes. An air crash is often a combination of mechanical and human error, and to eliminate the latter, manufacturers have attempted to create fail-safe technological solutions. But no technology is perfect, and there are always margins of error.

Humans are fallible, which is why technology takes over some repetitive and tedious tasks, so pilots are free to respond to unusual situations and the probability of making an error is reduced. While Boeing’s philosophy relies on empowering the pilot, Airbus has focused on getting the technology right.

This is not the place to comment on which approach is superior, nor am I qualified to draw any conclusions. But it is fair to say that excessive reliance on technology can pose serious problems – not only in nightmarish sci-fi scenarios like in the Arthur C Clarke story (which Stanley Kubrick made into the mesmerising film, 2001: A Space Odyssey), where the supercomputer HAL takes over the operations of the space mission), but in more humdrum matters. 

Can artificial intelligence be relied upon to make more rational choices always?

This goes beyond aviation: more and more industries are exploring the possibility of machine-learning replacing human intelligence – driverless trains, trucks and cars, for example. Can artificial intelligence be relied upon to make more rational choices always? Binary codes follow outwardly rational approaches, relying on “if-then” scenarios, or choosing between several options to arrive at specific outcomes based on algorithms developed by the engineers. Its effect on human rights can pose problems that philosophers have found hard to grapple with, such as in the moral dilemma posed by the runaway trolley. Human intelligence is critical, guided by thinking that takes into account human rights impacts, so that decisions made do not have adverse consequences. (Should it be a machine that decides whether an aircraft with 250 passengers running short of fuel should make an emergency landing on water or in a densely-populated area, with casualties certain in both scenarios?) 

In other words, relying on technology to anticipate and mitigate risks is limited by the ability of that technology to respond to every risk in a manner that is consistent with human rights protection as the overriding objective. We simply don’t understand the risks of automated aeroplanes, as veteran pilot Jeff Wise wrote recently; and that means we can’t let our judgment be outsourced to a machine. While all risks cannot be eliminated, digging deeper to understand the potential impacts of each decision on people is the very least we should expect of companies. That should be Boeing’s focus now. 

 

Photo: Christine Alalo, who died in the Ethiopian plane crash (Credit Flickr/AMISON)

Information & Communication Technology

Acting on India’s POSH Act

21 March 2019

By Anita Cheria, Director, OpenSpace

Workplace Sexual Harassment Law Needs Effective Implementation 

For more than a year, India has been stunned by women journalists, students, actors, and other women professionals throughout the country who have gone public with accounts of sexual harassment they have experienced at the hands of colleagues, supervisors, and other men in prominent positions. This has started a long overdue conversation about the experiences of women in the workplace. The global Me Too campaign in combination with Indian media women talking about their own experiences of sexual harassment has helped in drawing public attention to women survivors and scrutiny to the implementation of the POSH Act.  Women who work on the factory floor, as well as women who work in agriculture have long complained of sexual harassment. Some individuals and networks have expressed solidarity with the women in professional and executive positions now speaking out.

One major contribution of the POSH Act has been in defining sexual harassment as a crime.

The POSH Act

In India, the legislation that addresses sexual harassment at work is the Sexual Harassment Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, known as the POSH Act. It drew from the pre-existing “Vishakha Guidelines” issued by the Supreme Court in 1997. The Bill was introduced in 2007, tabled in Parliament in 2010 and passed by the lower house in September 2012. The long process gained momentum in the aftermath of the December 2012 rape of a young student in Delhi that led to mobilisation both in the streets and in the setting up of the Justice Verma Committee. It was passed by the upper house in February 2013 and given presidential assent in April 2013. It took two brutal gang rapes - one 1992 and other in 2012 - to get our act together as a nation. 

The POSH Act defines sexual harassment and includes complaints mechanisms. It requires that an Internal Committee (IC) be set up within every establishment that has 10 or more workers to examine and investigate matters within the workplace. The sections deal with the committee’s formation, the appointment of its members, their duties, and the committee’s process and procedures. 

With respect to State duties, the Act mandates that every district must have a Local Committee (LC) to deal with complaints in establishments with less than ten workers or against employers individually. The LCs are mandated to take up cases involving informal workers, and to function as the contact point for reporting and monitoring. The LC is comprised of a woman as chairperson who has experience in social work, a woman who is working in the local government, two persons from NGOs, at least one of whom should be a woman. The officer in the district dealing with social welfare or women and child development in the district, regardless of their gender is an ex officio member. Of these members, at least one must belong to a scheduled caste, a scheduled tribe or a minority community notified by the government (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are socially-disadvantaged groups recognised by the Constitution of India and protected by various laws).

The Good 

One major contribution of the POSH Act has been in defining sexual harassment as a crime, as well as detailing its various forms – physical and emotional, implicit and explicit actions, and defining the entire spectrum of sexual harassment as ‘unwelcome’. Another positive aspect of the Act in the Indian context is that compliance, such as constituting committees and ensuring publicity, has to be demonstrated by business establishments. These make visible an all-pervasive behaviour that Indian society has for too long pretended does not exist. Consequently, it has made it possible to break the silence on sexual harassment and opened conversations on sexual harassment at the workplace among management and workers. 

It is often difficult for a woman to prove her case. The threat of a penalty if she fails to provide sufficient evidence will be yet another deterrent to reporting abuses.

The Bad

However, the line of responsibility with respect to government departments is not clearly spelt out. For instance, which department (Women and Child Welfare, Police, Labour, Social Justice or the Women’s Commission) is in charge and to whom should district officers submit annual reports? These are not clearly defined in the law, nor has a pattern of cooperation between duty bearers been mapped. Another challenge involves the fact that it is often difficult for a woman to prove her case. The threat of a penalty if she fails to provide sufficient evidence will be yet another deterrent to reporting abuses.

The Risk

While the law covers several categories of workers, in practice both the nature of sexual harassment and the access to remedies and justice differs depending on the often intertwined position of the woman worker, her work space, the establishment, her status within it, her wages/salary, and her social support system.  

For women from the working class, registering a complaint is perceived to be a risk and often actually is.

For women from the working class, registering a complaint is perceived to be a risk and often actually is. Many women can’t afford to take the risk, aggravated by power imbalance due to low pay, precarious employment due to contractual or non-formal employment status, being the sole family breadwinner, having low family support, and lack of worker organisations and unions.

In many sectors, women are not in managerial positions. In such cases the women who complain are seen as adversaries who disturb business operations, including the pace of production, and are disliked by the management because they have questioned the line of authority. In most cases factory workers find that resigning from one organisation and joining another is their most feasible option, as their ability to take risks is low. Migrant workers are even more vulnerable, as they find these options difficult to exercise. 

To enable working women to benefit from the law, it is important first to recognise the impediments to their agency in engaging with grievance mechanisms. More efforts are needed to increase their capacity to raise complaints.  Necessary measures include paying a living wage to all workers, especially in industries with a large women workforce, is a critical step. For such workers, complaining about harassment could mean adverse response from management, and the loss of job or wages could mean denial of basic needs. Without a living wage, they are unable to have any savings or financial security that would allow them to take any steps that would put their jobs at risk.

Support from co-workers and senior management is key to build confidence among workers to register complaints.

Support from co-workers and senior management is key to build confidence among workers to register complaints. Senior management can play a decisive role by promoting a conducive atmosphere. Top management should set standards for supervisors on factory floors and in middle management. They should be at the forefront of efforts to stop practices of gender-based violence and to demonstrate zero tolerance for sexual harassment. 

When the State Fails in its Duty

The failure to pinpoint the ultimate responsibility of implementation and monitoring on a particular government department impedes the ability to take any action.

Public interest and involvement in drafting the bill dissipated considerably when it came to the implementation of the Act. As public scrutiny waned over time, the government managed to shift attention regarding implementation of the Act to the private sector. In debates surrounding flaws in the implementation of this Act, companies and establishments face criticism, and rightly so. But the role of the government is almost never discussed or highlighted due to the lack of awareness among the pubic on the details of the Act. There are several key responsibilities of implementation and monitoring that come under the mandate of the ‘appropriate government’, which may be the State or Central government according to the workplace in question. However, the Act has not identified any particular department or departments specifically for these duties and this ambiguity in the line of responsibility has been a significant impediment to the implementation. The failure to pinpoint the ultimate responsibility of implementation and monitoring on a particular government department or official impedes the ability of even concerned and well informed citizens to take any action or lobby. Even the government officials are not clear on who should take the lead.

With 75% to 95% of workers in India employed in establishments with less than ten workers, the constitution and functioning of the Local Committees are critical for the success of this Act. In August 2018, a civil society organisation had to get court orders to force the government to constitute Local Committees in Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka it was done a year earlier, after repeated requests under the Right to Information Act asking for details were posted to the state Women’s Commission. Experience shows that in many of the Indian states where the local committees have been formed, they are inaccessible and rarely publicised, though they are key to the implementation of the POSH Act. 

It is imperative that the government define the chain of responsibility.

The implementation of the Act is not the sole responsibility of the private sector. The state cannot abdicate its responsibilities as the majority of the workforce in India are not in establishments that are mandated to have ICs but would be directly under the purview of the LCs, which are solely the responsibility of the government. Thus it is even more imperative that the government define the chain of responsibility. While the Women’s Commission has taken the lead, the Labour Department, the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the State Legal Services Authority and the police need to focus their efforts and coordinate their actions. 

Information & Communication Technology

Dangerous Words, Deadly Weapons

19 March 2019

By Scott Jerbi, Senior Advisor, Policy & Outreach, IHRB

Business Leadership Needed to Confront Growing Extremism

The horrific killing of at least 50 people in two New Zealand mosques is a tragic reminder of twin viruses attacking our societies - growing anti-immigrant, nationalist and racist rhetoric combined with largely unrestricted access in some countries to semi-automatic weapons. 

Stopping the spread of radical extremism and putting in place sensible gun laws are urgent tasks. Different countries understandably confront these challenges in different ways. But any response must recognise that negligent corporate practices have contributed significantly to the current situation and that business leaders should be part of the fightback. 

Negligent corporate practices have contributed significantly to the current situation and business leaders should be part of the fightback. 

A broad range of companies are linked to events like those last week in New Zealand - from gun manufacturers to retailers, advertising agencies, the financial industry and social media outlets, among others. These industries all have responsibilities and shouldn’t wait for governments before exercising due diligence and addressing adverse social impacts linked to their operations, products or relationships.

For gun manufacturers, the list of needed actions is long. For starters, safety advocates have long called for practical steps to reduce gun-related deaths including by building in or adding on safety features to child-proof guns and make them useless to those who are unauthorised to fire them. Activists have also urged gun makers to support more responsible distribution chains and in recent years have teamed up with investors to demand greater industry commitment to safety and transparency. The lack of constructive responses from major gun makers to such proposals is unacceptable.

Activists have urged gun makers to support more responsible distribution chains.

Companies who make weapons and those that market them must accept responsibility for the influence of their advertising campaigns. Just a day before the attacks in New Zealand, the state supreme court in the US state of Connecticut ruled that gun manufacturers can be sued for wrongful marketing claims under a state law on unfair trade practices. Those bringing the suit on behalf of families whose children were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre contend that weapons manufacturers are negligent by their use of marketing campaigns promoting military-style weapons, particularly to young men. As media reports have pointed out, the weapon used at Sandy Hook was advertised as “the ultimate combat weapons system” with the tag line “Consider your man card reissued”. This case is a potentially important legal development that if successful could force restrictions on gun advertising in the US with international implications as we've seen previously for tobacco and alcohol products.   

Banks and credit card providers also have roles to play in addressing gun violence. A 2018 New York Times report found that many individuals who carried out mass killings in the US purchased large numbers of high-powered weapons and ammunition with credit cards. The report notes that financial firms and credit card operators have so far resisted efforts to address this problem saying “it is not their responsibility to create systems to track gun purchases that would allow them to report suspicious patterns”. Some suggest major retail companies like Walmart may be the biggest obstacle to further action in this area as they would likely oppose steps by banks or credit card companies to limit the kinds of products that can be purchased. It should be noted that in 2015, Walmart ended sales of high-powered AR-15 style weapons and does not sell high-capacity ammunition magazines or similar accessories. The same can’t be said for many other online outlets and retailers in the US and elsewhere. 

Concerns continue to grow over the role of social media companies in providing massive platforms for extremist rhetoric to take root and spread.

But addressing the safety of and access to powerful weapons is only one part of this story. Concerns continue to grow over the role of social media companies in providing massive platforms for extremist rhetoric to take root and spread. Commentators have pointed out that the recent tragedy in New Zealand “felt like a first - an internet-native mass shooting… teased on Twitter, announced on the online message board 8chan and broadcast live on Facebook. The footage was then replayed endlessly on YouTube, Twitter and Reddit, as the platforms scrambled to take down the clips nearly as fast as new copies popped up to replace them.” 

There is growing evidence to suggest that firms like Google, as part of technical developments designed to expand user time on their sites, have ended up leading viewers to more extreme and inflammatory online content. As one expert puts it, “As we click and click, we are carried along by the exciting sensation of uncovering more secrets and deeper truths” leading viewer sin many cases to extremist materials while the companies involved continue to “rack up the ad sales”.

While exposure to racist rhetoric and images won’t cause most people to embrace violence, for some individuals it tragically appears to be the case that a steady stream of such materials may contribute to tragic results. Following the attacks in New Zealand, commentators are asking what more should be done by these companies, with some suggesting measures such as requiring social media platforms to delay live broadcasts or streaming. They clearly must be more vigilant in efforts to counter the mainstreaming of extreme rhetoric their platforms are currently enabling.

We need to hear the combined voices of business leaders speaking up and challenging their peers.

The central question remains: What should we expect of business? The resurgence of extremism and related violence have been marginalised for too long. These issues cry out for more responsible leadership on the part of politicians and it is encouraging that New Zealand’s government is already taking action to put forward new gun laws in response to last week’s events. But we shouldn’t forget that the leaders of weapons manufacturers, media and technology firms, and many others must also step up.

We need to hear the combined voices of business leaders speaking up on and challenging their peers on these subjects just as they increasingly are on issues like tackling climate change and ensuring equality in the workplace and in wider society. In the wake of the New Zealand tragedy, some business leaders like Paul Polman have expressed their concern, but we should hear the same and more from global business networks and industry groupings. As one example of where their voices matter, business leaders should be calling on the over 90 governments that have still not done so to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted by the UN in 2013 to regulate international trade in conventional arms and prevent and eradicate the illicit trade of these weapons. 

Business leaders should be calling on the over 90 governments that have still not done so to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty.

Finding solutions to the scourges of dangerous words and deadly weapons is no simple task. It will require business working alongside governments, civil society representatives, experts and all who have been victimised. Business must be part of the response to these growing threats to societies around the world. 

 

Photo credit: Flickr/Mark McGuire

Information & Communication Technology

Comments on the Thai National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

15 March 2019

IHRB has submitted comments on the proposed Thai National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP), which has been proposed by the Thai Government's Department of Rights and Liberties Protection.  

IHRB supports the introduction of a Thai NAP - the first in South East Asia. IHRB welcomes the recognition of migrant workers as a significant and ubiquitous feature of all business sectors in Thailand, and the fact that expectations and obligations on business are matched by clear commitments from the Government.

IHRB also welcomes acknowledgement within the NAP that businesses recruiting migrant workforces be responsible for the costs of recruitment, in line with the Employer Pays Principle.

IHRB recommends that the Thai government should: 

  • work with foreign governments to ensure inclusion and non-discrimination of migrant workers coming to Thailand;
  • provide clear, unambiguous guidance for Thai companies about how they should undertake effective due diligence;
  • provide guidance for establishing grievance mechanisms to all business stakeholders. 

Read the full submission

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Migrant Worker Updates from the Gulf and South East Asia

14 March 2019

IHRB's Migrant Workers Programme staff members provide updates from Qatar, Thailand and Myanmar on sector-wide progress. For more information on the work and upcoming events of IHRB and the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, visit our Migrant Worker pages

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Stephen Ekka on Tea Workers in Assam

28 February 2019

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 17.04MB - Duration: 12:24 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

In this podcast, Stephen Ekka of PAJHRA, an indigenous organisation working for the tea workers in Assam, talks to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about his work fighting to improve pay, and working and living conditions of workers in the tea plantations of Assam. The tea workers are currently paid up to half the national minimum wage, and are exposed to chemicals in the course of their work; rates of tuberculosis are high, and education for dependants is minimal. Stephen describes a complaint filed through the World Bank Ombudsman for better wages - "the cup that cheers should not be the cup of tears". The case was ultimately challenged by the employers in the High Court and dismissed, but he continues to fight for their rights. 

Stephen is a first-generation educated in a family of tea workers. His grandparents were brought with a large group of Oraon, Munda and other tribes from Jharkhand to work in the tea plantation. He is a post-graduate in economics. He has been working for 20 years among the Adivasi tea workers in Assam. 

PAJHRA is a non-profit organisation started by educated Adivasis from Assam working for the rights and entitlement of Adivasis in the tea plantations and adjoining villages. They work among the women, children and tea plantation workers. During the last 15 years, the organisation has been able to mobilise youth and women and strengthened their platforms.

Information & Communication Technology

Rights and Wrongs - Amazon and New York: Lessons for the Extractive Sector

25 February 2019

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

The unraveling of Amazon’s plans to set up its second headquarters at Long Island City in New York is a unique moment in the annals of corporate interface with communities opposed to their presence. 

In most instances, companies have won the argument, either by offering better concessions (such as investing in local projects), providing more local jobs, winning the core support of local politicians, and sometimes, by relying on the state to use force, as has happened when extractive industries operate in areas where local communities oppose the projects. 

The history of business and human rights is replete with examples of things going spectacularly wrong in this context, with companies operating in territories that turned hostile towards them, raising further risks of conflict, which inevitably leads to more human rights abuses. 

 

Background

The lessons that the Amazon experience offers are important, because they show the importance of community consent before major projects are undertaken. 

The lessons that the Amazon experience offers are important, because they show the importance of community consent before major projects are undertaken. At the same time, the experience is also limited, because other companies do not have the choice Amazon has (of shifting elsewhere), and other communities do not have the option of turning down a major investment. That one of the largest corporations in the world, owned by the man who is at the moment the wealthiest in the world, decided to walk away from a project because of sizeable opposition in the world's most important financial centre, and in a country that believes in free markets (albeit, regulated by democratic means), is remarkable.

Comparisons are imperfect, but examples from the extractive industries have shown that communities are not always effective in stopping projects they oppose. 

Think of the struggles around the world – farmers near Letpadaung mine in Monywa, Myanmar who are challenging a Chinese-owned copper mine; the Ogoni people against Shell in the Niger Delta; the inhabitants near Lake Boeung Kak in Phnom Penh; or the ongoing saga of indigenous communities facing off a bauxite mine in Orissa.

In each of those instances, powerful corporations have the support of the state, which sees those projects to be of strategic importance, and together, the collective will of state and corporation has usually prevailed. Sometimes there are setbacks – oil companies do not operate in Ogoniland, for example, which has more to do with the significant backlash Shell faced after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders by the Nigerian dictatorship in 1995. But setbacks in some countries have not stopped projects in other countries going ahead regardless of risks of human rights abuses.

Mining and other extractive companies have usually had their way. Amazon didn’t. 

There is one crucial difference between Amazon and an extractive industry, and that is factor endowment.

There is one crucial difference between Amazon and an extractive industry, and that is factor endowment. Amazon had the choice to shift its operations elsewhere. Extractive industries do not have this luxury; they must operate where the resources are. And that is why they should consider it to be an even greater responsibility to be good neighbours with the community around them, and not exacerbate their weaknesses and vulnerability. They must enable them to prosper, rather than live in a cocoon protected by barbed wire and armed guards. 

That crucial difference is visible most in another epic struggle in the United States – between native American communities opposing the North Dakota Pipeline and large corporations. The contrast is glaring. Those who opposed Amazon succeeded; those opposing the pipeline have not.

It also shows the sad reality of different rules for different folks. A company has little choice but to respond to concerns when articulated by urban middle class in a teeming metropolis – if it is consumer-facing, it has reputational issues to consider, too. But if they are operating “out there,” away from the cities, and doesn’t have a brand name to be challenged, and if those fighting for their rights are relatively powerless, then companies find it easier to get their way. That doesn’t say much about equality and human rights, but says much about the way the world is.

 

Many Questions

...if they are operating “out there,” away from the cities, then companies find it easier to get their way.

And yet, the Amazon case raises many questions - many reports suggest that the majority of local residents and key local politicians in fact supported Amazon’s plans, yet it withdrew.

Why did such a powerful corporation backtrack even though it seemed as if the majority of local residents either didn’t mind the project or supported it? Was the opposition really widespread? Was it truly a great project for the city or were there major valid concerns? What would be the impact of the withdrawl on the local economy? Did the company walk away too early without offering a compromise that would have made everyone happy? Where did the company's approach go wrong? Or did Amazon withdraw as a warning to other communities, that it would simply take its business elsewhere, if the communities protested too much? 

The answers include aspects of everything mentioned above.

It is true that Amazon saw itself as doing a big favour to New York – it wanted cities to bid for its business and sought concessions from local governments by seeking tax rebates. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with companies seeking favours, provided those favours do not come at the cost of the city’s obligations. In the past, however, companies that have sought favours and set up businesses (even after invoking eminent domain), have not always fulfilled promises, and sometimes even closed shop when market conditions have changed (as seen in the landmark caseKelo v City of New London - I wrote about it here in 2009). 

While Amazon did talk about the high-paying jobs that would be created, it didn’t appear to sufficiently address local concerns about impacts on property pricesreal estatetrafficjobs for local people who may not be skilled software engineers, and so on. It also read the local political mood badly – Queens is the region of New York that had just elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a lively and popular young politician who has political and economic views that are considered radical in the American context. Union leaders were preparing for a long fight.

Amazon also thought its popularity with consumers would be sufficient to override the vetos of local politicians, but it miscalculated. (Whether the local politicians outwardly critical of Amazon would have wanted it to withdraw is an open question).

There is a Faustian bargain involved here – in spite of stories outlinging how the company treats its workers and the conditions at Amazon's warehouses, consumers vote for the instant gratification of videos-on-demand and books delivered on their hand-held devices. And yet, Amazon retreated.

 

Lessons from the experience

Community consent matters: 

Even if they have secured support of prominent local politicians and even if the majority of the people living in the area support their operations, companies must pay heed to local concerns and address doubts and perceptions, even if those perceptions are alarmist or, in their view, wrong.

Several analysts have argued that Amazon would have eventually succeeded, but it wanted to make a political point. It could afford to do so, as many cities had vied for Amazon’s business. While Amazon has said, for now, that it won’t be establishing another headquarters, such words are never final; it still may, and it may even be in New York, in a different form, but possibly with changes in the proposal that acknowledge and meaningfully address community concerns.

Seeking community consent requires good listening and empathy-based consultations and willingness to make changes to the original plans, respecting local views.  

That requires time. Companies say they are in a hurry – if the project is to be successful in the long run, it is better to retreat than to attempt to force a company’s presence on a reluctant community, even if the naysayers are in a minority. Seeking community consent requires good listening and empathy-based consultations and willingness to make changes to the original plans, respecting local views.  

Strong institutions matter: 

Local government too must listen to the community. 

If a significant or vocal section of a community remains opposed to the project the local leaders – mayors, councilors, politicians, should either spend more time listening to the concerns and amending plans including exploring alternatives that can be offered and considered, or represent the people’s interests, and not those of the corporation. For that, strong institutions, including the judiciary, matter. If the judiciary is pliant or weak, politicians can take advantage of it and impose the will of the strong on the more numerous. 

Free, Prior, and Informed Consent has wider ramifications: 

The discourse on free prior informed consent, or FPIC, has been viewed largely from the prism of indigenous communities and their rights. That is an important right, and a well-earned victory for a particularly vulnerable group. But the principle has wider implications, going beyond the Amazon case, and should be used in contexts where the vulnerable community need not be indigenous.

While not specific to the Amazon case, there are many instances where economically weak, politically unprotected groups – which include the poor, ethnic minorities, marginalised, and refugees – are affected by location decisions that large corporations make. Their human rights should be safeguarded, and that requires companies willing to listen to everyone.

Recognising the power imbalance is crucial.

In the Amazon case, the constituencies opposing the project were not as vulnerable as indigenous communities that challenge extractive industries, but the fear of gentrification was real, and escalating prices would have crowded out those who weren’t well off, skewing the real estate market towards well-paid employees and contractors working for Amazon.

There are limits of eminent domain: 

In recent years, some companies have used the idea of  ‘eminent domain’ to prevail upon the views of local communities, and establish their presence with the support of the state, by arguing that the project serves a public purpose. That idea was tested in the Kelo case described earlier. Eminent domain was of course not considered in the Amazon case, and that is an important moment, since the US Supreme Court had permitted the redevelopment of New London in the Kelo case.

Eminent domain is a blunt weapon and should be used only sparingly, and where the need of public purpose is sufficiently critical to override individual or community property rights. 

 

These are important lessons that other companies need to study further. Extractive industries should pay particular attention, as their interactions with communities are often more acute. They often face extremely poor communities, who can be isolated, and frequently lacking basic infrastructure. People from these communities often lack skills to become machine operators or engineers – the kind of jobs the companies have to offer. Companies should be exceptionally careful in assessing impacts so that they do not make the situation worse for the local community, and so they share benefits fairly. 

Companies should be exceptionally careful in assessing impacts so that they do not make the situation worse for the local community, and so they share benefits fairly. 

Wherever Amazon (or for that matter any other corporation) decides to set up shop next – it should learn from this experience. It means conducting meaningful human rights due diligence by identifying impacts of the planned activities and taking steps to mitigate harm; listening to the concerns of affected parties; responding to the issues raised in a way that offers effective remedy; maintaining an open and transparent relationship with all constituencies in the area; and not using force – through doctrines like eminent domain, or indeed, physical force through extensive security operations – to ensure that the company’s activities are consistent with human rights standards.

Information & Communication Technology

Migrant Worker Accommodation

21 February 2019

The quality of workers’ living environment has a major effect on their physical and psychological well-being. The provision of decent housing is an important sign that businesses respect and value their employees, and is shown to enhance productivity. Many businesses report that new workers settle into their roles much faster when they live in decent and dignified accommodation. Conversely, poor housing conditions can lead to workers becoming demotivated and unwell, with obvious implications for their ability to perform their work effectively.

This IHRB Briefing provides an overview of the human rights risks posed to migrant workers via the practices surrounding accommodation provision. It includes information on:

  • the international legal standards
  • defining decent and adequate housing 
  • what businesses should do
  • key resources 
  • and more

 


This Briefing forms part of a larger series, including briefings on migrant worker wages and payslips as well as on trade unions

 

 

Photo credit: Flickr/Richard Messenger

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Migrant Workers and Trade Unions

21 February 2019

Freedom of association and choosing to belong or not belong to a trade union are integral parts of a free society and are fundamental rights.

Trade unions can play a vital role in improving health and safety, addressing grievances, and improving worker well-being. Unions may represent their members at their immediate workplace or in industry-wide negotiations. National trade unions represent the interests of a wide range of workers, from labourers and cleaners to teachers and lawyers. International trade union federations bring together common concerns of trade unions at a global level, representing workers at the ILO and promoting labour rights in countries where unions are banned or restricted.

This IHRB Briefing provides an overview of the human rights risks posed specifically to migrant workers with respect to business practices and trade unions. It includes information on: 

  • the international legal standards
  • what businesses should do
  • barriers to participation for migrant workers
  • union alternatives 
  • grievance mechanisms
  • and more

 


This Briefing forms part of a larger series, including briefings on migrant worker accommodation and on migrant worker wages and payslips

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Migrant Worker Wages and Payslips

21 February 2019

Most people who migrate for employment do so in order to earn a better wage than is available to them in their home countries. Many will use their salaries to send remittances back to their families. In many migration corridors migrant workers will pay large recruitment fees to secure employment abroad. All of these factors make it critical that migrant workers are paid what they expect, regularly, and on time. As well as serious economic impacts, late or non-payment of wages has a major and damaging psychological effect on workers, and is very often at the heart of labour disputes.

This IHRB Briefing looks at the importance of paying workers in full and on time. It includes information on:

  • the international legal standards
  • what should be in a payslip
  • the limitations of wage payment protection systems
  • wage- and payslip-related indicators of forced labour
  • what businesses should do
  • the benefits of digitised payment systems
  • and more

 


This Briefing forms part of a larger series, including briefings on migrant worker accommodation and on trade unions.

Information & Communication Technology

Deepika Rao on Garment Workers in Bangalore

04 February 2019

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 18.66MB - Duration: 13:35 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

In this podcast, Deepika Rao, Programme Director of Cividep, India, talks to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about the living and working conditions of female migrant workers in the garment industry in Bangalore. She discusses Cividep's research on the hostels that house the female migrant workers, many of whom are underage. Deepika describes how these women have travelled very long distances from their home villages and are transported into an alien culture. They do not speak the language, are often not aware of their rights and have no social groups to fall back on. Their movement is very restricted, due to fear of gender-based violence. Cividep has undertaken speaker tours in order to inform brands of these conditions in their supply chains in an attempt to engage them to act. Cividep also campaigns for these workers to be better informed of their rights, either through unions or other NGOs, in order to prevent circular migration and human rights violations. 

Deepika has been working with Cividep for the past four years. She holds a Bachelors degree in Marine Engineering and a Masters in Social Entrepreneurship. Her previous work experience has been that of working on merchant oil tankers as a maintenance engineer. Cividep educates workers, studies effects of corporate conduct, initiates dialogue with stakeholders, and advocates for policy change.

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Rights and Wrongs - Gandhi’s Lessons for Davos

29 January 2019

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

The global elite who effectively control many of the levers of power in the world, met last week in Davos for the annual  World Economic Forum

The Forum is often criticised for being a talk-fest of the wealthy with few opportunities for the poor and marginalised to raise their concerns. While non-government organisations are represented at the Forum, the bigger and better-funded NGOs have greater access than others.

Some critics also resent hidden agendas at Davos, whereas others feel interest among participants has slackened - perhaps more so this year as many world leaders have stayed home to address domestic concerns amidst a growing wave of populism and anti-elite sentiment in countries from all regions.

The Forum does not solve any of the problems it discusses – no gab-fest can – but there are sufficient opportunities for many leaders to meet quietly (though no longer discreetly, since global media descends to cover the events) to explore ways forward. 

Some critics resent hidden agendas at Davos, whereas others feel interest among participants has slackened.

Some ideas initially discussed at the Forum have become full-fledged projects. The UN Global Compact - which took shape after former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan made a speech there urging businesses to act responsibly on human rights, labour and environmental standards - was an early step in advancing the corporate responsibility agenda globally. I represented Amnesty International from late 1999 till 2006 as the office of the UN Secretary General gave shape to the initiative.

Another example is the project that resulted from the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad bin al-Hussein’s Davos speech, on the role of businesses in safeguarding the rights of LGBTI people. This inspired the OHCHR to develop, with support from IHRB, the Standards of Conduct for Business with regard to the human rights of LGBTI people. A year later, the standards were unveiled at Davos.

What happens at Davos is not sufficient by any means, but it is does provide a platform to make headway in dealing with problems that seem intractable. 

What happens at Davos is not sufficient by any means, but it is does provide a platform to make headway in dealing with problems that seem intractable. 

Those who attend the Forum have a sense of self-assurance and belief that their good intentions can make the world a better place. Business does bring discipline in managing costs and seeking efficiency, and as former Economist writer Matthew Bishop argued in his book on philanthrocapitalism, business can often play a positive role in society because of the resources it can raise and the way it donates its wealth to tackle problems. 

Anand Giridharadas, a former McKinsey consultant and former New York Times reporter, has written a new book highlighting the inadequacies of such approaches, showing the very real limits of what business can do, and how we cannot get complacent merely because the Davos men (and few Davos women) have decided to make specific issues a priority. 

The economic rise of China and India, which has undoubtedly raised income standards in those countries, masks the very real inequality in many other parts of the world (and indeed in both those countries). This is a point Thomas Piketty makes with persuasive statistical evidence in his pathbreaking book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Indeed, Oxfam’s report released on the eve of this year’s Forum shows how inequality has widened, which has not only made the poor poorer in many parts of the world, but also created conditions for racism and xenophobia to thrive in many countries. Maria Hengeveld’s recent critique of modern business, published in The Nation, makes valid criticisms of the plethora of nice-sounding words, such as ‘purpose’ which describe what businesses do; the euphemisms clouding the far harsher reality. 

The rise of economic inequality in India is very real. While the country’s gross domestic product shows enormous growth, and the wealthy elite live a life that is reminiscent of the gilded age, there isn’t a corresponding rise in employment, and there is considerable restlessness among many sections of the society which are left out by the boom. Coincidentally, I write from India, where I am attending a learning lab organised by Oxfam for Indian civil society groups to translate global goals on sustainable development into local impacts, to achieve better development outcomes, and how the private sector can be influenced to play a meaningful role. 

Gandhi made three compelling points which resonate clearly today in helping define the purpose of business. 

This week 71 years ago marks the date on which Mohandas Gandhi, also known as Mahatma (the great soul) was murdered by a Hindu nationalist in India, soon after its independence. Gandhi’s life was his message, and commitment towards the one who wasn’t free, who was poor and vulnerable, was his lifelong mission. Religion and ethics certainly influenced him profoundly, but so did justice  and fairness. Indian historian Ramachandra Guha’s two-volume biography of Gandhi – Gandhi Before India and Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World 1914-1948 (both of which I reviewed here and here) paints a vivid portrait of the greatest Indian of all time. 

Gandhi was radical and did call for the boycott of British business interests, including the burning of British clothes, but he was not against capital. Indeed, his struggle for India’s independence was funded by leading Indian businesses, including the Birlas, Bajajs, and Sarabhais, and many others, beside countless Indians who were less privileged. But he made three compelling points which resonate clearly today in helping define the purpose of business. 

First, he spoke of trusteeship.

Businesses would prosper only if they acted with a larger public purpose driving them, acknowledging their privileges and operating in an ethical way, while realising their limits. It means taking operational decisions that are in the wider public interest. It means giving back to the society, but doing so by understanding the intended beneficiaries, and acting with the consent of the people whose lives are affected by its operations.

Second, he was an environmentalist who believed in sustainability way before it became a buzzword.

He believed in keeping the environment clean, in reducing use, recycling products, acquiring less, and dealing with waste appropriately. Cleanliness was an obsession for Gandhi - he saw purity in cleanliness, as well as a way to ward off diseases rampant in the tropics. 

And third, as he wrote in a note days before he was murdered: 

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.” 

Companies should act as custodians of the environment, act with consent of the people affected, protect the environment, and keep in mind the rights of the most vulnerable.

In effect, he was asking those with authority to act in the interests of those who are the most vulnerable.

What was Gandhi saying throughout his life? That companies should act responsibly, as custodians of the environment, act with consent of the people affected, protect the environment, and keep in mind the rights of the most vulnerable and take steps to mitigate harm. The UN Global Compact, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, all other UN instruments including covenants and declarations and protocols and platforms for action, corporate statements of values and codes of ethics, and, indeed, the deliberations at Davos, say in far more verbose words what Gandhi called for in simpler language, and the principles by which he lived. 

Imitating Gandhi, or doing lip-service to his ideals, as many politicians and businesses will do this year, as the world celebrates his 150th birth anniversary, will create many photo opportunities. But Gandhi’s life was his message; living by his principles will make corporate power restrained, corporate actions less abusive, make due diligence meaningful and, perhaps, the world will become a little better. 

Information & Communication Technology

Reflections from the 2018 Sporting Chance Forum

23 January 2019

2018 SCF audience

The 2018 Sporting Chance Forum brough together 250 high-level delegates from a broad range of stakeholders to drive progress toward a world of sport that fully respects human rights. 

Representatives of affected groups, sports bodies, governments, trade unions, sponsors, NGOs, broadcasters, NHRIs, and intergovernmental organisations came together in Paris at UNESCO, the UN’s lead agency for Physical Education and Sport, under the backdrop of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Hosted this year by the new Centre for Sport and Human Rights, UNESCO, and IHRB, the Forum focused on the rights and remedies of all participants in sport - including a special spotlight on survivors of sexual abuse, athletes, workers, fans, journalists, children, and communities. 

As a follow up to the event, a series of participants at the Forum have given their take on the impact and outcomes of the discussions. Here they share their priorities on where the future work of the Centre should focus in order to support or improve the human rights of those affected by sport. 

Lucy Amis
Jonas Baer Hoffman
Zhan Chiam
Andreas Graf
Maggie Murphy
Niels de Fraguier
Courtney Radsch
Nicole Rodriguez
Sylvia Schenk
Conrad Smith
Matthias Thorns
Andy Spalding
Ambet Yuson
Mahmoud Qutub
Daniela Heerdt
Suad Galow

Information & Communication Technology

The Case for a New UK Facility on Responsible Trade

16 January 2019

This submission responds to the Inquiry called by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) into whether the UK Parliament should set up a specific mechanism to scrutinise international agreements for compliance with human rights, and what processes should be followed to ensure adequate scrutiny of compliance with human rights standards in international agreements post-Brexit.

“International agreements” is a broad term that covers a wide range of activities – some of which have relevance to human rights, including rules governing international transport, tax policy, international investment and finance, and other issues as diverse as sports governance.

However given that the inquiry is prompted by the UK’s potential departure from the European Union, and given the JCHR’s interest in workers’ rights, including the right to be free from servitude and forced labour, and data privacy, this submission focuses on the following points:

  • trade agreements and human rights: the case for a new UK facility on responsible trade;
  • migrant workers and their rights, technology and data: specific considerations;
  • the need for parliamentary oversight.

Read the full submission here

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Women’s Rights Still Seen Through the Foggy Lens of Biases, Discrimination, and Injustice

21 December 2018

By Dr Harpreet Kaur, Business and Human Rights Specialist, United Nations Development Programme, Bangkok Regional Hub

As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), it is becoming increasingly clear that in spite of great strides in protecting human dignity, inequalities continue to persist and are deepening more than ever. It is difficult to miss the struggles women continue to experience in achieving their rights.

Women continue to bear the brunt of inequality, at all levels, in various forms.

Amnesty International’s recent report Rights Today assesses where we stand on addressing these challenges. While many countries have signed international treaties and conventions, performance in terms of implementation has been uneven. Many individuals and groups, including those who are marginalised or lack power, continue to need the support universal standards provide. Women continue to bear the brunt of inequality, at all levels, in various forms.

Companies create benefits including jobs, and contribute to economies by paying taxes. But there are many areas where they need to pay far greater attention to mitigate adverse impacts of their operations. Women continue to face discrimination at the point of entering the workforce, in the benefits they receive, the promotion opportunities they are offered or denied, the sectors in which they work and the positions they are offered. All too often, they also face harassment and bullying and many companies fail to integrate them better when they re-enter workforce.

The human rights framework is based on the foundation principles of equality and dignity, yet gender-based discrimination and economic, social, and legal barriers to equality remain in place. Today, 104 countries have laws that prevent women from working in some jobs. The Global Gender Gap report 2017 documented an increase in the gender income gap, with women paid an average of $12,000, compared with $21,000 for men. Women still own less than 20% of the world’s land, even though they contribute to almost half of the workforce in agriculture. Reports confirm that core components of talent management still disadvantage women, creating a vicious cycle in which men continually dominate executive positions.

Continuing inequalities likely reflect the unconscious biases and stereotypes that remain in our societies

Even the UDHR, exhibits male dominated language. Article 1 of the UDHR starts with, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and right“ (the UDHR does not spell out any rights exclusive to women – however, there Articles 2, 3, 5, 16 and 25 that make a specific reference that any rights granted by the UDHR apply to men and women equally) followed by “They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. If it had been drafted today, we would of course insisted on more gender sensitive language - that the spirit of ‘sisterhood’, or her rights, her country, her control, her family, her privacy, her honor, her interests be included as well. Continuing inequalities likely reflect the unconscious biases and stereotypes that remain in our societies.

Businesses do not impact women outside societal structures and hierarchies; rather their impact on women is rooted in interlocked systems of existing power inequalities.

Business-as-usual policies, practices and cultures that fail to consider the specific needs of, and impacts on, women perpetuate gender inequality. Women account for half of the world’s working-age population, yet contribute to only 37 percent of the world’s GDP. They continue to be underrepresented in the global workforce, despite the fact that closing the gender gap could add $28 trillion in GDP growth by 2025. Women are underrepresented on corporate boards and in leadership positions, and are often found in most precarious work environments, at the bottom of supply chains.

The #MeToo movement has established that, in addition to power inequalities, absence of clear policies against bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace act as powerful deterrents - women may feel inhibited from complaining about incidents of harassment and discrimination. Similarly, development projects tend to affect women more adversely than men, given they are disproportionately represented among the poor, may not own land, and are less likely to be consulted on projects affecting their livelihoods. Deep-seated discrimination and inequalities result in fewer choices for women, rendering them more vulnerable -  women and girls make up 'nearly three quarters' of modern slavery victims.

women and girls make up 'nearly three quarters' of modern slavery victims

The need to close the gender gap, both in the workplace and society, is more urgent than ever.

Gender equality with a specific focus on women’s empowerment has become a prominent feature of global debate in recent years. In 2018, the World Economic Forum focused on women at work; over 1800 business leaders around the world have signed for Women Empowerment Principles; more and more companies are signing on pledges to advance women; and business leaders who support women in business are increasingly recognised. Realising the importance of providing a gender dimension to its work, the United Nations Working Group on Business & Human Rights is pursuing a project to provide a gender lens to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

It is encouraging that more business leaders focus on advancing women at work in combating inequalities, not just because giving women and girls the opportunity to succeed is the right thing to do, but because it can transform economies and societies.

Unfortunately, not enough leaders and potential leaders comprehend the issues involved and don’t receive training through business schools and other leadership programmes.

Last year, Ashoka University’s Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership developed a course on these topics in collaboration with the Institute for Human Rights and Business and Gender at Work . The week-long course was designed to provide knowledge, cultivate expertise, and develop empathy for future business leaders to enable them to face and overcome structural and societal barriers to achieving gender equality. But that is only a start.

Much more is needed – more granular courses that focus on region-specific concerns; more detailed examination of specific challenges in particular sectors; and the development of ideas, tools, and practical solutions that can help companies address the real issues, including intersectionality that add further layers of vulnerabilities and discrimination. Lastly, collective action from various stakeholders and impetus at policy level is a must for achieving equality.

In our work at UNDP Asia Pacific, we promote regional peer learning and training events that advance the strategies in support of the advancement of National Action Plans, or similar policy frameworks, in furtherance of implementation of the UN Guiding Principles. The project promotes a partnership architecture bringing greater coherence to policy and advocacy efforts among actors working on a regional level on business and human rights while strengthening civil society organizations and National Human Rights Institutions that provide access to effective remedy for violations of human rights in the context of business operations. Gender continues to be cross-cutting theme in all our work as National Action Plans or any advocacy efforts will be half effective without a gender lens.

We must go beyond policies. 

We must go beyond policies.

The real challenge is to change age-old narratives that perpetuate gender inequalities. It is about wider social change and examining the human rights responsibilities of businesses, the impact of business operations and their supply chains on women, and how all stakeholders, including government, civil society, and business can better contribute to achieving the UN’s mission of “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” (an initiative by UN Women calling upon governments to make national commitments to ensure that gender equality is a lived reality by 2030).

We need to cultivate like-minded and committed individuals and organisations to advance this agenda, to change the tainted glass through which women are viewed, and create a new vision where equality is not a fight but a new norm.

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Seeking Safety, Seeking Opportunity, Seeking Rights - Reflections on the Migrant Caravan in Mexico

18 December 2018

By Evy Peña, Communications Director, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante

On this International Migrants Day 2018, let’s take a moment to consider the struggles of the thousands of men, women and children who in recent months joined the so-called migrant caravan hoping for a better life in North America. 

Violence, poverty, drought and family separation aren’t only reasons why these people chose to flee - these threats also exist along the way for those seeking asylum. Today serves as a reminder, not only to take notice of the plight of migrants around the world, but also to ensure that governments and business have policies and practices in place that put human rights first. 

Thousands of Hondurans left the capital San Pedro Sula on 12th October. The caravan gathered people from El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries as well. Their movements garnered media attention in the region and across the globe.

Security threats along the migrant journey have worsened in recent years - the increase in organised crime in Mexico has made it more dangerous for migrants. 

In a general sense, this is not new. For years, people from Central America have been risking their lives in search of better futures elsewhere. They include women who are subjected to systemic gender-based violence and men who have been victims of extortion several times throughout their lives. Their numbers also include young people who refuse to join gangs and parents who can’t send their children to school for fear that they will be kidnapped. Among them as well are small business owners who can no longer sustain their shops given the high fees that cartels demand of them. 

But the security threats along their journey have worsened in recent years. Over the past decade, the increase in organised crime in Mexico has made it more dangerous for migrants. In August 2010, the bodies of 58 men and 14 women migrants were found in the northern municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas. These people came from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Brazil. Investigators concluded that the drug cartel Los Zetas murdered these migrants after they refused to join the cartel on their way to the United States.

Migrating en masse and being in the spotlight offers relative safety, a lower risk of being disappeared or kidnapped by cartels along their journey.

Visibility strengthens the caravan and its members. Migrating en masse and being in the spotlight offers relative safety, a lower risk of being disappeared or kidnapped by cartels along their journey. The collective is stronger than an individual. 

A month later, after traveling more than 4,000km north, facing security threats, illness and death, more than 7,000 asylum seekers arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana. Some have managed to cross the border, while others are currently staying in nearby shelters or have resolved to remain in Mexico.

This group of people has brought out the true colours of governments at different levels and across borders. The Trump administration chose to condemn the migrant caravan from the start. When asylum seekers reached Tijuana, the U.S. government responded by militarising the border, deploying troops and using tear gas to deter hundreds of migrants from crossing to the United States, as well as separating families. This is yet another way to criminalise those seeking protection. 

The U.S. government responded by militarising the border, deploying troops and using tear gas.

The use of force has been accompanied by threats to close ports of entry at the U.S. southern border and denying the right to seek asylum. U.S. federal law states that immigrants are entitled to seek asylum regardless of how they entered the country. Thus, the U.S. government’s response does not only violate both domestic and international law, it goes against the nation’s tradition to welcome those fleeing from persecution in their home countries.

In Mexico, the issue has put local governments at the forefront of new conversations about migration. While policies on the topic are largely driven by decision makers at the federal level, the migrant caravan has revealed the willingness of Mexican state and municipal authorities to aid asylum seekers. Some authorities have provided health services and job opportunities to individuals requiring assistance, while others have chosen to cover travel expenses to assist with onward journeys.

Some authorities have provided health services and job opportunities to individuals requiring assistance, while others have chosen to cover travel expenses to assist with onward journeys. 

Governments should in no way obstruct the right to seek asylum or the right of individuals to have their claims appropriately processed. It should be noted that where governments aren’t doing enough, civil society groups have taken the lead, filling the gaps left by state authorities. Like migratory flows from Central America to the United States, groups providing legal support, shelter and other basic services to those in need are not new. However, the size of the caravan - and the visibility it gained - served as a call to action for other actors.

When volunteering, while thousands of asylum seekers where passing by Mexico City, the team from my organisation Centro de los Derechos del Migrante1 (CDM) observed how a diverse group of actors, including businesses from different sectors, stepped up to provide help. Restaurant owners fed hundreds of families. Doctors and nurses treated injuries and illnesses along the way. Dentists provided free check-ups. Psychologists offered therapy to children who have suffered trauma. 

Businesses in Mexico, including factories in the north, have expressed their willingness to employ migrants who choose to stay in the country. We need to see more business leaders do the same.

For the private sector, this is just the beginning. Businesses in Mexico, including factories in the north, have expressed their willingness to employ migrants who choose to stay in the country. We need to see more business leaders do the same. As they prepare to welcome new workers into the labour force, it will be essential for businesses to ensure that labour standards - wages, recruitment protections, workplace conditions - are fair for migrant workers. 

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. We all have the right to leave any country, including our own, and return home. Migration is a human right. Governments and businesses must ensure that the rights of migrant people and families are respected along their journey. 

 
 
  1 Evy Peña is Communications Director at Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM) based in Mexico City. CDM supports Mexico-based migrant workers to defend and protect their rights as they move between their home communities in Mexico and their workplaces in the United States.
 
Photo: Flickr/Daniel Arauz

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Mary Robinson Opens the 2018 Sporting Chance Forum in Paris

12 December 2018

By Mary Robinson, Patron and Founding Chair, IHRB

Find out more about the Sporting Chance Forum here, with session summaries and videos out in early 2019.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends, 

Good morning and welcome. It is a great pleasure to see you all here in Paris. 

My thanks to UNSECO for hosting the third annual Sporting Chance Forum. Thank you also to UNESCO member state representatives who are joining us. UNESCO continues to provide valuable leadership in the UN system, including by promoting the value of physical education and sport, and by fostering greater respect for the human rights of all involved in sport. 

It is of course fitting that we meet during the week in which the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted here in Paris on 10 December 1948. We’ve made undeniable progress over seven decades in bringing the Declaration’s vision to life for more of humanity. But as we also know, the job is never complete. The struggle for human rights requires constant vigilance, and as we see in our world today, there is urgent need for effective fight back against forces that threaten to take us backwards. 

The situation we face is deeply worrying on multiple levels - from the rise of divisive nationalism in many countries, to shrinking space for civil society and those brave women and men who defend human rights in their communities. From ongoing discrimination and intolerance against migrants and others perceived as “outsiders”, to growing impacts of climate change that threaten the lives of millions today and many more in the years to come. 

These worrying trends can also be seen in and around the world of sport. In the past week alone, the issues of widespread sexual and physical abuse in Afghanistan’s women’s football team have come to light. So too has the case of Bahraini footballer and refugee in Australia, Hakeem al-Araibi, who has been detained in Thailand and faces possible extradition to Bahrain where he fears for his life. These are but a few examples of how the world of sport is not alone in the fight for universal human rights. 

Given the serious challenges we face, we all must commit to working to ensure that our current and future leaders at every level put human rights at the heart of the decisions they make. That includes leaders in the world of sport. 

There is undoubtedly a huge opportunity to advance the human rights agenda through sport. We need to use every tool we have available to convey the importance of human rights, especially to young people. 

Equally important is that sport walks the talk - we need to work together to support the sports sector to undertake its own needed reforms, build its human rights capacities and take full responsibility for its societal impacts. 

This is why I’m so encouraged by the collective action taking place around the new Centre for Sport and Human Rights to address common challenges with a shared vision. I’m honoured to serve as Chair the Centre - an independent human rights organisation within the world of sport - committed to working with all stakeholders to promote respect for human rights. 

The Centre officially launched in June of this year after nearly three years of open dialogue and joint action between multiple actors involved in and impacted by sport. I’m truly impressed by the ambitious aims we’ve set for ourselves and by the growing multi-stakeholder coalition that is supporting the Centre through its Advisory Council. This group of international and intergovernmental organisations, governments, sports governing bodies, athletes, unions, sponsors, broadcasters, and civil society organisations, representatives of which are here today, share the aim of ensuring that all actors fully embrace and operationalise their respective human rights duties and responsibilities. 

Allow me also to mention that as part of the work of the Centre’s interim Governance Committee, we have recently concluded a global search for the Centre’s first Chief Executive. I’m very pleased to officially announce that Mary Harvey has been appointed to that critical role. Mary has a distinguished record as a champion athlete, an Olympic Gold Medal winner, as well as a sports executive. Most recently, she led the development of the human rights components of the successful United 2026 bid to bring the FIFA World Cup to Canada, Mexico and the United States. Mary - we are thrilled that you are joining the Centre and that you are here with us for this event, but we won’t put you to work officially until January! 

The vision to create a Centre was one of the key outcomes from last year’s Sporting Chance Forum as stakeholders called for new and innovative approaches to tackle critical issues. The Centre has set itself up as independent, and has sought to provide a safe space for constructive and respectful dialogue. I would urge us to remember this in the days ahead. 

In the few short months since the Centre’s launch, we’ve already undertaken important events building on the dialogue we’ve developed with our partners. For example, in October we organised an expert roundtable in The Hague on the importance of ensuring access to effective remedies for human rights abuses linked to sport. Copies of the roundtable report are now available on the Centre website. I’m sure we’ll hear more about the outcomes from those of you here who participated. 

Turning to our agenda for the next two days, we have made a concerted effort to organise the discussions at this year’s Forum around the people who are affected by sport most directly, including athletes, children, workers, fans and communities. We’ll be hearing - in multi-stakeholder panels - directly from the voices of these affected groups over the next two days. Those individuals need to be heard and they are critical if we hope to learn lessons, ensure accountability and prevent harms in the future. 

As in past years, we’ll also be taking stock of progress made by different actors involved in sport, and drawing on the diverse range of expertise gathered here on what is working and what still needs to be done. We hope this approach will provide you all with new insights and help set the direction for our collective work in the year ahead. No one can make the changes needed on their own, and we call on all sports organisations to work in solidarity with others while keeping the voices of affected groups themselves at the centre of all considerations. 

Let me conclude by saying that what is unique about the Centre is that it convenes a broad and diverse coalition committed to working together on complex challenges. So let us use these days constructively to learn from each other, to support each other, and to help the Centre identify its priorities for the time ahead. 

We’re pleased to have with us this morning six individuals who represent a range of important institutional and expert perspectives to help set the stage for our discussions. 

I want to challenge each of our speakers to reflect in your brief opening remarks on what progress your own organisations are making and on what the key challenges are in 2019 and beyond: 

- What individual and collective actions should we prioritise to best protect people impacted by sport? 

- What further steps will help us harness the great potential of sport and align policies and practices with fundamental principles of human dignity and human rights? 

Those aren’t easy questions, but finding answers together is why we’re here. 

So once again, thank you all for your commitment to this important work. I look forward to our discussions. 

Thank you. 

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Statement by Mary Robinson on Urgent Need for Collective Action Ahead of Sporting Chance Forum

09 December 2018

By Mary Robinson, Patron and Founding Chair, IHRB

In connection with the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, over 300 delegates from around the world will meet this week in Paris to focus on the issue of sport and human rights. UNESCO is co-hosting the third annual Sporting Chance Forum with the Centre for Sport and Human Rights and the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

I am honoured to serve as Chair of the new Centre that was established earlier this year to harness the power of sport to promote human rights in the lives of millions, if not billions, of people around the world and help ensure that all connected with sport respect human rights in their own activities.

The Sporting Chance Forum aims to leverage collective action to tackle some of the critical challenges facing the world of sport. Over recent years, the more than 40 organisations who make up the Centre’s Advisory Council, representatives of which will be participating in the Forum, have taken important steps forward. But as we gather in Paris, there are critical issues of concern that must be faced as well.

First, the nature of human rights abuses linked to sport are often systemic and cultural and must be addressed urgently. The revelations around child abuse in gymnastics and swimming in the USA have stunned the world, and are only the tip of an iceberg. Clearly the majority of those committed to sport are respectful of the rights of the young regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, LGBTI status or disability – but there are some in positions of power that are serial abusers of human rights. For example, recent reports relating to the culture of abuse in Afghanistan’s national women’s football team have surfaced incidences of physical and sexual abuse, death threats, and rape. We must listen to the voices of those affected and act swiftly both to ensure accountability and to prevent future abuses.

Athletes and players can also be vulnerable in other ways. The Bahraini football player Hakeem Al-Araibi faces an uncertain future under detention in Thailand and potentially imprisonment and a high risk of torture if forcibly returned to Bahrain in the days ahead. Although Hakeem now lives and plays football in Australia, having been granted asylum there, a “red notice” had been issued by Interpol and he was taken into custody while on holiday in Thailand. This Interpol request has now been withdrawn but he remains in extreme jeopardy. No one in sport should be exposed to such intimidation and threats. I call on all those responsible and those who could exercise their influence to protect Hakeem and return him safely to his home in Australia.

This is not to forget others whose rights are at risk. The workers who build the infrastructure for mega-sporting events in places such as Tokyo, Qatar and Beijing need to have their rights respected too, in particular migrant workers. Fans need also to enjoy sport within safe environments, free from discrimination and there is no basis at all for excluding segments of the population from participating or watching sport, be they Muslim minorities in countries such as Myanmar or China, on the one hand, or women football fans in Iran on the other. We will hear directly from some of these affected groups during the forthcoming Sporting Chance Forum in Paris. France will be hosting a number of major events over the years ahead and it too needs to ensure it is fully inclusive of all segments of the local population.

The human rights challenges in sport are complex and require collective action where all stakeholders – be they sports bodies, hosts, governments, sponsors, broadcasters, trade unions and NGOs – stand together as true equals. Partnership means the powerful have to be willing to work in new ways for the greater good. The Centre for Sport and Human Rights will cooperate with everyone but will also stand as an independent actor - a trusted and impartial voice which places human beings at the centre of every decision and every action.

Mary Robinson
Chair, Centre for Sport and Human Rights

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Strategic Dialogue on Remedy

07 December 2018

By Daniela Heerdt, Research Officer, Centre for Sport and Human Rights

Strategic Dialogue on Remedy in the sport and human rights context was held at the Peace Palace in The Hague on 15 October 2018.

IHRB and the Centre for Sport and Human Rights invited 55 experts and representatives from inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, international legal institutions, players unions, academia, and international sports governing bodies to discuss existing gaps in remedy in the world of sport and human rights and to identify solutions on how to fill these gaps. This meeting report reviews the key contributions and reflections emerging from the event.

A draft background paper also framed the discussions at the meeting. This draft "Mapping Remedy Mechanisms for Sports-Related Human Rights Grievances" is now available to download for consultation.

 

Comments are requested to info [at] sporthumanrights.org by 31 January 2019.

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The Governance Legacy of Mega-Sporting Events: A Golden Opportunity to Promote Human Rights

07 December 2018

By Andy Spalding, Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law

Human rights’ next of kin is the global anti-corruption movement. These two efforts increasingly work in tandem, creating the conditions in which humans flourish. Their synergy has at least two explanations. Most obviously, we know that corruption enables the violation of long-recognised rights, be they rights to due process, education, an adequate standard of living, or others. More deeply, we might understand freedom from official corruption as a free-standing human right. Intellectual traditions from diverse regions of the world have long viewed this freedom as an entitlement of each and every citizen, even where (or especially where) governments egregiously abridge it. Indeed, the notion that public officials ought not to abuse their office for private gain may be the closest thing we have to a truly cross-cultural political value.

The notion that public officials ought not to abuse their office for private gain may be the closest thing we have to a truly cross-cultural political value.

This partnership is finding uncommon success in an unexpected arena: mega-sporting events. Given sport’s track record of repeated human rights and corruption violations, this claim may at first seem preposterous. But a transformation is now taking place, one which few notice but most will welcome. The positive potential of sporting events to leave a human rights legacy, including through an enhanced culture of good governance, will be discussed from multiple perspectives during the upcoming Sporting Chance Forum in Paris. The Paris location has some significance beyond recognising the anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the Palais de Chaillot some 70 years ago; it is precisely the opportunity afforded by the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games that offer a tipping point, with the historic convergence of three events.

The opportunity afforded by the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games offers a tipping point, with the historic convergence of three events.

First, the International Olympic Committee made game-changing revisions to its host-city contract. For the first time in history, the IOC would require the host city, Organising Committee, and National Olympic Committee to implement all applicable anti-corruption and human rights laws and standards during the Games’ seven years of preparations. 

While the IOC was developing these policies at its headquarters in Switzerland, the second key event was occurring just next door. Completely unrelated to the Olympics, France was adopting two landmark statutes. The first was the Loi Sapin II, which imposes new obligations on public and private entities to adopt anti-corruption compliance. The second was the Duty of Vigilance Law, creating obligations on large companies to adopt and report human rights monitoring measures. France too understood the kinship of the human rights and anti-corruption causes. With Sapin II, France became a full-fledged member of the global anti-corruption compliance movement; with the Duty of Vigilance Law, and the effort to protect human rights from corporate violations, France became the undisputed world leader.

The positive potential of sporting events to leave a human rights legacy, including through an enhanced culture of good governance, will be discussed from multiple perspectives during the upcoming Sporting Chance Forum in Paris. 

These two developments, each significant on its own, would then intersect in one dramatic (but underappreciated) moment. This same year - 2017 - the IOC awarded the 2024 Summer Olympics to Paris. A country already swept up in an anti-corruption and human rights movement was thus invited to set the new standards for Olympic host-city governance.

These new measures will surely help the Games become better governed, but so too can they achieve something more. In mega-sport circles, there has long been talk of the various potential legacies of sport: the lasting economic, cultural, or environmental benefits (or harms) of hosting the Games. But with the new IOC contractual provisions, as applied in France, we see a new kind of legacy emerging. Let’s call it a governance legacy:  a series of laws, practices, standards, or norms promoting integrity, transparency, accountability, and the protection of human rights, that have application beyond sport and will remain in place after the Games are gone.

The Olympics are becoming a catalyst to the adoption of better practices and higher standards. 

These new laws, practices, standards or norms need not originate with the Games to constitute a legacy; in France, Sapin II and Duty of Vigilance were obviously not adopted specifically for the Olympics. But where the Games accelerate these laws' implementation, it's a legacy nonetheless.

We see this legacy already taking shape. French entities are adopting more stringent measures than French law otherwise requires. The Olympics are thus becoming a catalyst to the adoption of better practices and higher standards. To the extent these norms and practices remain in place after the Games are gone, they’ll create a governance legacy.

And consider the potential impact of the entities that organise to deliver the Games. Every Olympic host city forms an Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, or in French, a Comité d'organisation des Jeux olympiques (“COJO”). Though small now, the Paris 2024 COJO will eventually hire upwards of 5000 paid employees and 17,000 volunteers. Let's imagine these individuals being trained to perform their jobs while honouring basic anti-corruption and human rights norms.  When the Games end, where will these people go? Back into business, government, law, and elsewhere, bringing their newly shaped beliefs and habits with them. That’s 22,000 seeds of anti-corruption and human rights compliance sewn across multiple sectors of French society, planted by Olympic preparations.

Should the Olympics produce governance legacies in each of these countries, they may begin to shed their reputation as an unmitigated source of corruption and human rights abuse.

The long-term impact of these reforms will reach well beyond France. Los Angeles, host of the 2028 Summer Olympics, has signed a contract with identical anti-corruption and human rights provisions; the U.S. will have no choice but to follow France's example. So too are these provisions included in the draft contract for the 2024 Winter Olympics, now set to be awarded either to Stockholm or Milan. Should the Olympics produce governance legacies in each of these countries, they may begin to shed their reputation as an unmitigated source of corruption and human rights abuse. Having long been part of a worldwide problem, they may now become part of the solution.

***

Andy Spalding is Professor of Law at the University of Richmond (Virginia, USA) and Chair of the Olympics Compliance Task Force.  He welcomes questions or comments and can be reached at [email protected].

 

Photo: Flickr/Singapore Olympic Youth Games

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Channelling Sir Geoffrey Chandler on the History and Future of Business and Human Rights

06 December 2018

By Bennett Freeman

I write from Tokyo this week where I am honouring a longstanding commitment to address business and human rights issues. But there is nowhere in the world I would rather be today - professionally or personally - than with you at the Bonavero Institute in Oxford. I regret missing the chance to discuss with colleagues and friends the past, present and future of an agenda that Sir Geoffrey Chandler did so much to shape, at a university where I studied history when not drinking pints in the pubs and taking walks in the parks. Thanks for indulging me with a few words.

Many autocratic regimes are acting with even more brazen impunity and some liberal democracies are ‎becoming illiberal amidst the toxic fumes of populism and nationalism. 

I first met Sir Geoffrey in June 1999 when, on behalf of the US State Department, I began meeting and learning from the then few great and the good - Geoffrey foremost among them - in the nascent business and human rights world in London. Indeed, it was an FT Comment piece he published the previous year on the human rights responsibilities of oil companies in conflict zones that first inspired me to use the convening power of the US Government to negotiate what became the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Of course I was only one of many who Geoffrey inspired and encouraged in our work. As honoured as I was to be advised by the father of business and human rights, I was even more touched personally when a few years later he gave me a signed copy of his memoir as a wartime commando behind enemy lines in Greece. I learned then that he was not only a man of vision and wisdom, but fearless in pursuit of his mission. Those are the qualities we need now more than ever. 

The norms and rules, institutions and standards that have emerged to safeguard human rights over these last 70 years are under assault. 

For all of the progress that we have made over the last nearly quarter century, we meet at a time of geopolitical disruption. Many autocratic regimes are acting with even more brazen impunity and some liberal democracies are ‎becoming illiberal amidst the toxic fumes of populism and nationalism. The shared space of civic freedoms is coming under pressure and at the same time human rights defenders are under attack. The norms and rules, institutions and standards that have emerged to safeguard human rights over these last 70 years are under assault. 

Eleanor Roosevelt, her splendid new statute standing watch outside here in the Mansfield quad, would call on us to defend those ramparts under siege.  And Sir Geoffrey might tell us ‎some hard truths about the business and human rights movement:

We may be past the end of the beginning, but our work will never end.

The UN Guiding Principles are the floor but not the ceiling and while it remains more urgent to nail down the floor, it will always be even more important to raise the ceiling.

The UNSDGs complement but must not substitute for the UNGPs - and sustainable development depends on both respect for human rights and empowerment of civil society.

Climate change is a fundamental human rights issue, putting our political and civil, economic, social and cultural rights all at fatal risk.

"Me too" means us all; without gender and LGBTI rights there are no human rights.

Corporate responsibility for human rights may be established as a principle but remains to be realised by most companies - and even then is only a way station toward corporate accountability for human rights.

Transparency must not be mistaken for accountability, nor commitment for performance. 

Corporate responsibility and accountability are necessary but not sufficient and should supplement, not supplant, government responsibility and accountability based on democratic institutions, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The shared space of civic freedoms should align business and civil society and if taken for granted and not defended by companies, will be further degraded to the detriment of both. 

I believe that Geoffrey would tell us these hard truths. A reasonable person, he would find no reason to compromise on any of them. And after making the business case for human rights as eloquently and persuasively as anyone ever has or ever will, he would remind us "to hell with the business case; it's about doing the right thing."

After making the business case for human rights, Geoffrey Chandler would remind us "to hell with the business case; it's about doing the right thing."

Sir Geoffrey was our leader in the early history of the business and human rights. A heroic figure, he as much as anyone defined an epic agenda for the future.  Thank you for the chance to try, in absentia, to take inspiration from this great man, now at rest but forever restless in his and our quest.

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Juan Pablo Salazar on Disabled People in Sport

03 December 2018

By Guido Battaglia, Head of Responsible Trade Programme, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 10.01MB - Duration: 10:55 m (128 kbps 44100 Hz)

In this podcast, Juan Pablo Salazar talks to IHRB’s Guido Battaglia about access to sport for persons with disabilities.  On the UN's International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Juan Pablo outlines the progress that has been made thus far, and the main challenges that still need to be addressed, particularly for disabled women and children.  He discussed the IPC's progress in relation to human rights and fair and equal competition, and the role that the newly established Centre for Sport and Human Rights could play in the promotion of sport for all persons with disabilities.

Juan Pablo is a global activist for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with emphasis on sports and communication. He is originally from Bogotà, Colombia. Juan Pablo is the founder of the first wheelchair rugby club in Colombia. He has served as Chief of Mission of the Colombian Delegation in the Beijing Paralympic Games (2008), and London (2012), President of the Colombian Sports Federation for People with Physical Disabilities, President of the Colombian Paralympic Committee. Juan Pablo is a member of the Governing Board of the International Paralympic Committee.

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The Commodity Trading Sector: Guidance on Implementing the UNGPs

28 November 2018

The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) mandated the Institute for Human Rights and Business to work with all representatives from different stakeholder groups to develop Guidance for the commodities trading sector on implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs). 

The Guidance was officially launched at the 2018 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. It is intended to help representatives of commodity trading firms to implement the UNGPs in their company systems and cultures. It also serves as a tool for the sector as a whole in developing a shared practice of responsible trading which is consistent with international standards relevant for the respect of human rights. 
 

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Rights and Wrongs: Best Or Loudest?

27 November 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Last week, Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, visited India. He met a few leading women activists and journalists who use the social media platform extensively, in order to understand better how they felt about the space his company provides for free expression. 

Those who oppose the viewpoints of under-represented voices sometimes employing intimidating and vituperative language to drive out the vulnerable voices.

Like other Silicon Valley companies, Twitter is born out of a libertarian ethos, and believes in people’s right to express themselves freely. At its best, that means under-represented voices get the space to speak, which mainstream media and other fora often deny them. But free expression cuts both ways – it includes small cars and large trucks; and those who oppose the viewpoints of under-represented voices also use the same medium, sometimes employing intimidating and vituperative language to drive out the vulnerable voices. Instead of allowing many voices to flourish, Twitter is giving new meaning to Darwinian logic – the survival of the loudest, and sometimes the vilest and the rudest. 

The Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has called Indians ‘argumentative’, which they are; but anyone familiar with what passes for television talk shows in India would know that in practical terms it means he who shouts loudest gets his way. And that voice is usually male. Many Indian women have faced overt sexism, threats of sexual violence, exceptionally rude insults, and other forms of attack, with a view to drive them away from public platforms like Twitter. Indeed, some of such ‘trolling’ is organised, as Swati Chaturvedi, an award-winning journalist, documented in her book I Am A TrollBarkha Dutt, a prominent broadcaster and Washington Post columnist, is among many women who have received abusive phone calls as a result of their decision to be heard on important issues. 

Many Indian women have faced overt sexism and other forms of attack with a view to drive them away from public platforms like Twitter.

Other women journalists have faced threats of sexual violence. Rana Ayyub, an investigative reporter (and an award-winning journalist) found that someone had morphed a pornographic video, replacing the actor’s face with Ayyub’s, and released the video on social media. Most recently, Shehla Rashid, a doctoral candidate and student leader who has spiritedly campaigned for the right to dissent, found the atmosphere so toxic that she decided to quit Twitter altogether.

India is certainly not the only country where blatant misogyny gets wide reach online. But the problem is a real one, so it was understandable that Dorsey wanted to hear from Indian women about their experience on Twitter. At the meeting, Sanghapali Aruna, a Dalit activist, presented him with a poster that said Smash Brahminical Patriarchy. A photograph was taken that was subsequently released on Twitter, and all hell broke loose

Twitter is giving new meaning to Darwinian logic – the survival of the loudest, and sometimes the vilest and the rudest. 

Dorsey faced significant criticism from many Indians. Some called him a supporter of hate speech. Others, including a retired senior executive of an IT company who has invested in pro-government media in India, asked Twitter for a reaction to its senior-most executive aligning himself with what they described as a divisive slogan. A body claiming to represent Brahmins has filed a defamation suit against Dorsey. 

The lawsuit is unlikely to go far – by any reckoning Brahmins are the privileged, dominant minority in India. They sit at the top of Hinduism’s complicated caste hierarchy, and even though they form less than five percent of India’s population, they nonetheless command vastly disproportionate resources, hold senior executive positions and have top jobs. Dalit activists challenging the hierarchy are calling for an end to that Brahminical patriarchy – the poster is not saying Brahmins are to be eliminated. By no stretch of imagination can the poster be termed ‘hate speech’. 

And yet, a senior Twitter executive posted an apology, distancing the company from the message, and claiming that the photograph was private; the poster was given entirely at the initiative of the Dalit activist; and that the company did not intend to cause offence. That is a laughable explanation; for it would then imply that Twitter actually supports the reverse argument – that Brahminical patriarchy is a good thing. India has banned caste-based discrimination and there are in fact stiff laws to punish atrocities against the Dalits. 

Companies have spoken out because it makes a compelling business and moral case, and upholds human rights standards. 

In terms of messaging, the poster was the equivalent of a black South African giving an American corporate head a poster saying 'Smash Apartheid' during the 1980s in South Africa (or, in the same vein, someone in the US giving an executive a poster saying 'Black Lives Matter'). In each case, it is entirely possible that any progressive chief executive who understands the role of business in society would hold such a poster publicly, and align the company with those demanding protection of rights. Several US companies have, for example, challenged the Trump administration over the decision to restrict visitors from certain countries; or hired more refugees to defy restrictions being placed on the inflow of refugees. Some business leaders have criticised the US decision to walk away from the Paris Accord on climate and opposed the decision in North Carolina to prevent transgender people from using bathrooms that are appropriate to their identity. Companies have spoken out in these instances because it makes a compelling business and moral case, and upholds human rights standards. 

Twitter’s apology is baffling. By distancing itself from a clearly political message, which affirmed the rights of Dalits and women who felt crowded out on Twitter, the company, in effect, legitimised the political orthodoxy, and those who believe in discrimination and attacks on women, including remarks intended to chill free speech and which threaten violence. Twitter should have instead joined the right side of the debate about the status of Dalits in India. 

Social media companies rely on technology and algorithmic calculations to determine if a specific post is offensive.

To be sure, Twitter is not the only company facing such a predicament. Facebook too has a spotty record in understanding free expression and human rights. These companies rely on technology and algorithmic calculations to determine if a specific post is offensive, and if the right number of boxes are ticked, and sufficient number of people complain, then the account is likely to get placed under close watch and may get suspended. This has led to ridiculous outcomes such as rational Bangladeshi bloggers who challenge religious fundamentalism being suspended from Facebook. By acceding to the demands of concerted efforts of the powerful, social mediacompanies are undermining human rights defenders, activists, dissidents, and, indeed, anyone who uses these platformsto express their views openly. They too often end up bowing to the powerful, rather than giving voice to those without power. Without perhaps realising it, these actions perpetuate inequities and become part of the wider social and media establishment. And in this particular case, they embolden the misogynists and privileged, who are relentless in their opposition of those fighting for their rights and who happen to be women. 

Their position is that they provide the space, but aren’t in charge of content. But each social media company sets its own rules.

Companies like Twitter and Facebook have refused to get drawn into any conversation about what people should be allowed to say and what they can’t. Their position is that they provide the space, but aren’t in charge of content. That would have made sense if the companies were offering a truly free-for-all environment. But of course they don’t. Each social media company has its own terms of service, and each sets its own rules, under which it decides to allow or ban specific content or accounts. 

As a recent New York Times exposé of Facebook shows, senior executives considered banning President Trump over some of his remarks. They decided not to, because they were swayed (partly) by the free speech argument. They may also have been influenced by the potential backlash they might have faced from Trump’s many supporters. At the same time, Facebook did not hesitate in suspending the accounts of the Myanmar military, which had nearly 12 million followers (in a nation of 60 million people), particularly after credible evidence emerged that the army was using its postings to create an environment of hatred towards minorities, in particular Rohingyas. The United Nations has of course called for Myanmar’s military leaders to be charged for genocide

Whether Facebook was right in allowing Trump to continue and banning the Myanmar army are interesting questions to ponder.What’s clear, however, is that companies have not set a reliable and credible framework to make these decisions. UN experts have called for them to adhere to international standards. 

What’s clear is that companies have not set a reliable and credible framework to make decisions.

Companies have the responsibility to respect human rights – which means not only respecting the rights of those who express their views online, but also the rights of those who may face the consequences of remarks made on social media platforms. 

This is not to suggest that Twitter and Facebook should become censors and take on the role of the state. But they should be held accountable by the same standards that apply to news media. That would require serious reorientation in the kind of thinking that has prevailed in Silicon Valley. Taking action is necessary if these companies wish to continue to claim to offer space to unrepresented voices, including women, and particularly women of colour or who are underprivileged. 

Violence against women is often physical, but the chilling effect that the free-for-all atmosphere on social media has created has led many women to withdraw from the medium. That should be a matter of real concern for any conscientious executive keen to uphold all human rights. 

This is not to suggest that Twitter and Facebook should become censors and take on the role of the state. But they should be held accountable by the same standards that apply to news media.

Dorsey was right when he upheld the banner that called for smashing the patriarchy privilege offers. His company was wrong in trying to distance itself from that stance. 

Information & Communication Technology

Centre for Sport and Human Rights Addresses European Parliament on the Future of Sport

20 November 2018

By Alison Biscoe, Manager, Programmes & Partnerships, Centre for Sport and Human Rights (hosted by IHRB)

At the European Parliament Sub-Committee on Human Rights on 19th November 2018, Alison Biscoe outlined the work and planned progress of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, addressing three points in particular:

1. In the Centre’s view, what is the opportunity that sport creates for promoting human rights?

2. How has the Centre worked to capitalise on this opportunity and achieve meaningful progress?

3. How will the Centre respond to challenges and continue to push for progress moving forward?

She concluded:

"The Centre will respond to new challenges by continuing to work collectively and focusing on different areas of intervention. A first critical task for us all is to respond effectively to known human rights risks of those most affected by sport... Ensuring the voices of these groups are heard and systematically integrated into not only the Centre’s work, but the policies and actions of the world of sport more broadly, will be critical in ensuring meaningful progress going forward. 
"A second key task ahead is working constructively with actors responsible for implementation and financing, in other words the sports bodies, local organising committees, governments, and businesses. They must have the necessary knowledge and capacity to be able to truly embed human rights due diligence processes throughout their operations."

Read the full speech here

Information & Communication Technology

2018 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark

13 November 2018

The 2018 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) assesses the performance of 101 of the largest publicly traded companies in the world on a set of human rights indicators. The companies, from three industries - agricultural products, apparel, and extractives - were chosen on the basis of their market capitalisation and revenues. Companies were assessed across six measurement themes each with varying weightings, using similar methodology to the CHRB's 2017 results.

Performance across the companies measured was generally disappointing, with a clear division between those companies continuing to make an effort and those persistently not engaging (or at least not reporting if they are). The average company score is alarmingly low at 27%. Less than 10% of the companies assessed commit to respecting rights of human rights defenders and activists. Virtually none commit to ensuring workers are paid a living wage. Overall companies tend to perform more strongly on policy commitments and management systems than on remedy or dealing with key risks in practice.

In his opening speech, John Morrison said: "The good news is that some of the companies assessed have made real progress in disclosing their human rights performance... The less good news is that there are companies ... which have stubbornly remained unengaged."

Phil Bloomer, member of the CHRB Advisory Panel, said in the report: "The majority of companies appear to be only dimly aware of the potential threats and prizes around them, having made small or no progress in putting human rights at the heart of their business."

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors and Chair of CHRB, said "Better scoring companies are a minority, but they do exist. They demonstrate that integrating respect for human rights is neither impossible, nor detrimental, to the business model... The top five scoring companies are the same as in 2017; Adidas, BHP Billiton, Marks and Spencer, Rio Tinto and Unilever, but they are leaving the ‘average’ company further behind.”

For more information on the 2018 results, see the full report on the CHRB website.

Information & Communication Technology

“A Tale of Two Cities”: Launch of 2018 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark

12 November 2018

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

On 12th November 2018, John Morrison, IHRB's CEO, delivered a speech at the launch of the 2018 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) in London. This is CHRB's second set of results and reveals a disparity of performance among large corporations:

"The good news is that some of the companies assessed have made real progress in disclosing their human rights performance. We should remember such disclosure is not at the request of the Benchmark. United Nations and OECD standards call for such transparency. Increasing interest in corporate reporting legislation at the national level is seen from Australia to Norway, France to Switzerland. There are some real success stories – companies determined to demonstrate how they are implementing the corporate responsibility to respect human rights. 

"The less good news is that there are companies living in another city – which have stubbornly remained unengaged from human rights, and if they are managing their risks and negative impacts, they are not being transparent about doing so. Do not assume for one moment that these laggards are only in one business sector or fall under jurisdictions somewhere far from here. Many scoring below 10% on this year’s Benchmark are well-known retail brands."

Download and read the full speech here

Information & Communication Technology

Rights and Wrongs - Tech Inequity?

07 November 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

On 1st November 2018, some 17,000 Google employees in more than 40 offices across the world left identical notes on their desks, saying “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone.” 

Companies that say they uphold universal values will face serious scrutiny from their own staff, who will challenge senior executives and ask the company to live up to their commitments.

The mass walkout by some of the best paid and skilled people in any corporation highlights four important developments concerning the hi-tech sector. One, that no business, not even the well-paid, individualistic and innovative hi-tech sector, is immune from sexual harassment. Two, emboldened employees will raise their voice, even when they are not unionised and have not felt the need to organise themselves in the past. Three, the tech sector has a gender problem that it must address and take urgent steps to change – saying it is meritocratic simply won’t do. And four, companies that say they uphold universal values will face serious scrutiny from their own staff, who will challenge senior executives and ask the company to live up to their commitments, and that is a good thing. 

Emboldened employees will raise their voice, even when they are not unionised and have not felt the need to organise themselves in the past.

The immediate provocation for the Google protest was a New York Times story, which revealed that the company had paid Andy Rubin, a departing executive, $90 million as severance while not disclosing a serious claim of misconduct against him when he left in 2014. The internal backlash was immediate, and Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai and co-founder Larry Page took immediate steps to reassure the company’s workforce that sexual harassment would not be tolerated. Forty-eight employees had been let go over similar charges in the past two years, Pichai added, and those who left since 2016 under such circumstances had not received any payout. He supported the employee activism, admitting that the Times story was “difficult to read”, and reassured his staff in an email, saying, “I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel. I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society… and, yes, here at Google, too.” 

But Google employees wanted to demonstrate their outrage, and at meetings in cities across the world, they said this action was the beginning, not the end. 

Their six demands were:

  1. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality;
  2. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report;
  3. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously;
  4. The elevation of the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the CEO, and make recommendations directly to the board of directors;
  5. The appointment of an employee representative to the board;
  6. An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees.

With its outwardly egalitarian and meritocratic structure and a focus on creativity and innovation, the hi-tech sector conjures the impression that every employee has an equal opportunity to succeed and those who reach the top are there strictly on merit. Given the industry’s reliance on private capital whose primary aim is to make profit, it is not an unreasonable assumption to make. But each organisation mirrors the society in which it operates. 

Many, including engineers, still believe women are not good at tech jobs. 

The tech sector in the United States is disproportionately lopsided, with more men who are white (and some Asians) in senior positions, and few women, or people of colour, reaching the upper echelons. A new book by Joy Lisi Rankin argues that the predominantly white and male culture in the computing industry owes its origins to the atmosphere prevalent at Dartmouth College in the United States, where engineering professors and mathematicians developed an early computing language, called the Beginners’ All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC) in the 1960s. Dartmouth didn’t admit women as students at that time, so the small, rural campus in New England developed a ‘frat boy’ reputation, and its early success led this to be recreated at other campuses, including at companies. Whether or not the roots of such behaviour lie in rural New England, many, including engineers, still believe women are not good at tech jobs. 

Last year a Google employee was fired after he wrote an internal memo in which he claimed that women were biologically unable to be effective engineers. (Personally, I find the assertion to be just that – an assertion: my late wife was an engineer in the tech industry, and although she would agree that there were few women engineers, it was certainly not because ‘women couldn’t do math’.) The former employee, James Damore, bemoaned what he described as the politically correct ideological echo chamber that did not allow contrarian ideas to be expressed. He contended that the company’s focus on diversity would in the long run erode its competitiveness. 

Many scientists disagreed with Damore’s assertions. Indeed, at the annual meeting of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) employees asked for executive compensation to be tied to managerial performance on improving diversity metrics. (Only 19% of Google’s tech workforce is female; at Apple, female workforce in tech jobs is 23%, and at Facebook, 17%). This has partly to do with fewer women engineers, and to address that, companies including Facebook, and beyond the tech sector, GE and ExxonMobil, provide support, including grants and scholarships, to girls to study science and math at high school and later. 

Amazon scrapped a recruiting tool based on artificial intelligence it had developed after it found that the model was biased against women. 

The problem of sexism in tech is real. British science writer Angela Saini, in her recent bookInferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story, shows the implicit bias in-built and hard-wired into our thinking, which makes people accept as ‘fact’ that women are not good at science or technology. She explains the real differences in how men and women think and feel, and examines how science has excluded women since the Enlightenment and the prevailing neurosexism in scientific research at present, revealing our flawed thinking. 

To be sure, Google is not the worst offender. Last year, Susan Fowler, a former engineer at Uber, the ride-hailing company, wrote a blog about her ‘very strange year’ at the company, about her manager making sexual advances towards her almost from the day she started work. It blew into a major crisis at the company. Other examples of biases abound: Amazon scrapped a recruiting tool based on artificial intelligence it had developed after it found that the model was biased against women. 

The 2016 Women in the Workplace study showed that only 19% of the tech sector's top executives are women.

Such biases feed discriminatory attitudes. Ellen Pao failed in her lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, a venture capital firm, over sexual harassment and discrimination, but she forced rethinking among some senior executives in the Silicon Valley because a dissatisfied workforce would mean lower morale, which would affect creativity and productivity. 

Demeaning the role and contribution of women has other consequences. The 2016 Women in the Workplace study showed that only 19% of the tech sector's top executives are women. Some 84% of the women in the sector were told they were being aggressive or bossy, even if they made simple demands such as equal pay. A Tinder executive, Whitney Wolf, sued the company because she was verbally abused often by a senior executive and denied the title of ‘co-founder’. Tom Preston Werner, the founder of a coding site, GitHub, resigned after a sexual harassment investigation. 

Two out of five women in corporate America say they have been harassed.

Sexual harassment is of course found in every industry – two out of five women in corporate America say they have been harassed – but Silicon Valley trumps that statistic, with a survey, called The Elephant in the Valleyshowing that 60% of women in the tech sector have faced sexual harassment. The survey also found that 87% of the 220 women interviewed had witnessed demeaning comments from their colleagues. Almost 40% of those who said they were harassed at work did not report the situation, fearing it would damage their careers. Given that women form a small proportion of the total workforce, that’s alarming. 

The Google walkout shows that companies will increasingly face calls for collective bargaining.

There is a larger consequence of activism at Google. The tech sector largely frowns upon trade unions, believing that unions are unnecessary in a sector where those with requisite skills are paid premium dollars, and if someone is dissatisfied with the terms, she can simply take her laptop and move to another job. The Google walkout shows that companies will increasingly face calls for collective bargaining. Among the Google employees’ demands is a seat on the board for workers’ representatives. This is straight out of trade union politics. 

Experts believe that other companies – such as Facebook – are watching what happens at Google with apprehension and anxiety. For example companies like Microsoft, which may be bidding for contracts with the US immigration services which is cracking down on immigration are facing protests internally to drop ICE contracts

Indeed, Google employees have been vocal in recent months about issues that matter to them. They challenged the company to not bid for a cloud computing contract that was worth $10 billion with the US Department of Defense, as it would have violated Google’s own principles on artificial intelligence. They have protested the company’s work on a secret search engine for use in China. Some employees have quit the company over this project. Google had been widely praised for not entering the Chinese market over censorship concerns, and the fact that it was considering re-entering the market was enough provocation for many within the company to protest. “Don’t be evil,” is the company’s motto – its own employees are holding the company to that standard. 

“This doesn’t end today,” one Google employee said. She is right. While Google is not perfect, it aims to make its workplace inclusive and diverse, seeing financial advantages as well as benefits that can’t be measured in monetary terms. Its motto – don’t be evil – may sound New Ageish to some, but taken literally, it means preventing and undoing harm. That’s a very good place from which to start for any company that wants to take human rights seriously. 

[Google's] motto – don’t be evil – ...means preventing and undoing harm. That’s a very good place from which to start.

Google should be applauded for listening to its employees. It has already accepted one of the demands – of forced arbitration: it will no longer be forced, leaving the employee the option to use courts. The harder part is taking steps to reduce harms already caused, and preventing them from recurring. Its employees, and many others, will be watching. 

Information & Communication Technology

Bridging Boundaries - New Memoir by IHRB Patron

06 November 2018

By Chris Marsden, Patron, IHRB

IHRB Patron Chris Marsden's varied career brought him to the forefront of the business and human rights agenda when still in its infancy. 

With beginnings as a school teacher, Marsden went on to work in education and community affairs roles with the oil company, BP, throughout the 1980's and 90's, before providing invaluable and pioneering facilitation over the next two decades to form some of the earliest business and human rights thought leadership groups, including the Amnesty Business Group, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, as well as the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

Marsden's memoirs provide a unique historical perspective on the early years of the business and human rights agenda. As he notes: 

"I have entitled my memoirs ‘Bridging Boundaries’. If there is one theme that connects my varied career it is that I have worked at the boundary between education, local communities, and industry. Over the years, my mission became one of helping organisations with very different cultures and perspectives on the world to understand each other better and work together for mutual benefit to themselves and the wider society."

Information & Communication Technology

Rights and Wrongs - Business as Usual in Saudi?

22 October 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

One by one, global companies are trying to distance themselves from the Saudi Arabian Government.

The immediate provocation is the shocking disappearance and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. On October 2, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect documents that would finalise his divorce so that he could marry his fiancée. 

Turkish authorities said he was murdered inside the consulate, apparently due to his criticisms of the Saudi Government.

Saudi Arabia initially denied the allegation and formed an inquiry to investigate his disappearance. Late last week, the Saudi Government admitted Khashoggi died inside the consulate following 'fight’ with Saudi officials. The Saudi Government also made sweeping changes to the Kingdom’s security set-up and promised a full investigation. 

Global Reaction

This week, Saudi Arabia is hosting a global investment summit, informally called “Davos in the Desert”.

While corporate outrage over Khashoggi’s apparent gruesome murder is praiseworthy, we should recall that Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been deeply troubling for decades.

Since Khashoggi's disappearance, a growing number of sponsors have pulled out and chief executives of leading companies, including Uber, J P Morgan and Ford Motor Co, have withdrawn participation in response. Lobbying firms are also moving away from Saudi Arabia, such as Harbour Group, who have now dropped their client worth a reported $80,000 a month. Other firms are considering such moves as well.

Dante Pesce, Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, said on Friday that the decision by business executives “to withdraw from the conference underlines how companies can use their leverage to address human rights concerns. Business leaders need to take a strong interest in keeping civic space open wherever they operate. For it is only in an environment where journalists and human rights defenders are able to speak freely that businesses can effectively identify and prevent negative human rights impacts.”

The trigger for this panic among corporate leaders is Khashoggi’s disappearance and murder.

While corporate outrage over Khashoggi’s apparent gruesome murder is praiseworthy, we should recall that Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been deeply troubling for decades. Yet business leaders have seldom raised public concern.

Why have companies acted now? Should they have been silent all these years? And what does the world expect of any company in a similar situation today? 

The brutality of the act is horrific, and may have prompted media companies to avoid being seen participating in the event, as broadcasters, sponsors, or participants. Businesses have likely acted because of more active media scrutiny.

Acts and Impacts

The apparent Saudi action, while cruel and arbitrary, is not in isolation.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman received surprisingly warm and positive coverage soon after he began consolidating power. His rise was seen by several leading experts in the West as a watershed event, which would lead to dramatic changes, modernising the country. The Crown Prince gave long interviews to leading western publications, speaking of a rosy future with gradual democratisation achieved through peaceful transition. The national oil company Saudi Aramco would off-load some shares in the international markets and investors would come to “Davos in the Desert” making pledges for Saudi development. 

Companies have the responsibility to assess the human rights risks and impacts of wherever they operate, and on most counts, Saudi Arabia would rank at or near the bottom. 

The oil company’s initial public offering has now been delayed. The harsh crackdown he unleashed against corruption, targeting many royals, raised major concerns over due process. There are also significant concerns over Saudi involvement in the long-running conflict in Yemen, in which thousands of civilians have died.  

Companies have the responsibility to assess the human rights risks and impacts of wherever they operate, and on most counts, Saudi Arabia would rank at or near the bottom. Reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to name only two organisations, show how little fundamental rights matter to the Saudi authorities. 

Back in 2000, soon after I started work at Amnesty International, I wrote a report which was published as a booklet, showing the human rights risks companies face while operating in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty did not call for sanctions at that time, and we saw our role as telling investors of the very real risks their employees, partners and their employees, and associates might face, while operating in the country.

I wrote in that report:

"Businesses and governments around the world have overlooked the appalling human rights record of Saudi Arabia in the past. One of the arguments being that business interests and requirements are unrelated to human rights. It is time for the international business community to open its eyes. Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights has a direct impact on business interests." 

Among the risks identified were systematic violations of human rights, including torture; trials held in secrecy and not complying with international fair trial standards; a judicial system that did not meet international standards; denial of access to lawyers; cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments meted out to prisoners, including those arrested for commercial offences; denial of rights to women; and lack of support for migrant workers.

The report identified a few good practices by companies, such as not holding migrant workers’ passports, and respecting gender equality within the company’s premises. The report also urged all companies considering trade or investment ties with Saudi Arabia to use their influence and to adhere to international standards within their operations, and familiarise their staff with human rights risks, as well as respecting the rights of the staff without discrimination. 

Little has changed in the eighteen years since.

Saudi Arabia continues to jail dissidents, including journalists, without due process.These include the Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi (who has been given the punishment of 600 lashes on apostasy charges, and whose detention has worsened Saudi Arabia’s relations with Canada, where Badawi’s wife, the very brave Ensaf Haidar, lives), and Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari, who was deported back to Saudi Arabia from Malaysia, because of tweets he had written.

Each of these cases violated international norms, as in the case of Khashoggi. 

It is also painfully clear that the rights of women continue to be threatened on a massive scale in Saudi Arabia.

Much has been made of recent reforms to allow Saudi women to drive. But feminists seeking greater (and arguably more meaningful) freedoms for women have been arrested. United Nations human rights experts issued a strong condemnation earlier this month over the detention of six women human rights defenders in the country. Women in Saudi Arabia are punished for being raped. As Mona Eltahawy, the Egypt-born author who has lived in Saudi Arabia, wrote, 15 schoolgirls died in a burning school building in 2002, because the country’s morality police would not let them flee the building nor allow firefighters to save them, because they were not wearing headscarves. 

A Turning Point?

So while business leaders not going to Riyadh this week for an investment summit should be given credit for their stand, they should also be asking themselves a few questions.

Why was it appropriate to carry on as if it was business as usual all these years?

What kind of due diligence have we undertaken to assess the human rights impacts of our operations in, and business relationships with, Saudi Arabia where the rights of many – women, migrant workers, dissidents – are neither protected, nor respected?

And what steps are we taking to use our individual and collective leverage where possible to make a positive difference today? 

Businesses can and must speak out more forcefully and effectively when they operate in countries such as Saudi Arabia.

No country’s human rights record is perfect. And while Saudi Arabia’s record is exceptionally poor, it is not the only country where widespread and serious violations are common. 

True, companies cannot avoid doing business in many countries, and their presence can be a force for good.

But it requires paying sustained attention to the human rights record and dynamics of each country, by undertaking rigorous, enhanced due diligence in countries like Saudi Arabia, because of the significant human rights risks the country poses, to guide corporate decisions. 

Such due diligence requires processes and consultations with human rights experts on the country, and an examination of indicators, such as how the Government treats its vulnerable people, minorities, women, civil society, dissenters, and critics. Any government that jails poets and detains women simply because they call for equality is unlikely to respect the fine print of investment agreements or comply with other international norms.

Business cannot solve all human rights problems in a country. Neither do businesses have the mandate to do so.

But businesses can and must speak out more forcefully and effectively when they operate in countries such as Saudi Arabia, and must demonstrate – individually and through collective action – that they are seeking to improve the situation on the ground not only for their own operations, but also for all those impacted by their presence in the country.  

 

Photo credit: Flickr/Pomed

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Maryam Al Khawaja on Businesses Operating in Saudi

22 October 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 11.17MB - Duration: 8:08 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

Maryam Al-Khawaja is a human rights defender from Bahrain and has been a leading voice on human rights in the Gulf. She is currently a human rights advisor and sits in the boards of International Service for Human Rights and Urgent Action Fund. She formerly served as the Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and the Acting President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

On a recent visit to Bergen, Norway where Maryam was part of the faculty of IHRB's course on business and human rights (which it runs with Rafto Foundation at the University of Bergen), Maryam spoke to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about the disappearance and alleged murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Noting that many companies have pulled out of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, Maryam speaks of business responsibility to respect human rights, and how companies should assess the human rights record of countries with which they do business. While remaining realistic about what the episode means for political changes in Saudi Arabia, she calls it a turning point.


 

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What the OHCHR’s Accountability & Remedy Project Adds to the Treaty Discussions

19 October 2018

By Margaret Wachenfeld, Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, IHRB

In June 2014, the Human Rights Council raised some eyebrows by creating not just one, but two parallel processes on corporate accountability in human rights-related cases.  The first process, set out in Resolution 26/9 called for the establishment of “an open-ended intergovernmental working group … to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate … the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises”.  The second one, Resolution 26/22, which was adopted by consensus, requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to facilitate a consultative process with states, experts and others to explore “the full range of legal options and practical measures to improve access to remedy for victims of business-related human rights abuses.”  Four years later, with a considerable amount of work accomplished and a number of important milestones reached, there is now a much clearer sense of the complementarity between them.

At the time of writing of this blog, the first process, the intergovernmental working group on a treaty on business and human rights is in its fourth session (15-19 October 2018) gathering feedback from States and other stakeholders on its “Zero Draft” of a future treaty.  In parallel, the second process, the “ARP” (OHCHR’s Accountability and Remedy Project), as it has fondly become known to those of us who have been participating in the process over the years, has made substantial progress.  OHCHR has to date published two major reports on access to remedy: one setting out advice on how to improve access to remedy through judicial mechanisms, and more recently, a second report on ways to improve the effectiveness of State-based non-judicial mechanisms in business and human rights cases.  The third phase of this process is just getting underway and will focus on the role of private (i.e. “non-State”) grievance mechanisms.

The work of the IGWG is directed towards a future binding treaty, whereas the Accountability and Remedy Project presents States with a menu of options that States can consider right now.

There are a number of differences – in both aims and scope – between the work of the intergovernmental working group on the new treaty (IGWG) and OHCHR’s Accountability and Remedy Project.  The first and most obvious difference is that the work of the IGWG is directed towards a future binding treaty, whereas the Accountability and Remedy Project presents States with a menu of options that States can consider right now to progressively and incrementally improve the effectiveness of their institutions from an access to remedy perspective, but without making pre-judgments as to which will be the most effective strategies in different contexts.  While the development of an international treaty is a long term proposition, the stated aim of the Accountability and Remedy Project is to focus on areas that require urgent attention and/or where developments are capable of delivering improvements to accountability and remedy in the short to medium term.  Secondly, the Accountability and Remedy Project, while recognising the importance of strong legal frameworks, also identifies steps that could be taken at a practical (e.g. administrative) level to ensure that benefits are felt on the ground for those whose human rights have been adversely affected.  Thirdly, the Accountability and Remedy Project is concerned with all business enterprises – big and small, transnational and local – whereas the IGWG’s Zero Draft is primarily concerned with enterprises operating transnationally. 

OHCHR’s Accountability and Remedy Project potentially complements the IGWG process in a number of important and specific ways.

But the other important message is that these are complementary – not competing – processes. Although there are clear and deliberate differences in aims and scope, the work done thus far under the auspices of the OHCHR’s Accountability and Remedy Project potentially complements the IGWG process in a number of important and specific ways as follows.

First, the ARP I Guidance highlights the various legal reforms that may need to be considered in order to meet future treaty commitments in practice, taking account of the different structures and conditions that may exist in different jurisdictions. For instance, the sections of the ARP I Guidance aimed at ensuring that there are statutory offences and causes of action in place could be relied on by prosecutors and victims in practice.  ARP I Guidance, Annex, Policy Objectives 1 and 12 are highly relevant to the provisions in the Zero Draft relating to the rights of victims to access to judicial and other processes (see Zero Draft, Article 8) and legal liability generally (see Zero Draft, Article 10).  Similarly, the  aspects of the ARP I Guidance relating to human rights due diligence, which were supplemented in follow-up work carried out by OHCHR, identify a number of legal strategies that could be considered to help meet the Zero Draft’s objectives in this regard (see Zero Draft, Article 9).

Second, the ARP I Guidance provides some suggestions as to the policy and procedural matters that will need to be taken into account to ensure that remedies are effective in practice.  For instance, the sections of the ARP I Guidance relating to the design of remedies - including the importance of future prevention, establishing systems for proper follow up by authorities to ensure that remedies are implemented in practice and the need for proper consultation to stakeholders (see ARP I Guidance, Annex, Policy Objectives 11 and 19) – are highly relevant to the provisions of the Zero Draftrelating to effective remedies (see especially Zero Draft, Article 8(1)).

Third, as noted above, the ARP I Guidance highlights the importance of attention to the detail of practical implementation and makes a number of suggestions as to practical steps that could be considered to make regimes more effective and user-friendly for those who rely on them.  For instance, while the Zero Draft and the ARP I Guidance both rightly emphasise the importance of robust mutual legal assistance regimes in cross-border cases, the ARP I Guidance makes use of its more flexible format to suggest some very straightforward practical, administrative steps that States could consider to make these regimes run more smoothly and efficiently.  Similarly, the ARP I Guidance makes of number of practical suggestions on enhancing the effectiveness of enforcement agencies (see Annex, Policy Objective 5-8) and on reducing financial barriers to civil claims (see Policy Objectives 15 and 16) which could be potentially useful when it comes to implementing the corresponding provisions of an eventual treaty (see Zero Draft, Article 8, see especially sub-clauses (3),(5), (6) and (7)).

As has been echoed many times about the “forgotten pillar,” improvements are needed at all levels... to achieve that “smart mix” of practical, policy-based, legislative and cooperative measures that can start to make access to remedy more than just a pipedream.

But the complementarity also works at a more general level as well.  The treaty process calls on States to work together to tackle challenges arising from transnational business enterprises do not in any way diminish the importance of concerted efforts at domestic level to improve accountability and access to remedy in relation to all kinds of business enterprises large and small.  On the contrary, timely and focussed interventions by effective domestic institutions (the main thrust of OHCHR’s work on the Accountability and Remedy project) can be vital in preventing concerns and disputes over human rights-related harms from escalating into major incidents with cross-border implications.  In reality, as has been echoed many times about the “forgotten pillar,” improvements are needed at all levels – locally and nationally as well as internationally – to achieve that “smart mix” of practical, policy-based, legislative and cooperative measures that can start to make access to remedy more than just a pipedream.

 

This blog first appeared on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre website.

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Increasing Access to Business Practice is Key to Scaling Respect for Human Rights

18 October 2018

By Catie Shavin, Director, Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI)

Finding effective ways to talk about human rights with colleagues is a common challenge confronted by practitioners working in companies to drive implementation of respect for human rights. 

Whether these discussions happen within one’s immediate team, with colleagues in different parts of the business or with senior leadership, human rights can be a difficult subject to talk about.

Many people nowadays have a general sense of what human rights are. But the connection between business and human rights is not always intuitive. For some, the term ‘human rights’ invokes images of conflict and violence, while others think of campaigns to combat discrimination or promote same-sex marriage. The reality is that human rights challenges are diverse and can play out very differently in a business context.

Talking about human rights with colleagues

The Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI) recently launched its Business Practice Portal, providing free, online access to real-life examples of company action, helpful videos and practical insights from our members – a group of 18 of the world’s leading multinational corporations who are committed to implementing respect for human rights. 

Initiatives offering public access to evolving business practices will be key to enabling human rights due diligence at scale in the coming years.

There's no one right way to approach talking about human rights.

Hearing stories from peers about, for example, how they began an internal conversation about human rights – can strengthen practitioners’ confidence to get started and their ability to be effective. And for those grappling with complex challenges, building on others’ lessons learned about what works and what doesn’t can be invaluable.

There’s no one right way to approach talking about human rights.

What works best will vary depending on company culture, geographic region and colleagues’ familiarity with their company’s human rights responsibilities. But it can be helpful to hear how others have approached this. That’s why we included a video on the Portal featuring GBI members discussing how they talk about human rights with their colleagues and other material on raising awareness, training and building capacity.

One helpful tip is shared by Ron Popper, Co-Chair of GBI (and former Head of Corporate Responsibility at ABB). He explains that in some parts of the world, it can be more effective to talk about individual issues, such as health and safety, workers’ rights and dormitory conditions as a way to expand understanding of human rights risks within a business. 

Addressing modern slavery

Developing effective responses to complex and systemic issues is a key aim of the new Portal. One such issue is the risk of involvement in modern slavery, which has become a high priority for many companies around the world. 

Many companies are demonstrating leadership, but it can be hard to find effective ways to respond to such problems. 

Regulatory instruments, such as the UK Modern Slavery Act and the Australian Modern Slavery Bill, new initiatives, such as the Leadership Group on Responsible Recruitment, and increasing public focus on high-profile mega-sporting events have raised awareness of challenges linked to modern slavery – and the role of business in helping solve them. The pressure for companies to show that they know the risks – and are taking action – has never been stronger.  

Many companies are demonstrating leadership, but it can be hard to find effective ways to respond to such problems.

GBI members observe that sharing knowledge and approaches – and coordinating with others – is critical. We’ve added a page to the Portal dedicated to addressing modern slavery. Thispage includes videos featuring GBI members describing how their companies approach this challenge, along with practical insights for business practitioners. These emphasise the importance of looking at the whole system in which modern slavery occurs to identify smart actions. The videos also share tips on usingworker voice tools effectivelyand explore the value of collaborating with business partners and other key stakeholders.

Looking forward – improving access to business practice to drive change

In the seven years since the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, the business and human rights movement has seen real progress in efforts to implement corporate respect for human rights – particularly amongst leading companies. We’re a long way from realising the transformative vision of the UNGPs – but we’ve made a solid start. 

The fundamental challenge now is to scale up good practice and drive engagement amongst the ‘unaware, unable and unwilling’.

The fundamental challenge now – and as emphasised in the UN Working Group’s recent report to the UN General Assembly – is to scale up good practice and drive engagement amongst the ‘unaware, unable and unwilling’.

We need to meet this challenge as a matter of urgency.

For affected people and communities, the passage of time can be measured in adverse human rights impacts – many of which could be identified and prevented through the implementation of human rights due diligence. For companies, the proliferation of regulatory requirements such as the French Duty of Vigilance Law and the Australian Modern Slavery Bill create a strong driver for action. Laws such as these are requiring large numbers of companies to begin engaging seriously with human rights-related challenges. These companies need to rapidly build know-how and capability to meet new requirements and their stakeholders’ expectations.

But there’s a limit to how far and how fast companies can progress by acting alone. 

To speed up change, we need to improve practitioners’ access to each other’s practical approaches, insights and tips. More must be done to ensure everyone works together, so that strategies build on accumulated know-howand avoid re-inventing the wheel. 

The GBI Business Practice Portal clearly cannot achieve this on its own. But by boosting access to the experiences of our members, the Portal is – we hope – a useful tool and a step in the right direction. 

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Damion Thomas on the 1968 Olympic Protest

15 October 2018

By Haley St. Dennis, Head of Communications, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 18.89MB - Duration: 13:45 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

In this podcast, Damion Thomas talks to IHRB’s Haley St. Dennis about the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic protest by Tommie Smith, Peter Norman, and John Carlos. After winning the gold, silver, and bronze medals respectively in the 200 metre dash, Smith and Carlos raised their fists, heads down and shoeless during the entirety of the US national anthem in the medal ceremony. Norman wore a badge supporting the Olympic Project for Human Rights. All three athletes faced immediate and lasting criticism for mixing politics with sport. They were booed by the crowd, Smith and Carlos were banned from the remainder of the Games, and all three athletes faced significant impacts to their employability and livelihoods because of their choice to amplify conversations around race relations and equality through the power of their global sporting platforms.

Damion Thomas is the Curator of Sports for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. He tells stories through the lens of the African American experience, to help all Americans think about who they are as a country, what they value and how they connect.

 

Image: Flickr/PennState

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IHRB Open Letter to EU Regarding Myanmar

10 October 2018

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

IHRB has today sent an open letter to the European Union (EU) Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström expressing concern about the EU’s potential withdrawal of Myanmar from the Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement. 

Every government, including the EU, must demonstrate full support for the recommendations of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar, which reported to the United Nations in September 2018 recommending targeted individual sanctions that do not have detrimental effect on the broader Myanmar population.

In particular the FFM states that it:

...does not support general economic sanctions on Myanmar. It is concerned that such sanctions in the past may have contributed to the impoverishment of the Myanmar people generally while having little impact on those most responsible for serious human rights violations.

Read IHRB's letter here

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Labour Law Reforms in Qatar - Challenges and Opportunities for Business

10 October 2018

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

John Morrison delivered a speech on 17th October 2018 at a conference in Doha focussing on labour law refoms in Qatar. The two day event was co-hosted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs.

In his speech John Morrison said:

"Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank our co-convenors: the Qatar Chamber, the Ministry of Labour and the ILO. I really only have one message but one which I want to deliver clearly as someone who has also worked in business. It is the same message I delivered to international companies and Ambassadors here two years ago. Responsible business is no longer a choice - it is essential for all of you as the world looks increasingly on Qatar now the Russia World Cup is over. The legacy of the World Cup and progress towards Qatar’s 2030 Vision depends on the actions all stakeholders, including business, over the months and years ahead.

"There has been real progress over these past two years. At the very highest levels, the State of Qatar has made a renewed commitment towards labour reform and earlier this year the International Labour Organization opened their office here – a sign of good faith and cooperation. The Supreme Committee for the Delivery and Legacy of Qatar 2022 continues to make solid steps forwards for the 30,000 workers under their responsibility – from the repayment of recruitment fees, joint health and safety inspections with a global union federation and independent third party monitoring. This aligns well with United Nations standards to Protect, Respect and Remedy the human rights of everyone – and for business to also play its role in undertaking all necessary steps to prevent harm and to remedy abuses when they are found.

"In a world of greater transparency, driven by technologies such as blockchain, international companies around the world know that labour rights are material to the trust society places in them. Soon customers will know much more not just about what is in products they buy but also what lies behind the services they use – including hotels, food and transport. Transparency is coming to us all and so we better be ready for it. For businesses here that are looking to export abroad, then these issues will come sooner as tariffs too are increasingly linked to human rights concerns. I have seen Chambers of Commerce and business associations in other countries play leading roles in helping prepare their members for such moments of greater scrutiny.

"One significant issue that needs much more progress is that of responsible recruitment. The problem is not unique to Qatar - there are businesses all over the world dealing with this right now. But the message here is simple. None of us should have to buy our jobs. We do not expect our brothers, sisters and children to have to take large debts, mortgages or loans in order to purchase jobs in a faraway land. This practice is illegal under Qatari law but all of us know that most of the migrant workers coming to build countries such as yours are paying these fees in countries of origin. You might say this is their problem and not your problem but I would beg to differ. Having such practices in your labour supply chains will become a problem for us all as the spotlight of 2022 shines ever brighter.

"We will hear today and tomorrow from companies who have taken steps to clean up their labour supply chains. Concrete steps of due diligence, prevention and remediation. If the workers are not to pay these recruitment fees then it is companies here, as well as your suppliers, who must do so. Yes, this and new commitments to a minimum wage will make labour more expensive, but we are talking about human lives – lives worthy of dignity and respect as much as our own. This is the central message of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in Paris on 10 December 1948, a 70-year birthday we will be celebrating in a few weeks' time.

"Qatar has now made many of the essential commitments. Earlier this year the government signed the two key United Nations human rights instruments – the Convent on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. You are the third such country in this region to do so. This country has also shown humility in accepting that labour abuses still persist and has welcomed critical friends into the country to work with you. This spirit of openness and cooperation can only help as we now look for action by business itself across international labour supply chains.

"This is a country with a proud history of hospitality and welcome. There have been good examples of promising practice on labour rights in Qatar, which we’ll hear about later today. This good practice now needs to be scaled up to advance the rights of everyone. This means recognising the rights of all and that your responsibility as businesses extends far beyond the borders of this country. You have friends willing to help you in this journey."

Download the speech here

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Do It Just: Has Nike Started a New Trend?

12 September 2018

By Alison Biscoe, Manager, Programmes & Partnerships, Centre for Sport and Human Rights (hosted by IHRB)

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” 

These words, embossed over a close-up photograph of Colin Kaepernick, have already created debate over what many consider a controversial choice by sports company Nike to feature the American football player as a new face of the brand. 

Is it about marketing, or is it about raising awareness and constructive dialogue?

When companies such as Nike take such actions it raises familiar questions: is it about marketing, or is it about raising awareness and constructive dialogue about the roles and responsibilities of companies and athletes in promoting different causes, including on human rights?

Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback from 2011 to 2016, sparked controversy during the 2016 season when he kneeled during the national anthem in a protest he said was to highlight racial injustices and police brutality in the United States. The move was met with criticism from many fans, and notably President Trump, who called on NFL owners to fire players who “disrespected” the flag. Kaepernick’s contract was not renewed in 2017, and he has been unsigned– a free agent – since.

Kaepernick’s protest has been compared by some to the ‘Black Power Salute’ of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. There, African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medalists respectively in the 200 metre event, received their medals shoeless. The absence of footwear was to represent the poverty faced by African Americans and was accompanied by a raised black-gloved fist salute that lasted the entirety of the US national anthem. Standing with them in solidarity was silver medalist Peter Norman, wearing a badge that read "Olympic Project for Human Rights". The protest was regarded by some as an unwelcome politicisation of sport, much like the divided reaction to Kaepernick’s kneeling. 

Kaepernick’s protest has been compared by some to the ‘Black Power Salute’ of the 1968 Olympics

As with that historic moment in Mexico, Kaepernick decided to use his elite platform to draw the attention of millions to the importance of fundamental rights and dignity. While the NFL did not fire players who protested, they did rule that all players must stand during the anthem –a policy that has since been revoked following negotiations with the players union. 

Much like Kaepernick’s protest, Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign has sparked strong debate and mixed reviews.The company’s share price closed 3.2% down on the day the campaign was launched. The hashtags #JustBurnIt and #NikeBoycott began trending, with images of people cutting the “swoosh” logo out of their Nike socks and burning their Nike shoes and apparel (in some cases while wearing them), spreading across the internet.

But few can claim Nike doesn’t know its brand. 

In spite of the backlash, the new campaign earned more than $43 million in media exposure in its first 24 hours, and sales have gone up 31% in the days following. Nike also knows its audience.The majority of its under 35, ethnically diverse consumer market is thought to support the campaign.

Nike is no stranger to controversy. The brand has a history of signing controversial athletes, but this campaign sends a different message. Nike is taking a stand, transforming the “it” of “Just Do It” into something bigger than sports and athleticism. 

The “Dream Crazy” campaign video evokes sport’s potential to move the world forward, to mean something more than points and records alone. It says of LeBron James, one of the featured athletes: “Don’t become the best basketball player on the planet. Be bigger than basketball” emphasising his charitable and community work off the court. 

The fact that Nike is almost certainly being commercially savvy does not preclude it from making a stand for rights and equality at the same time. 

The campaign also features tennis legend Serena Williams, who has also been involved in several recent controversies. The first surrounding the institutional reaction of tennis to her outfit for the 2018 French Open – a black catsuit, designed by none other than Nike. The outfit acknowledged the struggle of a difficult pregnancy and the strength of women and mothers facing similar challenges. It was so highly engineered and designed that it assisted against Williams’ post-pregnancy risk of blood clots. Despite this, the suit was met with criticism from French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli who announced a change to the dress code following the match, stating that players “must respect the game and the place.” Williams was unfazed and continued to challenge the norm by wearing a black tutu, again designed in collaboration with Nike, to the US Open two months later.

While new and provocative to some, the “Dream Crazy” campaign is part of Nike’s DNA. Similar campaigns in the past, including its 2017 “Equality” campaign, called for equality and non-discrimination both within and beyond sport. This attitude is further reflected in Nike becoming the first global, mainstream company to unveil an athletic hijab with the Nike Pro Hijab launched in 2017. The fact that Nike almost certainly did this as a commercially savvy move, recognising a market opportunity after athletes such as Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir fought FIBA to overturn their ban on religious headgear, does not preclude it from making a stand for rights and equality at the same time. 

Nike is clearly appealing to a growing niche market – whether through providing products empowering more women to participate in sport by giving them a choice, challenging norms around gender and sexuality, or just by being a brand for athletes unwilling to simply “play the game”.

We might see more and more companies making a stand on a range of human rights issues

In a world where national politics has taken a populist and nationalist turn in many countries, we might see more and more companies making a stand on a range of human rights issues, even as many governments are unable or unwilling to do the same. Some countries for example still mandate religious headgear for women, yet for many women equality means having the choice of whether to wear headgear at all. Companies are also taking a stand on LGBTI+ rights with 100 leading companies signing up to the UN’s principles on business and LGBTI+ rights. It all boils down to a respect for basic human dignity.

Businesses that take such a public stand should be applauded. But to “walk the talk” they must also implement human rights throughout their global business management. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide the baseline framework of due diligence expected of all companies.The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (the next edition of which is due to be published this November) are intended to encourage good performance and hold companies like Nike and its global competitors to account, by ranking them against this framework.

Businesses that take such a public stand should be applauded, but they must also implement human rights throughout their global business management.

The newly established Centre for Sport and Human Rights is a new resource that will work with all of those committed to respecting rights and promoting the positive values of sport.

 

Photo: Flickr.com/Bruce Detorres

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Progress since the Introduction of the UK Modern Slavery Act

06 September 2018

In 2015, the UK Government introduced the Modern Slavery Act, with the aim of significantly reducing the prevalence of modern slavery in the UK.

In July 2018, the UK Home Affairs Committee agreed to undertake an inquiry looking at what progress has been made in the three years since the Modern Slavery Act came into force and what more remains to be done.

IHRB fully supports the UK Modern Slavery Act and believes that such legislation can play a significant role in preventing forced labour and trafficking within the UK and abroad. The Government of the UK should be commended for the global leadership position it has taken in combating modern slavery. The UK Modern Slavery Act has been a significant development in protecting workers from forced labour and trafficking, supporting responsible business and preventing criminality. However, IHRB believes the continued and further success of the legislation is, as outlined in the submission, contingent on increased Government activity to promote and ensure compliance with the Act and in doing so increase efforts by all stakeholders to do their part in preventing modern slavery. In particular, IHRB makes specific recommendations around the following:

  • coverage of government supply chains
  • improving the quality of modern slavery statements
  • the crucial role of the independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner
  • creating a central list of companies and registry of statements
  • effective enforcement of legislation
  • moving beyond simple disclosure.

 

Read the full IHRB submission here.  

 

Photo: Flickr/Brett Lewin/Freedom Fund

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Children’s Rights and Business – Stuck in the “Too Difficult” Box?

31 July 2018

By Charlotte Williams, Head of Child Rights and Business – Unicef UK

Businesses impact on the lives of children in a variety of direct and indirect ways.

Children are consumers of products and services, they are dependents of workers, and they might be young workers themselves or, at least, will be future workers and business leaders.

They are also members of the communities in which businesses operate, and are therefore coming into contact with the private sector as they go about their day-to-day lives.

Businesses often put children’s rights into the “too difficult box” and close the lid because they don’t know how to start identifying them, let alone address them. 

Examples of Business Impacts

Business can play a really positive role in the lives of children.

Many children around the world benefit from corporate innovation, remittances and new products.

However businesses can also adversely impact children’s rights. While some adverse business impacts on children are well documented, such as cases of child labour in cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire or mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, many others are hidden, unrecognised and unspoken.

Children often lack a prominent voice to tell us about their experiences, and they are rarely consulted when businesses take decisions that affect them directly – for example, when private companies acquire community land, or when a mother has to return from maternity leave after just a few weeks or face losing her job. 

A key part of UNICEF’s mandate is to ensure that the voices of these children are heard, and that businesses are better equiped to hear them and respond to the challenges they raise. UNICEF does this through consultations with children, their parents and wider community members about their experiences of business.

A seven year old child, the son of a factory worker in Bangladesh, (survey 2015) told us he was thankful to the garment sector for giving his mother a job. He knew that his mother’s hard work at the factory meant she had money to buy him food and clothes. However, he also recognised the trade off this involved, that she needed to work long hours in order to provide for him. He told us, “My mother works really hard all day long, and I miss her the whole day. Even though she wants to give me time, she cannot.”

Many adverse business impacts on children are hidden, unrecognised, and unspoken.

Other workers interviewed as part of an assessment into children’s rights in the palm oil sector (2016) spoke of having to leave children with grandparents because they lack the means to provide for them properly, and were unable to access childcare and educational services near their work.

In Mexico (2017), we spoke to children who have lost access to public beaches where they used to play due to restrictions by large hotels catering to international tourists. We’ve also documented that when children are exposed to aerial spraying of pesticides, they will inhale double the amount of pesticide that an average adult would, leading to an increased risk of a range of health issues.

These examples are serious violations of child rights - to be cared for by their family, to play, to education, and to adequate healthcare.

What's Actually Expected of Business? 

The systemic nature of these issues however, are hard to identify and address.

Many businesses are still heavily reliant on social compliance audits, which can only give a snap-shot in time of a business’ operations and their impact, and rarely engage directly in stakeholder consultation to get a full understanding of the impact their businesses are having on the local community.

It’s no surprise therefore that most companies have yet to recognise their impacts on children, with the possible exception of addressing and remediating high profile instances of child labour that are also more likely to threaten corporate reputations. The underlying drivers for child labour, such a low household income or access to education remain, as do many of the other systemic challenges requiring coordinated action and partnership between policy makers, the private sector and civil society.

It’s no surprise that most companies have yet to recognise their impacts on children, with the possible exception of addressing and remediating high profile instances of child labour that are also more likely to threaten corporate reputations.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) identify children, alongside indigenous people, women and migrant workers (among others), as a particularly vulnerable group of rights holders, who may require particular attention from business as part of their human rights due diligence responsibilities. This puts an obligation on businesses to ‘go beyond compliance audits’ and to carry out comprehensive impact assessments which integrate a consideration for children’s rights, as well as other vulnerable stakeholders.

This is not easy and businesses aren’t always resourced to carry out this sort of due diligence.

The Tools Exist

UNICEF has been developing a number of practical tools to support businesses.

Most recently, UNICEF has published a child safeguarding toolkit (2018) to guide businesses through the process of risk assessment, gap analysis and developing an implementation plan to prevent child safeguarding risks arising. The toolkit includes a number of templates and checklists to make this process as accessible and as easy for businesses as possible.

We have also just relaunched the Children’s Rights and Business Atlas tool – an interactive online platform which helps businesses and industry to assess actual and potential impacts on the lives of children, and guides the integration of children’s rights into due diligence practices and procedures. The Atlas tool provides a holistic assessment of potential rights violations in the workplace, the community, and in the marketplace and offers both a country and industry level overview. Companies are then able to prioritise areas for heightened due diligence, based on their most salient risks, and most severe impacts on children’s rights.

Significant progress could be made by businesses taking just three initial steps.

This approach is in line with the requirements of the UNGPs to pay particular attention to vulnerable groups of rights holders, and the Children’s Rights and Business Principles which is the first global children’s rights standard. Identifying and addressing adverse business impacts on children’s rights is challenging, but failure to do this will mean that children continue to face severe violations of their rights. 

Significant progress could be made by businesses taking just three initial steps:

These initial steps will allow businesses to begin to understand and address some of their most salient human rights impacts in a way that is manageable, although sustainable solutions are likely to remain challenging without the support and partnership of policy makers and civil society.

Businesses often put children’s rights into the “too difficult box” and close the lid because they don’t know how to start identifying them, let alone address them.

The Children’s Rights and Business Principles, together with these tools, give business a framework they can use to start to engage with the problem, rather than just ignoring it and hoping that a media crisis never comes along that will force them to respond unprepared and in the moment. 

Information & Communication Technology

2018 TIP Report: Despite Shortcomings, An Opportunity for Continued Advocacy in Southeast Asia

18 July 2018

By Julia Batho, Research Fellow, IHRB

The United States Department of State released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report on 28th June, ranking 187 countries on their performance in preventing and addressing trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation.

The report was first published in 2001, following the adoption of the US Victims of Trafficking and Protection Act (TVPA), which sets out minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking both domestically and globally. The Act authorised the establishment of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and required countries receiving economic and/or security assistance from the US to report periodically on the measures taken to prevent and address trafficking. The legislation also authorises the US Executive to suspend certain kinds of assistance to countries failing to comply with minimum US standards against trafficking.

In Southeast Asia, the 2018 report’s ranking included a number of notable changes.

In Southeast Asia, the 2018 report’s ranking included a number of notable changes. 

Thailand was upgraded to Tier 2, a category in the report applicable to countries whose governments do not fully meet minimum anti-trafficking standards, but are making significant efforts to do so.

Malaysia was downgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List, which includes countries that require closer scrutiny, despite government efforts. 

Two key migrant-sending countries in the region, Myanmar and Laos were downgraded to join the worst-performing countries in Tier 3.

 

Tier ranking: undermining credibility?

The upgrading of Thailand in particular sparked reactions from human rights groups, who claim that the move was unjustified in light of the country’s substandard performance in protecting vulnerable individuals and groups from exploitation. 

Similar criticism emerged following the upgrading of Malaysia in 2015 and then subsequently in 2017, which was widely assumed to be a result of the negotiations for the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between 12 countries, including the United States and Malaysia, and which represented nearly 40 percent of global GDP before the US withdrawal in January 2017.   

Critics of the report’s ranking system have repeatedly argued that while some of the tier placements reflect real progress or challenges on the ground, the overall inconsistency and politicised nature of country placements undermines the integrity and objectivity of the report, which the US Department of State defines as the “Government’s main diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking”.

In addition to its arguably political nature, the over-simplistic approach of the report’s three-tier system raises the question about its ability to assess extremely complex issues such as trafficking and forced labour, which can take forms ranging from debt bondage of migrant workers in Southeast Asia, to government-imposed forced labour in cotton harvests in Uzbekistan, to the exploitation of domestic workers in the Gulf.

A three-tier system (or four, if we include the Tier 2 Watch List), fails to capture heterogeneity within each rank and is likely to be viewed as a traffic light system, in which Tier 3 represents the worst-case scenario and Tier 1 indicates a modern slavery-free country, which is certainly unrealistic.

A three-tier system (or four, if we include the Tier 2 Watch List), fails to capture heterogeneity within each rank and is likely to be viewed as a traffic light system

Within the existing system, however, the TIP Report’s role as an advocacy tool and lever for accelerating progress is indisputable, and this should also be recognised.

In my own experience working with governments in Southeast Asia, I have encountered several high-level and technical government officials who were particularly concerned about how existing or proposed laws and policies could affect their country’s ranking in the report.

These concerns often trumped other considerations about the practical impact of laws and policies on the ground.

This raises the question of whether a single country and economic power assessing anti-trafficking efforts worldwide based on its own minimum standards jeopardizes other anti-trafficking initiatives, especially those focussing on internationally recognized standards.

It also highlights the importance of improving the report’s methodology and ranking system in order to ensure an impartial and objective analysis of countries’ law enforcement efforts, as well as their capacity to assist victims and to address risk factors increasing workers’ vulnerability to exploitation, such as unethical recruitment.

 

Acknowledging progress

While certain ranking upgrades may be viewed as unwarranted praise, the TIP report plays a crucial role in acknowledging countries’ efforts and encouraging governments to take further anti-trafficking measures.

In the case of Thailand, the government has intensified counter-trafficking efforts since allegations of widespread exploitation in the country’s fishing sector led to its downgrading to Tier 3 in 2014 and the issuing of a “yellow card” warning by the European Union in 2015.

In collaboration with international organisations and multi-stakeholder initiatives, the Thai government has introduced several measures to improve working conditions in the fishing industry and to strengthen law enforcement.

The country is also the first in Asia to ratify the ILO Forced Labour Protocol and is currently drafting a new Forced Labour Prevention Act to strengthen the existing anti-trafficking legislation, as well as a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, expected to be launched in September 2018.

[Thailand] is also the first in Asia to ratify the ILO Forced Labour Protocol and is currently drafting a new Forced Labour Prevention Act 

It is undeniable that significant challenges remain, especially as the Thai government continues to use defamation legislation to prevent human rights defenders and migrant workers from reporting labour abuses and exploitation in certain industries.

However, for organisations such as IHRB who are working with business, civil society and other partners to advance responsible recruitment and migrant workers’ rights in Southeast Asia, the increased scrutiny stemming from the TIP Report, EU procedures, and international experts such as the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights can help highlight the need for ongoing advocacy in Thailand and the region as a whole.

As was evident from IHRB’s engagement with the Thai and Malaysian governments through Roundtable discussions we organised in partnership with The Consumer Goods Forum and in collaboration with the ILO and IOM in March 2018, recognising progress is essential in building mutual trust and encouraging dialogue between local governments and the private sector. Such joint action is also critical to identifying and promoting collective solutions to trafficking and labour exploitation.

recognising progress is essential in building mutual trust and encouraging dialogue between local governments and the private sector

Information & Communication Technology

Global Forum for Responsible Recruitment and Employment 2018

10 July 2018

The 2018 Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment and Employment took place on the 11th-12th June 2018 in Singapore.

Hosted by IHRB and Consumer Goods Forum, with partners Humanity United, this second annual dialogue brought together global brands, suppliers, recruitment agencies, governments, and NGOs to examine the challenges of recruiting migrant workers and how implementing ethical recruitment is vital in protecting workers from modern slavery as well as ensuring sustainable and efficient business operations. 

Key takeaways, reflections from participants on social media, and photos from the day are available below, in addition to a detailed event report.

 

Welcoming Remarks

Participants were welcomed by John Morrison (IHRB) and Didier Bergeret (The CGF), who framed the Forum’s agenda, and discussed with Dan Viederman (Humanity United), Brent Wilton (The Coca-Cola Company) and Julia Battho (IHRB) the current state of progress in eradicating forced labour and unethical recruitment globally.

Key Takeaways:
  • Governments, trade unions, NGOs and businesses need to collaborate.
  • Increased pool of people now working on the issue and increased political will.
  • We must speed up the pace of change and remain focused.

 

 

Keynote: William Lacy Swing, IOM

The outgoing Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) provided the first keynote address to the Global Forum.

Key Takeaways:
  • Year-on-year, the number of migrants is growing globally.
  • No industry or economic sector is immune to these abuses.
  • Examine your own supply chain and apply pressure to governments.

 

 

Experience of the Migrant Worker: The Impact of Recruitment Fees

Catherine Chen (Humanity United) chaired a conversation with two migrant workers - Anne Beatrice Jacobs (North South Initiative) and Bhim Kumar Newar (Migrant Worker Network) now active in working globally to eradicate worker-charged fees.

Key Takeaways:
  • Migrants often have their passports retained.
  • Migrant workers are often forced to pay recruitment fees.
  • Freedom of movement of migrant workers is often restricted.

 

 

Debt Burden

David Schilling (ICCR) led a conversation with Ray Jureidini (Hamad Bin Khalifa University) and Marie Apostol (Fair Hiring Inc) about the mechanics and scale of recruitment related extortion.

Key Takeaways:
  • Corruption is endemic and entrenched globally.
  • Widespread market practices must change and proper enforcement and clarity of costs are necessary.
  • Responsible recruitment agenda could be enhanced by framing it as an anti-corruption agenda.

 

 

Breakout 1: Technology and Transparency

John Morrison (IHRB) chaired a breakout session on the role of technological applications being created to amplify migrant worker voices and provide them greater information, with Declan Croucher (Verité), Subash Sharma (Pravas), and Anne Beatrice Jacobs (on behalf of ITUC's Recruitment Advisor).

Key Takewaways: 
  • Privacy and consent can be issues facing migrant workers associated with new technology.
  • Technology is an important tool to increase the detection of high-risk supply chains.
  • Technologies should be adapted to local languages and safeguarded against manipulation by recruiters.

 

 

Breakout 2: Judicial and Non-Judicial Remedy

Anna Piatonova (IOM) chaired a breakout session on the essential component of remedy in both states' and businesses' relationships with their migrant workers, with Archana Kotecha (Liberty Asia), Andrey Sawchenko (International Justice Mission), and Philip Fishman (International Labour Organization).

Key Takeaways: 
  • Both state and business have a responsibility to ensure that workers have access to remedies.
  • Brands should advocate for reforms and investment by governments.
  • Models for work protection will hopefully continue to be created and improved.

 

 

Are we Moving Fast Enough? What are the Markers? 

Shawn MacDonald (Verité) moderated the next discussion on the markers of progress in eradicating unethical recruitment globally with Marika Mccauley Sine (Mars Inc), Emily Kunen (Nestlé), Tu Rinsche (Marriott), and Doug Nystrom (Walmart).

Key Takeaways: 
  • Businesses need to make forced labour a priority.
  • Greater training and capacity building of suppliers is needed.
  • Embedding responsible recruitment into how companies operate is vital.

 

 

The Costs to Business of Transitioning to Employer Pays

Steve Gibbons (Ergon Associates) chaired the next discussion diving into the specific costs to businesses when committing to paying for the costs of recruitment, with Mark Taylor (Issara Institute), Rosey Hurst (Impactt), Jay Celorie (HP Inc), and Priya Chingen (Princes Tuna).

Key Takeaways: 
  • In Qatar, recent reforms related to World Cup projects mean that contractors will pay back workers for recruitment fees.
  • When workers are no longer bonded, employee turnover often increases, so improvement of HR management systems is vital.
  • Collective action from demand and supply side is needed to bring to scale.

 

 

Levers for Accelerating Progress

Elizabeth Frantz (Open Society Foundation) moderated a conversation with Leigh Anne DeWine (US State Department), Pia Rudolfsson Goyer (Norwegian Pension Fund), Steve Gibbons (Ergon Associates), and Bob Mitchell (Responsible Labor Initiative) on the most effective levers for the mainstreaming of responsible recruitment and how they can be optimised.

Key Takeaways: 
  • There is still uncertainty about whether recruitment regulation is effective.
  • The number of ethical recruiters globally is still small, and there is a need to develop the market.
  • Modern Slavery Acts stimulate change at a high level and have the potential to have impact on the ground.

 

 

The Ten Year Roadmap

Dan Viderman (Humanity United) chaired the final panel of Day 1 with Marc Capistrano (Staffhouse), Marcela Manubens (Unilever), and Sarah Tesei (Vinci/QDVC) looking ahead to 2026 and the ten-year goal to eradicate worker-paid fees globally.

Key Takeaways: 
  • Certification is essential for recruiters who want to be recognised as ethical.
  • There is a perception that ethical recruitment agencies are more expensive for clients.
  • At the brand level, making the business (and human) case internally will help progress.

 

 

Close of Day 1

John Morrison (IHRB) closed the day's discussion with some reflections on the small gains achieved so far, but also the outstanding gaps, including geographic reach and fully empowering workers.

Key Takeaways: 
  • More companies and sectors are now involved.
  • We now have a better grasp of measurement.
  • Honesty is essential to tackling this issue.

 

 

Day 2 Opening

Didier Birgeret (The CGF) opened Day 2.

Key Takeaways: 
  • Many leaders on this issue, but still many laggards.
  • Connecting with peers from other sectors is essential.
  • We need to walk the talk on the commitments we have made.

 

Advancing Recruitment Practices to Prevent Forced Labour

Neill Wilkins (IHRB) chaired the first panel of Day 2, with Greg Priest (Inter IKEA Group), Lara White (IOM), Marc Capistrano (Staffhouse), and Scott Stiles (Fair Employment Agency), discussing key elements of the ethical recruitment industry and how to incentivise the professionalisation of the sector.

Key Takeaways: 
  • There is still little guidance for brandson what “ethical recruitment” looks like.
  • With the support of governments, certification can go a long way to scale up the industry.
  • By becoming certified, recruiters are encouraging better behaviour amongst their peers.

 

 

Keynote Address: Andrew Forrest, Fortescue

The Chief Executive of Fortescue Metals Group, Andrew Forrest, provided the second keynote address of the Global Forum.

Key Takeaways: 
  • CEO leadership is essential to driving the right corporate strategy.
  • Partnerships between business and governments are also vital.

 

 

High Level Panel: Bali Process

Jenn Morris (Walk Free Foundation) moderated a high-level panel on the Bali Process as well as development of Australian Modern Slavery legislation, with Geoff Shaw (Australian Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking), Dennis Kwok (Government of Hong Kong), Dino Djalal (Foreign Policy Community Indonesia; Emtek), and Chevaan Daniel (Capital Mahraja Group).

Key Takeaways: 
  • The Australian Modern Slavery Act will focus on highest risk sectors.
  • Creating a safe environment for disclosure is vital.
  • The social impact of migration is significant.

 

 

High Level Panel: Working Together to Combat Forced Labour

Isabel Hilton (China Dialogue) moderated a second high-level panel on the collective action needed to address the root causes of forced labour. with Ian Cook (The Colgate-Palmolive Company), Grant Reid (Mars, Inc), William Lacy Swing (IOM), and Andrew Forrest (Fortescue Metals Group).

Key Takeaways: 
  • The CGFs Priority Industry Principles are a powerful, yet simple tool that everyone should get behind.
  • Now is the time to accelerate momentum together and attack this issue with urgency.
  • Governments must have the right policies and a plan of action.

 

 

Launch of the ILO Global Business Network on Forced Labour

Brent Wilton (The Coca-Cola Company) moderated a discussion marking the launch of the new initiative, with Karrie Peterson (US State Department), Deborah France-Massin and Beate Andrees (ILO), Laura Chapman-Rubbo (The Walt Disney Company), Didier Bergeret (The CGF), and Mustain Bilah (Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh).

Key Takeaways: 
  • There is still not a critical mass of companies aware of the most effective approaches to tackling forced labour.
  • ILO’s Business Network will seek to accelerate action.
  • The Network will facilitate collaboration by aligning the work of forced labour initiatives globally.

 

 

International Tourism Partnership Keynotes

Nicolas Perin (International Tourism Partnership) chaired a series of industry addresses from the corporate members of initiative, including Arne Sorenson (CEO, Marriott) and Rivero Delgado (Marriott), George Turner (CEO, IHG) and Michael Blanding (IHG), Jules Kerby (Hilton), Tom Smith (Hyatt), Robert Chessen (Radisson Hotel Group Asia-Pacific).

Key Takeaways: 
  • ITP introduces new forced labour principles based on CGF’s Priority Industry Principles.
  • Principles prioritise actions to address primary drivers of forced labour.
  • ITP Principles represent a foundational step to drive respect for human rights in the hospitality industry.

 

 

Launch of the International Tourism Partnership Principles 

John Morrison (IHRB) moderated a discussion of ITP members on the launch of the initiatives new industry principles, with Tu Rinsche (Marriott), Russell Vickers (Hilton), Michael Blanding (IHG), Jessica Schultz (Hyatt), and Robert Chessen (Radisson Hotel Group Asia-Pacific).

Key Takeaways: 
  • Important to publicly state commitment to eradicating forced labour.
  • Business leaders must understand problem before strategy can be implemented.
  • Dealing with franchises is a key challenge within the hotel industry when tackling forced labour.

 

 

Close of the 2nd Annual Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment and Employment

John Morrison (IHRB) and Dider Birgeret (The CGF) closed the Forum with final reflections on the two days of discussion.

Key Takeaways: 
  • We are a long way from the ‘tipping point’, but we are getting closer.
  • We must invite suppliers, other companies and partners to the event in coming years.
  • Recruitment fees is just the tip of the iceberg - working conditions must not be forgotten.

Information & Communication Technology

Lazarus Tamana on the Ogoni struggle in Nigeria

10 July 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 13.72MB - Duration: 9:59 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

Lazarus Tamana of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) describes the continuing struggle of the Ogoni people against environmental and human rights violations of oil extraction activities that have devasted the Niger Delta.  He recounts the history of the struggle, from the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 up to the latest legal victory in the London courts in 2017. He believes that the only way to hold companies to account is to have enforceable international legal standards. 

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Mars Inc CEO Grant Reid Addresses 2018 Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment and Employment

10 July 2018

By Grant Reid, CEO and President, Mars Incorporated

The 2018 Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment and Employment took place on the 11th-12th June 2018 in Singapore.

Hosted by IHRB and Consumer Goods Forum, with partners Humanity United, this second annual dialogue brought together global brands, suppliers, recruitment agencies, governments, and NGOs to examine the challenges of recruiting migrant workers and how implementing ethical recruitment is vital in protecting workers from modern slavery as well as ensuring sustainable and efficient business operations. 

Grant F Reid, CEO and President of Mars Incorporated, joined a high level panel alongside Fortescue Metals Group CEO Andrew Forrester and Director General of the International Organization for Migration William Lacy Swing, moderated by IHRB Advisory Council Member and head of China Dialogue Isabel Hilton.  

Thank you to the Consumer Goods Forum and the Institute for Human Rights and Business for organizing this important event and inviting me to take part. 
Mars is proud to have co-chaired the forced labor work at CGF for the past three years, and to have joined the Institute’s leadership group last year.
And, I’m pleased to be here in a new role as co-sponsor of the Consumer Goods Forum’s sustainability pillar. It’s a privilege to carry on the work of Paul Polman of Unilever, and Steve Rowe of Marks & Spencer, and to partner with the world’s leading consumer goods companies on becoming a more sustainable industry. 
I’m also here today as CEO of Mars, Incorporated – a global, family-owned company that believes success isn’t just defined by profitability and quarterly returns, but rather by long-term, purpose-led value creation, trusted brands, loyal Mars associates, and practices and policies which not only respect, but advance human rights and the environment.
That manifests in a number of ways, including a $1 billion commitment to our Sustainable in a Generation Plan, which includes improving the working lives of one million people in our supply chain. 
At the heart of this Plan is a shift in our focus beyond the operations which we control, into the extended global supply chain that serves as the engine of all businesses.  Because that extended supply chain is broken. 
For example, the agricultural supply chains that depend on the hard work of farmers and fishermen – are not serving these people well.  They aren’t providing universal opportunities to earn a decent living, and as all of you know, many are vulnerable to human rights risks. 
That doesn’t serve the business community well either.  These conditions put at jeopardy the supply of reliable, high-quality and well-priced materials on which most CGF member companies depend. 
I’m not suggesting that actions haven’t been taken by the very people in this room. But, I think you’d agree that efforts to date have not put us on a trajectory of success.
I believe, in part, because we have not come together as effectively as we can to tackle these complex problems.  Collaboration and action were major themes when, three years ago, the Consumer Goods Forum identified eliminating forced labor in our operations and supply chains as an absolute priority, and we decided to come at the problem differently.
This new approach to change is about action and impact at scale. It’s about engaging all stakeholders… and putting the interests of vulnerable workers first.  
An important output of this focus at CGF is the identification of the most common and problematic workplace practices that contribute to forced labor. These three Priority Principles are powerful in their simplicity:
  • Every worker should have freedom of movement.
  • No worker should pay for a job.
  • No worker should be indebted or coerced to work.
Ensuring these Principles are being put into practice is a clear call to action. At Mars, for example, we undertook an audit of our own workplaces. As of today, we’ve assessed 93% of our manufacturing sites – 130 factories in 32 countries.
And, we found risks that we had to address, particularly where temporary or contract migrant workers were part of our workforce, or in countries where respect for labor law and standards is generally low. Armed with information, we took action.  
We ended our relationships with three contract labor providers who were not willing to meet our standards.  And, we chose to stick with, and drive improvements with four others.  As a result, we saw material, positive shifts in terms of work hours, pay practices, and protections for women. 
But, this isn’t a one and done effort. We must remain vigilant, and extend our due diligence into the parts of our business that we have yet to reach.   
This is just one example, many CGF companies have similar efforts underway, and as a community we’re increasingly sharing with each other what we’ve learned. 
CGF members are also mobilizing action in Palm oil and Fishing supply chains, where risk of human rights issues can be high. Earlier this year, CGF companies brought together suppliers, NGO partners and government representatives in Malaysia and Thailand to have fresh conversations and drive new action in these high risk supply chains.
Beyond that, CGF members have organized or taken part in 53 public events around the world this past year, seeking to mobilize more than 15,000 stakeholders, including 30 standard-setting organizations – behind the Priority Principles and fighting forced labor.
This is a good start. But, given the scale of the issues, we need to do more to accelerate our momentum.  That’s why today, the Consumer Goods Forum, the International Labor Organization, the International Organization for Migration, and the Institute for Human Rights and Business, are issuing a Call to Action reaffirming our resolve, our focus, and our commitment to deliver results.
A year from now, I will be disappointed if this coalition can’t point to substantive progress to end forced labor in our extended supply chain. 
We must attack this issue with urgency. It is a moral, a societal, and a business imperative.
Thank you.

Information & Communication Technology

Confronting Chaos and Confusion on Child and Migrant Rights

26 June 2018

By Scott Jerbi, Senior Advisor, Policy & Outreach, IHRB

The US business community faces a tragedy at home.  

In the same week that the United States (US) government announced its withdrawal from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council and the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty issued an important report on the plight of the poor in America, the Trump Administration’s actions to separate over 2,000 migrant children from their parents crossing illegally into the country have been watched with shock at home and around the world. 

The US business community has been pulled into the unfolding story on multiple levels and a growing number of businesses are making clear that fundamental rights are at stake. 

Four US based airlines have spoken out against the administration’s actions, saying they don't want the government to use their services to transport migrant children who have been separated from their families. The US bus line Greyhound is facing pressure to take a similar stand. Private operators of facilities caring for migrant children caught up in the current policy shifts are under stronger scrutiny as well, including over reported cases of abusive treatment.

A number of high profile CEOs are demanding action to end the separation practices and calling for urgent steps to reunite families.  

The tech sector is also confronting its role in the controversy.

Google and Microsoft employees have called for an end to company contracts with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which has been implicated in the actions to separate migrant families at the border. Amazon workers have taken a similar line concerning facial recognition technology cooperation projects with US law enforcement. As the letter from Microsoft workers puts it, “We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognise the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm.”

A number of high profile CEOs as well as business groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce are demanding action to end the separation practices and calling for urgent steps to reunite families.  

What do these developments suggest about the importance of corporate respect for human rights, including during moments when governments clearly go against their own stated commitments to protect the human rights of all, especially the most vulnerable, including migrants and refugees? 

What actions do US business leaders need to take in the days, weeks and months ahead given the Trump administration’s clear aim, despite the President’s apparent policy reversals, of continuing its drive to address what it views, incorrectly by independent accounts, as a migrant crisis on its southern border? 

The unfolding events at the border are important reminders to business leaders that international standards matter.

First, the unfolding events at the border are important reminders to business leaders that international standards matter. The United States is the only country that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is an international standard all US businesses should be familiar with, in particular at this critical moment. It affirms the right of all children to family unity. Article 9 specifies that “a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.” This article also makes clear that “Where such separation results from any action initiated by a State Party, such as the detention, imprisonment, exile, deportation or death … of one or both parents or of the child, that State Party shall, upon request, provide the parents, the child or, if appropriate, another member of the family with the essential information concerning the whereabouts of the absent member(s) of the family unless the provision of the information would be detrimental to the well-being of the child.” 

The United States is the only country that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

While it is clear that businesses don’t have direct obligations under such provisions applying to states that have ratified the convention, these standards nevertheless represent overwhelming international consensus on how all governments should treat children and their families. That means businesses should be aware of what the convention says, and in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, should avoid adversely impacting on these internationally recognised rights in any way. 

Business leaders should seek to be a voice of reason and accurate information on the issues involved.

Second, while the US government continues to debate changes to its immigration system, which by many bipartisan and non-partisan accounts needs comprehensive reforms, business leaders should seek to be a voice of reason and accurate information on the issues involved. The US economy is reliant on migrant labour to fill a wide range of jobs. US companies need to help ensure a more informed debate and combat false narratives that make migrants into villains. Those companies that violate worker rights also need to be held to account. 

Corporate America has been at the forefront of calls for more visas to skilled migrant workers in hi-tech industries and other key sectors. US agribusinesses and other industries, which cannot function without migrant workers, have faced pressure to ensure decent working conditions and pay. Business leaders should use this moment to collectively make the case for what respecting human rights means in practice. A good place to start when it comes to migrant workers is committing to the Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity that we at IHRB have championed over recent years, including through our support for companies addressing these issues through the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment. Businesses from all sectors should be part of discussions, along with civil society, on how the US immigration system can be reformed, while ensuring that migrant rights are protected.  They should also seek to link their support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals with strategies that can promote greater economic opportunities for countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras where violence and poverty have driven many to seek shelter and support elsewhere. 

Business leaders should do their part to champion all human rights.

Finally, business leaders should do their part to champion all human rights in this, the 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR is the founding statement of the international community on the inherent dignity and equal rights of all people. It is a document that was produced thanks in part to US political leadership. 

Many more US business leaders should be willing to step up, as some have in response to the current crisis, and demonstrate their own commitment to respect for human rights. The Trump administration is charting an increasingly disturbing course, which makes it all the more important that we hear more business voices talking about why human rights still matter.

Indeed, there are times when we all must stand up and be counted. There are times when each of us must be a human rights defender. This is one of those times. 

 

Photo: Flickr/Charles Edward Miller

Information & Communication Technology

Reflections from the 2018 Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment

26 June 2018

The 2018 Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment and Employment took place on the 11th-12th June 2018 in Singapore.

Hosted by the Institute for Human Rights and Business and Consumer Goods Forum, with partners Humanity United, this second annual dialogue brought together global brands, suppliers, recruitment agencies, governments, and NGOs to discuss and examine the challenges of recruiting migrant workers and how implementing ethical recruitment is vital in protecting workers from modern slavery as well as ensuring sustainable and efficient business operations. 

As a follow up to the event, seven of the guest speakers/participants at the Global Forum have given their take on the impact and outcomes of the discussions and what work remains toward eradicating worker fees and achieving global uptake of the Employer Pays Principle

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Sport, Broadcasting and Human Rights - Guiding Questions

22 June 2018

All companies have a responsibility to respect human rights when they carry out their business. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights guide companies in how to meet their responsibilities, and due diligence is a critical component.

This tool, "Sport, Broadcasting and Human Rights - Guiding Questions", is intended to help broadcasters identify and, if necessary, mitigate any potential human rights impacts that may occur when broadcasting a sporting event. It builds on the White Paper "Broadcasters and Human Rights in the Sports Context", which identified potential risks to people and their rights arising from broadcasting a sporting event. 

This tool can be used alongside existing planning and risk processes, such as health and safety assessments, and is intended to be practical, flexible, and to help identify ways to address the particular risks identified.

Download the tool here

 


The companion tool – 'Sponsors, Sport and Human Rights – Guiding Questions’ - can also be used by any business involved in the sponsorship of a sporting even to prompt the identification of human rights issues to consider at the earliest stages of developing a sport sponsorship relationship, and in the sponsor agreement itself.

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Sport, Sponsorship and Human Rights - Guiding Questions

13 June 2018

Sponsors have a responsibility, within their own operations and throughout their supply chains, to respect human rights. Sporting events are no different from any other business relationship in terms of needing to proactively take account of potential human rights risks.

'Sport, Sponsorship and Human Rights - Guiding Questions' is a tool intended to prompt the identification of issues to consider at the earliest stages of developing a sport sponsorship relationship, and in the sponsor agreement itself. Building on the white paper on ‘Sponsors and Human Rights in the Sports Context’, these questions should help sponsors consider how they might create effective leverage to address human rights risks throughout the lifetime of the sponsorship.

Download the tool here

 


The companion tool – ‘Sport, Broadcasting and Human Rights – Guiding Questions’ - can also be used by broadcasters to identify and, if necessary, mitigate any potential human rights impacts that may occur when broadcasting a sporting event.  

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Eradicating Recruitment Fees is Crucial for Tackling Modern Slavery

11 June 2018

By Kevin Hyland, UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner

Today, businesses, trade associations and organisations from around the world are coming together in Singapore for the 2018 Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment and Employment. They will discuss the importance of responsible recruitment of migrant workers, including measures which protect those workers from vulnerability to slavery and exploitation. 

Many methods to tackle modern slavery - such as auditing, ‘spotting the signs’ awareness-raising and dissemination of helplines - are useful interventions after initial exploitation has occurred so that victims can be identified and supported. But to start reducing the number of victims, intervention must begin earlier in the process and root causes must be addressed.

Many methods to tackle modern slavery are useful interventions after initial exploitation has occurred, but to start reducing the number of victims, root causes must be addressed.

Ensuring responsible recruitment practices does precisely this, protecting migrant workers before they leave their country of origin so that they are less vulnerable at their destination. In particular, eradicating recruitment fees for migrant workers is a core part of protecting the global workforce from slavery.

 

Why Recruitment Fees Matter in the Fight Against Slavery

Migrant workers frequently use recruitment agencies or brokers to find placements due to the complex nature of visa procedures and lack of familiarity with, or connection to, the destination country. It is very common that part of this service includes the payment of fees or costs in return for the work placement. Fees vary in terms of what they may cover, including a charge simply for the recruitment itself, for medical checks, trainings, visas, travel and others. Migrant workers frequently have to take out loans in order to pay them, with interest rates as high as 80% annually. The UNODC states that “in reality, workers often do not pay the real price of the services provided...and the recruitment fees can be extortionately high.” For example, the non-profit organisation Verité found that workers from Latin America and Asia were charged between $3,000 and $27,000 to secure visas and jobs on farms in the USA, with some reporting signing over the deeds to their own land in order to obtain the loans and then losing their land when they could not make repayments because their wages were lower than those promised by the recruiters.

Workers from Latin America and Asia were charged between $3,000 and $27,000 to secure visas and jobs on farms in the USA, with some reporting signing over the deeds to their own land.

This is problematic for two reasons. First, there is a basic ethical consideration: you and I would not expect to pay up-front - and heavily become indebted - for a job, so why should it be normalised for other people to do so? Workers trying to pay off these debts are likely to be sending a significant proportion of their pay back to the country in which the loan originates, or having their wages docked to do the same, leaving them impoverished. Surely this is not how we want the people who make the goods we use ourselves to be treated? 

Second, these debts leave migrant workers vulnerable to modern slavery. Recruitment fees can lead to debt bondage, whereby somebody is working for little to no pay until the debt is repaid and is unable to leave the employment situation due to that debt, often compounded by potentially coercive and threatening behaviour by those to whom the loan is owed.

 

Government and Corporate Action is Needed

This issue has rightly been recognised by the International Labour Organization which includes anti-recruitment fee clauses in its Private Employment Agencies Convention 181, stating that such agencies should not, directly or indirectly, charge fees to workers, and additionally in the Protocol to Forced Labour Convention 29 which calls for measures to protect migrant workers from abusive recruitment practices. In the UK, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority adheres to these aspirational standards by including within its licensing standards a prohibition on recruitment fees. Despite this, recruitment fees remain endemic in supply chains and I am pleased to see today’s Forum taking up this issue to try to change that. 

Recruitment fees remain endemic in supply chains and I am pleased to see today’s Forum taking up this issue to try to change that. 

There are a number of measures which must be discussed and taken forward. For governments, they should have regard to the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which state that governments have a duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including businesses. The prohibition of recruitment fees, and working with other countries to ensure fair recruitment pathways, should become a priority policy for governments around the globe. For businesses, there are a number of actions which need to be taken. These include ensuring social audits ask workers about recruitment fees paid; reimbursing the costs of recruiting migrant workers; explicitly prohibiting labour providers from charging fees; checking with migrant workers on arrival that they have not been charged; and providing confidential processes for reporting instances of fee payment in order that they can be remediated. 

 

Recruitment Fees Pose a Risk to Businesses

All of these measures have costs attached for businesses at the top of supply chains. In terms of a business case for taking these steps, there are two considerations. Firstly, the quality of the labour force is likely to improve. The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) suggests that responsibly recruited workers will have higher productivity rates as they will have been selected on merit and skill, rather than ability to pay. Additionally, they posit that retention will be improved, with workers less likely to abscond. 

Responsibly recruited workers will have higher productivity rates as they will have been selected on merit and skill.

Aside from these benefits, there are risks associated with irresponsible recruitment which should incentivise businesses to act. Namely, awareness of modern slavery is growing globally at every level. Legislatively, increasing numbers of countries are passing or drafting anti-slavery laws which include requirements of businesses. This means the potential for litigation against companies is increasing. Many campaigns are engaging consumers with the issue, making it likely that reputationally damaging stories will harm the bottom line if public-facing brands are exposed. Additionally, for companies which only work with other businesses or governments, those contracting parties are highly unlikely to wish to engage a company with a slavery risk attached to it. Finally, investors are becoming increasingly aware of this issue and are looking to businesses to prove they have good governance processes in place to tackle it. 

IHRB is doing a lot of good work to further this agenda, including by convening the Leadership Group on Responsible Recruitment which aims to totally eradicate recruitment fees in the future. I commend the businesses and organisations which are participating in this group and hope to see more join these efforts. 

Individual companies are taking action, including Apple Inc which as a zero recruitment fee policy and has required suppliers to reimburse any recruitment fees. Apple claims that, since the start of the programme, $28.4 million has been repaid to over 34,000 workers. Patagonia, HP Inc and  NXP Semiconductors also all have such policies in place. Actions like these show an intelligent understanding of how exploitation occurs and a sincere commitment to tackling it. 

For those of us fortunate enough not to be vulnerable to such working conditions, it must be a moral imperative to break the cycle.

Slave labour should not exist in the 21st century. For those of us fortunate enough not to be vulnerable to such working conditions, it must be a moral imperative to break the cycle. Eradicating recruitment fees is one crucial action all businesses and governments must take if we are to succeed in this fight and end this inhumane abuse of men, women and children around the world.

 

This article was originally published on the UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner's website

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Speaking Up - A Growing Advocacy Dimension to Corporate Leadership on Human Rights

08 June 2018

By William Rook, Senior Advisor, Strategy & Programmes, IHRB

Not so very long ago, human rights were primarily viewed by businesses as risks to their operations and reputations that needed effective management. 

Today, we see growing recognition that risks to people must be addressed alongside risks to the bottom line. 

This is an important step forward. More businesses are developing their understanding of human rights responsibilities in line with international standards and starting to embed human rights due diligence within their organisations. With that comes increased scope for companies to address human rights issues from positions of greater authority, and in ways that align with the values of their organisations.

To date, most successful corporate human rights advocacy has been based on a deep engagement with an issue that permeates through how companies operate.

Next week in Singapore, the Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment and Employment will see representatives of global companies and their civil society partners from around the world coming together with the shared aim of fostering better regulation and enforcement of standards relating to the recruitment and employment of migrant workers.

This multi-stakeholder event, co-organised by IHRB and the Consumer Goods Forum, will include the voices and experiences of corporate members of the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment. This type of collective company-led advocacy around a specific human rights challenge is a trend that is important to observe and foster.

Expanding Space for Advocacy

As such corporate advocacy grows in prominence, it is important to monitor which human rights issues are gaining traction, and how companies should engage with and seek to apply their leverage to make positive impacts.

To date, most successful corporate human rights advocacy has been based on a deep engagement with an issue that permeates through how companies operate. We can see this on issues like advancing gender equality and LGBTI+ rights, as well as in efforts to protect workers in supply chains. It is no coincidence that these issues are often core to business; as Chatterji and Toffel note in the Harvard Business Review, to speak out on issues unconnected with business operations leaves companies at risk of being ill-informed, retroactive, and not speaking from a position of authority or internal buy-in.

Today, the progressive internalisation of these issues in alignment with business interests and sustainable performance means that companies can increasingly speak on these issues in an informed, strategic way.

The responsible business agenda, emphasising the need to embed respect for human rights throughout the operations of a company, is a marked progression from philanthropic and CSR approaches of the past.

As leading companies align their operations with respecting human rights, it is only natural that taking a leadership position becomes viable on issues where business, government, and other stakeholders must all work together. Historically social issues and human rights were largely seen as externalities to companies. Today, the progressive internalisation of these issues in alignment with business interests and sustainable performance means that companies can increasingly speak on these issues in an informed, strategic way.

For corporate advocacy to be seen as legitimate, companies need to demonstrate proactive due diligence on their own business operations.

How does what they find stack up against their stated positions? An example that will be highlighted in Singapore next week is the systemic charging of recruitment fees paid by migrant workers to secure employment. This practice leaves many workers in situations of debt bondage (an indicator of forced labour) and is found in the supply chains of many brands that otherwise quickly position themselves as opposed to modern slavery.

Tackling forced labour and trafficking has widespread support across the political spectrum, an increasing degree of legislative alignment, and has a commercial imperative for companies at risk from competing with unscrupulous and exploitative operators.

Companies taking a position on the need to combat modern slavery is thus a natural fit. Ensuring a supply-chain free from forced labour is a core business issue for many companies, and one where there is only an upside to taking a leadership position. As such, we now see tackling forced labour as a key pillar of the human rights strategies of many trade groups, including in consumer goods, tourism, events and construction sectors.  

Opportunities for Greater Collective Advocacy

Another example of human rights advocacy aligning with organisational values can be seen in the ongoing efforts of sports bodies. Sporting movements have long advanced human rights in ways that might not have been articulated as such, with values like equality, diversity, and safeguarding underpinning their work.

As companies become increasingly familiar with articulating and embedding human rights principles and standards in their operations, it is more likely that the space for corporate human rights advocacy will expand. 

Sports bodies have the potential to use the visibility and goodwill afforded to them as custodians of sporting movements to show leadership on a range of human rights issues throughout their value chains. Specific credit can be given, for instance, to the Commonwealth Games for delivering in Gold Coast the most gender equal major multi-sports event in history, and to FIFA for demonstrating support for human rights defenders in Russia.

As companies become increasingly familiar with articulating and embedding human rights principles and standards in their operations, it is more likely that the space for corporate human rights advocacy will expand.

This presents an opportunity for early-movers to associate themselves with a cause or issue that is of core relevance to the company, to work with others to set shared objectives, and to make a significant impact by doing so. Potential downsides can be mitigated through collective advocacy, including through business associations or trade groups, as well as by involving civil society and other actors through specific collective action platforms.

Information & Communication Technology

Responsible Recruitment - Addressing Gaps in Protections for Migrant Workers

06 June 2018

By Mustafa Qadri, Founder, Equidem Research and Consulting; Research Fellow, IHRB

This report is the second of two reports developed by IHRB in collaboration with Equidem Research & Consulting. Building on "Responsible Recruitment: Remediating Worker-Paid Recruitment Fees", this publication offers practical guidance to businesses seeking to recruit responsibly in challenging environments. 

Developed from research focussing on the recruitment process that takes low-paid migrant workers from Nepal to work in the Gulf states, this report illustrates the extent of the governance gaps that exists in transnational recruitment, making the following recommendations to businesses:

  1. Develop recruitment policies that adopt the Employer Pays Principle and require suppliers to pay the costs of recruitment directly
  2. Develop a pre-qualification review process for prospective suppliers that, at a minimum, reviews supplier recruitment guidelines and practices
  3. Establish robust screening and selection processes for key business relationships
  4. Include in all procurement contracts a requirement to have human rights requirements, including on responsible recruitment
  5. Map the various points of leverage that are available to a business to help drive more responsible recruitment practices.

Information & Communication Technology

Which Companies are Serious About Human Rights?

17 May 2018

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

We are beginning to know which companies are serious about human rights as the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark issues its first Progress Report one year on from last year’s pilot.

There is evidence that the ranking is motivating change with a majority of these 100 companies from the extractives, agriculture, and apparel industries, but that there remains a worrying silent minority.

There is evidence that the ranking is motivating change with a majority of these 100 companies from the extractives, agriculture, and apparel industries, but that there remains a worrying silent minority.

Monday’s coverage of the Progress Report in the Financial Times calls out a number of well-known low scoring companies such as Kraft Heinz, Macy’s, Hermès and Prada. Whilst Prada declined to comment, and Kraft Heinz and Hermès did not respond to a request for comment, Macy’s issued the following statement:

“Integrity and good corporate citizenship are deeply ingrained in our business. We respect the work of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark. While we were not able to participate in the earlier benchmark, we are open to another discussion with CHRB.”

This constructive response to the FT from Macy’s is very welcome but it also misses the point to some extent. Companies do not need to engage with the Benchmark, they are welcome to, but more important is that they align with international business and human rights standards. 

“Knowing and showing” an understanding of salient human rights risks, preventing and mitigating potential and actual negative impacts, and providing effective remedies are what matters. Doing this will give any company a higher score. Engaging with the Benchmark is encouraged, particularly as it grows to rank an expanded number of companies next year. But it remains the case that a company will only be judged by information that is in the public domain. 

Engagement Levels are Increasing

One example of progress is around engagement levels.

Only about half the companies benchmarked during 2016-17 pilot opted to engage with CHRB researchers during the ranking process. Since then we have seen an increase in the companies willing to start the conversation and share their policies and the work they’re doing to embed them across their systems.

We’ve also seen how the investor community has been engaging on specific human rights agendas in an effort to drive change. This includes an investor coalition who wrote to all the benchmarked company Chairs and investor relations teams to find out what they had done since the pilot.

“Knowing and showing” an understanding of salient human rights risks, preventing and mitigating potential and actual negative impacts, and providing effective remedies are what matters. Doing this will give any company a higher score.

Roughly one-third of the companies replied directly to the investor coalition letter, setting out how they had used the Benchmark findings internally. This included internal gap analyses, improvement plans, and drives for greater disclosure. Over one-third of the remaining companies have been engaging with CHRB through consultations and the 2018 assessment.  

This means that the majority of the 100 companies that were in last year’s pilot are now engaged. Again it is important to stress that this will not in itself improve scores (there are no points for talking to the team) but it does increase the opportunity of developing a benchmark that really does impact on business behaviour over the longer term.

Nonetheless, 28 of these benchmarked companies – nearly one-third – have never responded to the CHRB or the investor coalition.

This shows a worrying lack of regard for stakeholders asking questions about human rights. Questions not only investors but also consumers increasingly want answers to. These are 28 of some of the biggest corporations in the world. Not only were these companies near the bottom of CHRB’s pilot ranking, but they are in three sectors that we know have significant human rights risks that require genuine and proactive commitment to manage.

A Low Baseline

The CHRB has also been working since the pilot to adjust and improve its methodology to make the Benchmark an even more meaningful proxy of corporate human rights performance.

The 2018 benchmark is likely to give a truer reflection of just how many companies have yet to take business and human rights seriously. This particularly includes the measurement area on how companies respond to serious allegations of impact (Theme E). As the graphs below depict, had this adjustment been made to the 2017 results, the number of scores below 20% increases dramatically.  

This means that the overall baseline is even lower than we thought, with well over half the companies ranked scoring below 20%, and only a small constituency of corporate leaders with a commendable and robust track record of prioritising human rights as a core corporate objective.

Nearly one-third of the 98 companies clearly do not feel sufficient external pressure to justify a response or the implementation of improvement plans, and this should be scrutinised by all constituencies.

This doesn’t mean high scoring companies have always gotten everything right, but that despite this they demonstrably engage with the hard questions and seek to continuously improve. This is what the CHRB is seeking to incentivise over time.

It should be noted that some companies believe their ‘on the ground’ performance was not reflected in the Pilot results and are likely to increase their public disclosures in order to improve their scores in 2018.  This is encouraging. Transparency is crucial and until the disclosure playing field has been levelled, it will be difficult to distinguish between companies that are ‘good performers’ and those with ‘high levels of disclosure’.

A Renewed Call to Action

The CHRB Progress Report serves as a renewed call to action for governments, investors, and civil society to use and support the CHRB.

Benchmarking is not a panacea. The CHRB is a tool and needs to be used by investors, consumers, governments, and civil society to mobile, use their voice, and overwhelmingly demonstrate demand for corporate accountability. One-third of the 98 companies clearly do not feel sufficient external pressure to justify a response or the implementation of improvement plans, and this should be scrutinised by all constituencies.

With continued support, CHRB will contribute to putting implementation of business and human rights principles at the heart of business as usual, by supporting an environment that rewards high performers, calls out poor performers, and helps to create a race to the top.

The next benchmark will be released in November 2018. 

 

 

Information & Communication Technology

The Transformative Potential of ICT to Support Human Rights

08 May 2018

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

IHRB's Chief Executive John Morrison delivered the keynote speech at the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) meeting in Brussels on 8 May 2018.

Entitled "The Transformative Potential of ICT to Support Human Rights - Sleeping Giants in the Valley of Opportunity", he highlights the benefits of the ICT revolution: freedom of expression and improved access to other human rights; the Internet of Things, and 'wonder of all wonders' blockchain. But he also warns of three 'sleeping giants' in the ICT realm: data privacy, consent, and fake news.  

He asks:

"Where does an ICT company’s responsibility lie? It is inevitable that governments will lean on companies to do the censorship for them – weeding out the fake and keeping the true. But truth is a philosophical concept, and companies are not made up of philosophers. Nor are they made up of lawyers or human rights experts. Companies can try to pass the buck back to the governments, saying it is the state’s responsibility – but companies do exercise power to control content, under the omnibus term ‘policies’.

Read the full speech here

Information & Communication Technology

Recruitment Fees

04 May 2018

Migrant workers are a ubiquitous feature of the global economy – the International Labour Organization estimates there are 150 million migrants in the global workforce. 

These workers – and in particular low-skilled migrants – are often among the most vulnerable to exploitation and frequently less able to understand, defend or promote their rights. In the labour market migrant workers can suffer job discrimination, unfair treatment, unequal wages, harsh working conditions and other affronts to their basic dignity. 

The situations low-skilled migrant workers face are often made worse by excessive debt. This debt is incurred through high recruitment fees they must pay to secure the work. 

This IHRB Briefing, updated in 2018, provides an overview of the human rights risks posed to migrant workers due to the practice of charging them fees as part of the recruitment process. It includes information on:

  • what are recruitment fees 
  • the impact of recruitment fees 
  • the business case for ethical recruitment 
  • what businesses should do 
  • key resources 
  • and more

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Progress on Embedding Human Rights within Commonwealth Sports Policy

03 May 2018

By David Rutherford, Chief Commissioner, New Zealand Human Rights Commission

Last month in Queensland, Australia, the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games delivered the first multi-sport event to offer an equal number of medals for both men and women, and featured the largest integrated sports programme in Commonwealth Games history. The Gold Coast Games also positioned reconciliation and respect for Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as central to the event.

Together with David Grevemberg, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), I have had the pleasure of Co-Chairing a Task Force on Sports Governing Bodies as part of the IHRB-convened Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights. As well as celebrating the great work of the CGF in Gold Coast, the Games coincided with some significant progress on embedding human rights within Commonwealth sports policy, and the launch of our guide on Championing Human Rights in the Governance of Sports Bodies.

The Games coincided with some significant progress on embedding human rights within Commonwealth sports policy.

Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting

Ahead of the Games in Gold Coast, the 9th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting (9CSMM), chaired and hosted by the Government of Australia, saw delegations from 45 Commonwealth nations and territories meet under the theme ‘strengthening policy coherence to maximise the benefits of investing in sport’.

This provided an opportunity to speak directly to Ministers on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Advisory Board on Sport (CABOS) and to the new Commonwealth Secretariat publication, States Obligations Under International Human Rights Conventions; The Implications for Government Sport Policy. This publication examines how human rights can be protected in sport and through sport. It examines areas in which sport can advance the 2030 development agenda and sets out in detail the status of ratification of human rights treaties by Commonwealth States. It tabulates the human rights obligations that are relevant to realisation of the SDGs identified by the Commonwealth as relevant to sport, or where sport can assist realisation.

The primary objective of 9CSMM was to agree on joint strategies and collective actions to strengthen policy coherence.

Ministers reiterated the valuable contribution sport can make to national development priorities, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They emphasised that a well governed and inclusive sport environment, with strong integrity measures, and human rights protections, is essential to maximise this positive impact.

The primary objective of 9CSMM was to agree on joint strategies and collective actions to strengthen policy coherence. Three priority areas for action were agreed on, each drawn from CABOS key recommendations:

  1. Mapping the sports integrity environment in the Commonwealth to quantify the diversity of challenges, vulnerabilities and capacity to respond across member countries and enable the development of tools to assist countries to optimise sports integrity protection frameworks, in particular in small and vulnerable states.
  1. Developing model indicators and a toolkit to support the measurement and evaluation of the contribution of sport to the SDGs, complimented by mapping of national sport policies against prioritised SDGs.
  1. Developing a consensus statement on promoting human rights in and through sport for consideration by the 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting.

Ministers affirmed (as noted in the full 9CSMM Communique) that the MINEPS Sport Policy Follow-up Framework is a valuable reference point to support the development and implementation of coherent sport policy. They emphasised and agreed to take action to strengthen the alignment and coordination of sport policy implementation, in particular across government and with the Commonwealth Games Federation, affiliated member associations and the broader Commonwealth sport movement. 

Commonwealth Heads of Government committed to take collective action to promote good governance, address corruption, protect the integrity of sport, and promote human rights through sport.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Following on from Gold Coast, the Commonwealth Heads of Government met in London on 19-20 April 2018 (CHOGM 2018), which included a meeting dedicated to specific deliberations on sport policy issues. In their final CHOGM 2018 Communique, Heads of Government affirmed the valuable contribution sport can make to the 2030 Agenda. They committed to work with Commonwealth sports bodies to maximise this positive impact and take collective action to promote good governance, address corruption, protect the integrity of sport, and promote human rights through sport.

The Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI) met at the same time as CHOGM 2018. There was considerable enthusiasm from Commonwealth NHRIs for the progress on sport and human rights and for further involvement, particularly from African NHRIs. CFNHRI is chaired for the next two years by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission. That Commission will lead work by Commonwealth NHRIs on sport and human rights.

If you do not play by the rules you agree to, you cheat. We must ensure that human rights underpin sports integrity and sustainable development through sport.

A Centre for Sport and Human Rights

Embedding human rights within government sports policy is of fundamental importance both in Commonwealth member states, and beyond. In sport we learn to play by the rules. Even children will tell you if you do not play by the rules you cheat. Human rights laws are the rules governing competition in the human race. These are the rules states have freely agreed to follow. There is no compulsion. If you do not play by the rules you agree to, you cheat. We must ensure that human rights underpin sports integrity and sustainable development through sport.

A new Centre for Sport and Human Rights, to be launched in Geneva in June this year will play an important role in supporting policy coherence on sport and human rights, and in supporting states, sports bodies, and the private sector to meet their human rights obligations and responsibilities to ensure harm-free sport for all.

 

The author acknowledges the input of Oliver Dudfield (Commonwealth Secretariat) and Margaret MacDonald (New Zealand Human Rights Commission) in preparing this blog post. 

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Is Human Rights Advocacy Off Track?

30 April 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Is the international human rights movement in crisis? Have leading human rights advocates focused too much on “naming and shaming” states into respecting civil and political liberties at the expense of strategies that could ensure greater social protections for those marginalised by global economic forces? Has their focus on civil and political rights led the groups to align too closely with the global elite, who are the beneficiaries of economic globalisation, at the cost of addressing the needs of the marginalised and underprivileged, by neglecting their demand for social and economic justice? Is the rise of the right in electoral politics a consequence of that, and should human rights groups bear some responsibility?

Moyn suggests that human rights advocates have not confronted the consequences of governments steadily moving away from social welfare commitments...which has contributed to growing economic inequality.

In a provocative article in the New York Times, Yale University professor Samuel Moyn argues that the human rights community, if it is going to survive, must find ways to address the grievances of newly mobilised majorities in countries adversely impacted by changing global economic and social forces as well as those still facing repressive regimes and trapped in poverty. His bold charges are fleshed out in his new book, Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World.

Moyn suggests that human rights advocates have not confronted the consequences of governments steadily moving away from social welfare commitments, and embracing the neoliberal economic order, which has contributed to growing economic inequality. Neoliberalism has, Moyn writes, “shifted investments from the rich world to the poor, leading to job losses, creating anxiety, and enabling the rise of the right.”

Those of us who work in the field are first to say that human rights groups are not perfect, nor are we monolithic. But Moyn’s concern is too narrow, and his charge too broad. There is evidence that human rights advocates are increasingly sophisticated in addressing complex economic realities in ways that add value to experts in other fields working to promote broad-based economic growth and sustainable development.

Moyn is right in suggesting that economic policies and their adverse social impacts have not always been a priority for some in the human rights community.

Human rights groups whose concerns have traditionally focused on civil and political (CP) rights have in recent years done important work on economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights and set standards in fighting against inequality, and have deployed human rights strategies to fight for social and economic justice. Indeed, organisations like Oxfam and the Centre for Economic and Social Rights have campaigned for distributional fairness, deploying human rights strategies to address extreme poverty and inequality. Their campaigns have focused on austerity, tax justice, trade policies, privatisation, and calls for greater accountability of international organisations that regulate trade, economics, and finance. Some of their policy prescriptions are debatable, but the sincerity of their goal, to reduce economic inequality, is unquestionable. That progress should be built on, not overlooked.

Moyn is right in suggesting that economic policies and their adverse social impacts have not always been a priority for some in the human rights community. Before the end of the Cold War, human rights groups (particularly those that originated in the West, such as Amnesty International (AI) - and Human Rights Watch (HRW)) focused on CP rights, and their targets were primarily countries in the Soviet bloc and the developing world.

There were probably two main reasons for that attention to CP rights over ESC rights. The first involved the politics of the Cold War era. The second concerned the challenge of how best to ensure social protections such as health care, education and decent working conditions among others given vastly different country contexts.

Cold War politics was a major reason why there is one Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted in 1948, but there are two covenants – on civil and political rights, and on economic, social, and cultural rights, (both adopted in 1966). That old divide between ESC rights and CP rights finally began to blur after 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, and by 1991, foreign investment began flooding stock markets around the world.

The World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 highlighted the principle of interdependence of all human rights. But at the same time, even more rapid changes in the global economy and the resulting adverse impacts on many people’s lives, including in rich nations, were also matters of growing concern. This could be seen in the “backlash against globalisation” at protests in 1999 at the Seattle World Trade Organisation meetings. It was also apparent in efforts to promote more responsible corporate behaviour, like those of Kofi Annan, as UN Secretary General, who called on business leaders to be part of a Global Compact.

Human rights groups noticed the trend and focused more on the role of economic actors and policies, and their consequences, in the latter half of the 1990s. They weren’t blind to injustice earlier – they had seen groups demanding social justice, but they were not sure of the solutions. I was a researcher at Amnesty International from 1999 to early 2006, and was part of the internal debates and policy work to apply the organisation’s thinking to the changing world.

Human rights groups are not market fundamentalists – their apparent conservatism stems from them being true to human rights law, which does not prescribe one (or any) economic system to be superior over any other.

While all human rights are interdependent, human rights law recognises that states have limited resources, and therefore governments are expected to fulfil ESC rights through progressive realisation. Human rights methodology has focused on identifying violations, naming a violator, and calling for a remedy. As ESC rights violations are often systemic, applying that methodology direct to ESC rights poses problems, since there may be many violators, and proposed remedies themselves create consequences which could raise further human rights challenges. Realising ESC rights requires a concerted, multidisciplinary approach, and the law alone may not offer remedy.

To be sure, human rights groups are not market fundamentalists – their apparent conservatism stems from them being true to human rights law, which does not prescribe one (or any) economic system to be superior over any other. It only says that the state has an obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil rights, and it should meet its minimum core obligations, and for that, devote maximum available resources to meet those obligations.

Being sceptical about the state’s role is necessary, but it doesn’t mean the tasks have to be handled by the private sector.

Secondly, unlike aid agencies and development organisations which often must work with the state, human rights groups have had many reasons to distrust the state – they have documented state abuses for decades – torture, death penalty, arbitrary detentions, unequal treatment under law, disappearances, extra-judicial executions. How could a state which does all that be trusted to educate all, provide healthcare to all, or food for everyone without discrimination?

Being sceptical about the state’s role is necessary, but it doesn’t mean the tasks have to be handled by the private sector. It is the reason why human rights groups have increased their scrutiny of corporations, large and small, and published reams of research, assisted victims and defenders to litigate, and lobbied at the UN and other international organisations to enshrine corporate accountability. Furthermore, both AI and HRW have produced several important reports on ESC rights, calling out the treatment of mentally ill in Eastern Europe, maternal mortality in the developing world, caste-based discrimination in India, attacks on schools in the Occupied Territories, treatment of migrant workers in Southeast Asia, environmental risks, forced evictions, indigenous rights, and other reports on deprivation of rights to education, health, food, and social security in many parts of the world. CESR has focused on many issues, including the impact of regressive taxes on the poor, and health care for migrants. Is that enough? Of course not. But does it suggest they are not concerned about economic inequality? The answer has to be an emphatic no.

Human rights organisations have always fought against inequality in all forms. What they have not done is to take sides opting for one economic system over another, because, as the joke goes, the right is all about the exploitation of man by man; the left is its exact opposite.

With the possible exception of a handful of countries, the world remains a rather unpleasant, unequal place for many people, regardless of the economic model pursued by the government. I grew up in socialist India; it wasn’t a happy time to be poor or middle class, and not everyone got rich by being honest. Since India’s economic deregulation in 1991, inequality has increased marginally, but tens of millions have risen from absolute poverty to relative poverty.

In many other parts of the world, the poor continue to scrape together resources to pay for their children’s private education, or to send their loved ones to private health clinics, because the state has failed to deliver either universal education or universal healthcare. The poor in the developing world are marginally better off because of the great shift in jobs from the rich world to the poor world. The consequence of the world’s two most populous countries, China and India, embracing market-friendly economics has been significant restructuring in the rich world, with manufacturing jobs going to China and services sector jobs going to India. Other countries have also benefited at the expense of the industrialised world.

In dealing with ESC rights, the focus of human rights groups has been on the vulnerable, without getting drawn into ideological battles, and that’s a wise choice.

That accounts for much of the anxiety in the rich world. Workers in Oklahoma and the British Midlands, Germany’s Rostock and France’s banlieues, have lost jobs to former rice farmers in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Bangladesh. Granted, the jobs gained are not great, nor protected by unions nor paying minimum wage in many cases  – but those may in several instances offer better security and income than eking out a living on a tiny plot of farmland, dependent on the vagaries of the monsoon.

Those voting for hyper-nationalist, anti-immigrant parties are angry, but that anger is at least partly because of a loss of privileges; their anxiety is not only economic, it is also cultural. While globalisation’s cheerleaders oversold its advantages (‘win-win’), in reality there are winners and losers. Economic inequality feels unpleasant in rich countries but in poor countries it is coupled with absolute poverty and that can be horrendous.

What can human rights groups do? Campaign for social protection and skills training which can help displaced workers retrain so that they are able to return to work. Advocate for practices that do not let marginalised and vulnerable communities slip through the safety net. Challenge economic choices that are ostentatious (building statues and airports instead of primary schools or toilets with sanitation). Support civil society. Extend opportunity for all equally, even if outcomes can’t be guaranteed.

In dealing with ESC rights, the focus of human rights groups has been on the vulnerable, without getting drawn into ideological battles, and that’s a wise choice. Understanding the rage of the fearful workers in the rich world is important, but that does not mean giving credibility to the narrative they are embracing, because the narrative is divisive, destructive, and discriminatory.

Moyn is right in challenging the human rights community, expecting it to do more and better. Human rights groups will have to reflect on the possible unintended effects of some popular campaigns before embracing them. For example, calls for greater taxes on the rich alone won’t help the poor realise ESC rights.

The good news is that human rights groups are paying attention to these issues. They are keeping their eyes on the marginalised, the vulnerable, the destitute, and the poor – identifying policies that harm their rights and lobbying to change the policies and laws to prevent those violations. Human rights groups, along with other social justice groups, were right in challenging rich country subsidies (cotton in the US, agriculture in the EU) that harmed the poor. They were right in challenging the global pharma industry over access to medicine.

Rather than placing faith in specific ideologies, human rights groups should focus on accountability mechanisms that can bend the powerful towards justice, so that development is based on inclusive growth that benefits all and protects the most vulnerable.

Most human rights groups realise that economic inequality is a problem and acts as a major barrier towards realising human rights. Rather than placing faith in specific ideologies, they should focus on accountability mechanisms that can bend the powerful towards justice, so that development is based on inclusive growth that benefits all and protects the most vulnerable.

Towards the end of his life, India’s founding father Mohandas Gandhi wrote: “Whenever you are in doubt … apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] … and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] life and destiny? … then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”

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The Mega-Sporting Event Lifecycle - Embedding Human Rights from Vision to Legacy

27 April 2018

Mega-sporting events (MSEs) are the pinnacle of global sport, but cannot stand apart from their very significant social impacts – both positive and negative. Sporting events can enhance freedoms and celebrate human dignity, but can also amplify discrimination and abuse. It is critical to ensure that the world of sport is in full alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other international human rights and related instruments, principles, and standards.

"The Mega-Sporting Event Lifecycle: Embedding Human Rights from Vision to Legacy" presents the lifecycle of a mega-sporting event, with specific elements of good human rights practice at each stage that those involved in hosting the event should integrate into their planning, delivery, and legacy in order to ensure a rights-compliant event.

This Guide has been developed by MSE Platform Task Force on Host Actors chaired by Sandra Lendenmann Winterberg (Head, Office of Human Rights Policy, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs) and Ambet Yuson (General Secretary, Building and Woodworkers International), with input from the members of the Task Force and drafting led by William Rook and Alison Biscoe (IHRB), with support of Lucy Amis (IHRB Research Fellow).

The Guide is also available in French, and Japanese.

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Driving Responsible Recruitment in Southeast Asia - Regional Roundtables in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur

26 April 2018

On 20th and 22nd March 2018, IHRB, the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, and The Consumer Goods Forum (the CGF), with the support of Humanity United, organised two roundtable events in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Bangkok, Thailand on "Driving Responsible Recruitment in Southeast Asia".

These practical roundtables offered a rare opportunity for brands, suppliers and recruitment agencies to come together for constructive discussions on transitioning  to an Employer Pays model for recruitment with the objective that No Worker Pays for a Job. During these sessions, participants were able to share their thoughts openly and identify the roadblocks faced, the implications, and opportunities in shifting to a new recruitment model: one which will benefit workers across the region and meet corporate objectives for ethical recruitment.

The Roundtables were tailored to the local context and included expert inputs and practical learnings from those directly involved in the different stages of the recruitment cycle in Malaysia and Thailand, as well as in migrants’ countries of origin, including Nepal and Cambodia.

The roundtables aimed to:

  • raise awareness on the need for ethical standards of recruitment of migrant workers;
  • initiate dialogue on the roles of brands, suppliers and recruiters;
  • encourage discussions on the transition to and operationalisation of an Employer Pays model of recruitment; and
  • identify entry points for dialogue between business and governments on steps to improve the professionalization of the recruitment industry.

During the week, members of the CGF and IHRB’s Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, with the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), also had the opportunity to engage in an insightful dialogue with both the Malaysian and Royal Thai Governments on responsible recruitment and collective solutions. 

Download the Meeting Report to read the highlights from each Roundtable, or take a look at the CGF's gallery to view all of the photos from the week’s events.

 

This event has been kindly supported by: 


 

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Human Rights and the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative - A Conversation

25 April 2018

By Fiona Solomon, CEO, Aluminium Stewardship Initiative , Kendyl Salcito, Executive Director, NomoGaia

Fiona Solomon is the CEO of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), a multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to creating a responsible aluminium value chain, from bauxite mines to computer cases.

She sat down with ASI Standards Committee contributor and civil society member Kendyl Salcito of NomoGaia, a nonprofit research and policy organisation dedicated to facilitating corporate responsibility for the communities impacted by capital projects, to talk about what’s in store for the group and for the industry.


 

Kendyl: There are already multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) tackling issues in mining, manufacturing and technology – what was the need for tackling aluminium specifically and across its value chain?

Fiona: One of the key drivers for uptake of any voluntary initiative is having stakeholders – particularly customers – who want it implemented by their suppliers. For this reason, taking a whole of value chain approach provides a platform to catalyse business-to-business (B2B) drivers. At the same time, ASI’s multi-stakeholder model also brings in civil society organisations and other stakeholders to collectively advance sustainability issues through a commodity lens. 

taking a whole of value chain approach provides a platform to catalyse business-to-business (B2B) drivers

This aligns with the way companies seek to better understand supply chain risks, by reaching further back through specific commodity supply chains. Aluminium is the second most used metal in the world, and is increasingly part of a sustainability narrative in its applications. It lightens the weight of—and is a key metal for the electrification of — vehicles, increases thermal efficiencies in construction, and is being used to support a broader green energy transition.

So it's important to examine the global supply of this material to make sure the values underpinning its production match those for its intended uses.

Kendyl: ASI started in 2009 as a membership organisation. What led the group to become a standards and certification body?

Fiona: Like many initiatives, ASI has had a long gestation!

It began as a group of diverse stakeholders coming together to ask what ‘responsible aluminium’ might be. An independent study was commissioned to review approaches in other sectors, and the recommendation was to establish an independent third party certification programme.

Like many initiatives, ASI has had a long gestation

This was taken forward by a critical mass of stakeholders, and in 2012 they appointed the IUCN to act as co-ordinator for a multi-stakeholder standards setting process, resulting in the publication of V1 of the ASI Performance Standard in December 2014.

The participating companies agreed to support the establishment of the necessary organisation and systems for the programme. In 2015, ASI was incorporated as a legal entity with an agreed governance and membership model.

In December 2017, following further development and stakeholder consultation, the ASI certification programme was formally launched. And the first ASI Certifications were issued in April 2018.

Kendyl: Does ASI now have certified auditors for every stage of the Aluminium value chain?

Fiona: ASI now has 4 accredited audit firms, with another 2 applications currently under review. These audit firms collectively cover all stages of the aluminium value chain, and major regions in the world, including Western Europe, North America, Oceania and Asia Pacific. We anticipate accrediting auditors in Africa and South America as companies operating there move to initiate their certification processes over the next 18 months. ASI continues to welcome interested audit firms to contact us to begin the accreditation process. A core part of ASI accreditation is mandatory training on ASI’s standards and assurance model, which includes an exam component for individual auditors. 

The social component of auditing is an area where we are working on several fronts to help build capacity.

ASI is working with the Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors (APSCA), whose mission is to enhance the professionalism and credibility of the social compliance audit industry. We are also working with ASI’s Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum (IPAF) to develop additional auditor training components on working with indigenous peoples as part of the audit process, as well as community-level training that could help prepare indigenous peoples to participate.

Kendyl: Social Compliance and Indigenous Rights are terms with critical implications for human rights, but they are not often well defined. What are the human rights issues ASI aims to address? 

Fiona: While a human rights lens arguably also covers a range of environmental and governance issues too, the ASI Performance Standard directly addresses three main areas within the ‘social’ pillar: human rights, labour rights, and health and safety.

the ASI Performance Standard directly addresses three main areas within the ‘social’ pillar: human rights, labour rights, and health and safety

This includes implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (requirements for a policy commitment, a human rights due diligence process, and remediation of adverse impacts), addressing gender issues, indigenous peoples’ rights including free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), respect for cultural and sacred heritage, avoiding or minimising resettlement, local community livelihoods, conflict-affected and high-risk areas, and security practices that respect human rights.

In the labour rights section, the core ILO Conventions – freedom of association, right to collective bargaining, forced labour, child labour, and non-discrimination – are addressed. Additional areas in the Standard are living wage, communication and engagement with workers, working times, and disciplinary practices.

Other sections seek to ‘mainstream’ human rights, such as a requirement for impact assessments that cover environmental, social, cultural, and other human rights issues (including gender). 

Many of these are areas which, despite in some cases decades-old Conventions and stakeholder action, are still maturing in terms of practical implementation approaches and compliance assessment.

ASI has convened a Human Rights Working Group, in addition to the IPAF previously mentioned, to help us support improvement in both practice and auditing over time. Because of the difficulty of quantifying the effectiveness of approaches such as FPIC and human rights impacts assessments (HRIAs), when it comes to evaluating ASI’s impact over time, this will be an opportunity to take a case study approach to understand how ASI and companies can continue to improve.

Kendyl: Some multi-stakeholder initiatives and best-practice roundtables have struggled to expand their certification processes within their corporate memberships. How will ASI address this challenge?

Fiona: ASI’s membership requirement for companies in the value chain is that they must certify at least one operation or product/programme area within 2 years of joining ASI.

However, ASI’s view is that the design of the Standards themselves needs to create inherent incentives for broader implementation and uptake. We were delighted to see that the first ASI Certifications to Rio Tinto in April 2018 covered a bauxite mine, an alumina refinery, five smelters, and associated facilities including power generation and ports – well beyond a single operation focus.

our goal is that responsible aluminium becomes a market expectation

We anticipate that the majority of members will go beyond the minimum over time – our goal is that responsible aluminium becomes a market expectation, with a wide range of companies that want to demonstrate that they produce and source responsibly.

Kendyl: As part of its commitment to implementing the UN Guiding Principles, ASI has a requirement for HRIA. How will ASI ensure these assessments meet the standards of adequacy laid out in the Guiding Principles?

Fiona: There are three main ways ASI supports capacity building in this area.

First, by educating companies themselves about how the UNGPs should be implemented. ASI has implementation guidance and training available, including deeper dives into key issues and tailored tools where appropriate.

Second, auditors need training on good practice and what is expected from companies as evidence of implementation. Audits of UNGPs implementation are still relatively new, and the work of organisations like APSCA and others can complement ASI’s efforts in this area.

Third, capacity of affected rights-holders themselves is also key. We are keen to reach out to Indigenous communities and workers so that they understand what ASI’s standards mean for member companies connected to them, what an audit process involves, and what they should expect from an ASI company in terms of practice.

ASI publishes a summary report of the audit findings for each individual certification, which identifies the company’s conformance levels for each criterion in the Standard and includes a summary statement from the auditor against each (here’s an example against the ASI Performance Standard). Stakeholders can review these and raise any issues with the company or with ASI via its Complaints Mechanism.

Kendyl: The ASI Standards address a range of challenges that have faced bauxite miners, aluminium smelters, recycling facilities, and end users. What capacity does ASI have to help companies implement the standards?

Fiona: ASI is working on three main strategies for capacity building in the value chain. 

The first is our new educationAl program, which is developing a range of webinars and face-to-face training sessions for members and interested stakeholders. We lead most training but will also include peer learning opportunities, for example from companies that have been through the certification journey, and insights from stakeholder groups, such as ASI’s Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum. 

The second is the design of ASI’s online assurance platform, elementAl. It takes companies step by step through the Standards and connects directly into implementation tips contained in the published Standards Guidance document. It also features functions to enable companies to identify and track corrective actions over time. 

And the third dimension is ASI’s Registered Specialists programme, which offers a list of consultants and advisers that are knowledgeable in particular areas of ASI Standards that can provide support services to members looking for more tailored advice. 

Kendyl: Where are the most powerful pressure points ASI has identified for moving the industry forward?

Fiona: ASI’s Strategic Plan identifies two key elements to support uptake and implementation: downstream customers and China.

Downstream users of aluminium are the key to creating market signals for the production of responsible aluminium and thus the implementation of ASI Standards. Relevant sectors include automotive and transport, building and construction, packaging, consumer products and general engineering and technical applications - a wide range of industrial and consumer-facing companies, some with long and complex supply chains. 

Downstream users of aluminium are the key to creating market signals for the production of responsible aluminium

The second key element is China: more than 60% of the world’s aluminium is produced there and it is essential that ASI be inclusive and work to bring the Chinese industry along on this journey. Translations, regular outreach, and platforms in China are some of the important practical elements to support this. Chinese companies are very responsive to their customers – which can include CSR expectations of suppliers. ASI’s responsibility is to make its standards and programmes accessible to build on this supply chain dynamic. In April, we released Chinese translations of the two ASI Standards and Guidance documents and are planning several outreach and training visits to companies, auditors, and stakeholders this year.

Kendyl: As you mention, China is the world’s largest aluminium producer. Tackling human rights in many bauxite and aluminium producing countries is a real challenge. How is ASI approaching that?

Fiona: As we know, countries and their sectors and companies are not monolithic.

Where there is ongoing customer and investor engagement on issues such as human rights, we have seen companies operating in challenging countries respond accordingly. Sometimes this requires the necessary local institutional support.

more than 60% of the world’s aluminium is produced in China

For example, while China did not initially engage in the development of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for the Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers & Exporters (CCCMC) later developed the Chinese Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains. It applies to all metals but has a particular focus on cobalt at present, and the effort has brought in a coalition of collaborating upstream and downstream companies.

At other times, companies themselves take the lead to address customer concerns and/or improve market access.

ASI recognises that there can be particular challenges for human rights implementation in some country contexts. However, this is also where the most impact can ultimately be made, if we can work to move these issues forward.

Kendyl: How does certification leverage the pressure points that arise through aluminium’s value chain?

Fiona: In both the technical sectors where aluminium is used and in China, certification programmes for quality, environmental management, and technical specifications are very widespread. 

So the general concept of certification is not new, though the breadth of ASI’s scope on sustainability – covering environmental, social, and governance issues – is new for many. Certification can offer better risk management from a customer perspective, and better market access from a supplier perspective. 

Kendyl: It can be difficult to ensure compliance with standards – audits have limits, as do external reviews. What corrective actions are locked into the ASI certification process to ensure it is a platform for change?

Fiona: There are at least 3 layers of corrective action built into the ASI programme.

The first is through the certification process itself, where minor non-conformances require corrective action by the company which will be reviewed at the next surveillance audit.

Second, ASI provides an oversight function to audit reports to ensure they have been carried out in accordance with the ASI Assurance Manual. This means implementation questions and areas of non-conformance by companies, as well as any issues with the audit process or reporting by auditors, are logged and fed back into training through the educationAl programme.

Finally, ASI is developing its Monitoring and Evaluation program, and an independent Oversight panel, which will also serve as higher level review cycles that can identify broader system areas for improvement.

Kendyl: How do you foresee the ASI evolving in the future?

There are a number of Working Groups that ASI has established, such as in the areas of Human Rights, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, GHG, and Material Stewardship and Recycling, where future revisions to ASI Standards will be identified.

More generally, innovations in the sustainability standards landscape are looking at a number of important issues such as how best to take advantage of the data and IT revolution, how to develop more participatory models of assurance, and create opportunities for interoperability across programs and initiatives.

These will continue to transform how certification programmes and the ASI will operate in practice as part of an evolving vision jointly shaped by all key stakeholders.

innovations in the sustainability standards landscape...will continue to transform how certification programmes...operate in practice

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Rights Through Sport - Mapping “Sport For Development And Peace”

06 April 2018

Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) refers to the use of sport, physical activity, and play to attain specific development, and peace objectives. It is a high-profile endeavour, involving multiple stakeholder groups adopting different approaches and operating at different levels in terms of their policies, funding, and operations.  

Rights Through Sport: Mapping “Sport for Development and Peace” provides an overview of the actors involved in SDP and outlines how their work incorporates human rights principles.

Well-crafted SDP programmes currently develop methodologies that look at the overall impact of programmes on the well-being of the communities where they operate. A smaller number of SDP programmes explicitly look at human rights outcomes, or claim to embody a right-based approach. However, there is very limited recognition of the programmes’ own human rights responsibilities or implementation of human rights due diligence as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

The report includes a series of recommendations for SDP actors to harness the power of sport for good, to maximise its positive effects and to minimise the negative.

This centres around undertaking human rights due diligence throughout the lifecycle of SDP programmes. Doing so can demonstrate how a rights-based approach to SDP can support positive outcomes aligned with the UN Global Goals on Sustainable Development and foster closer links between those involved in the SDP agenda and actors working to promote the connections between sport and human rights.

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Championing Human Rights in the Governance of Sports Bodies

31 March 2018

Sports bodies are critical actors in delivering mega-sporting events, setting the expectations and standards to which events should be delivered. Through implementing human rights within their own governance and operations, sports bodies can take important steps towards protecting the values of sport and implementing respect for human rights.

A new human rights guide for sports bodies of all sizes was launched at the General Assembly of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), on the eve of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

"Championing Human Rights in the Governance of Sports Bodies" introduces human rights to sports bodies, large and small, drawing on lessons from the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, UEFA, and the Commonwealth Games Federation and outlining four tangible steps that sports bodies can take to build human rights into the governance of their organisations. Focussed explicitly on governance, this Guide is intended for consideration at executive and board level of sports bodies.

The Guide has been developed by IHRB and the Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights through its Task Force on Sports Bodies chaired by David Grevemberg (Chief Executive, CGF) and David Rutherford (Chief Commissioner, New Zealand Human Rights Commission), with the support of DLA Piper and Unicef UK, and input from the IOC, FIFA, UEFA, and the CGF.

The Guide is also available in French.

Commenting at the launch, David Grevemberg called on all sports bodies of all sizes, inside and outside of the Commonwealth, to implement the Guide's practical steps:

We are all custodians of sporting movements and organisations that have inherent potential to create positive change in the world. To realise this potential, it is essential that respect for human rights be embedded within governance and operations. 
David Grevemberg, Chief Executive, Commonwealth Games Federation

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Harm Free Sport - Aligning Sports Bodies, Sporting Values, and Human Rights

30 March 2018

By William Rook, Senior Advisor, Strategy & Programmes, IHRB

Several major sports governing bodies are making strides towards implementing their commitments to respect human rights throughout their operations.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen adoption of the International Olympic Committee’s new host city contract and the UEFA bidding requirements for the 2024 European Championships. The Commonwealth Games Federation’s Human Rights Policy and 2022 Games Candidate City Manual have come online, as well as FIFA’s new Human Rights Policy which follows the recommendations it commissioned in 2016 from Professor John Ruggie.

Significant Progress in 2017

This trend reflects a growing recognition among leaders in the sports sector of their human rights responsibilities consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). These steps have been achieved through collaboration between sports bodies, and a noteworthy commitment to multi-stakeholderism, in particular with regard to a joint commitment to establish an independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights in 2018.

Sports bodies already take meaningful steps to promote integrity and safeguard the well-being and dignity of athletes, fans, officials, volunteers, employees, and local residents.

Progress by a number of leading actors in developing and strengthening their systems to manage human rights risks has been widely welcomed. However, it should also be recognised that a generation of work will be needed to fully align the world of sport with the fundamental principles of human dignity, human rights, and labour rights.

Indeed, there are thousands of sports bodies at global, regional and national levels, who have yet to commit to respecting human rights or demonstrate their implementation. As such, there is a need to support organisations at all levels in identifying their responsibilities and the steps to implement within their operations.

Aligning Human Rights with Sporting Values

The good news is we are not starting from scratch. There is already a great deal of alignment between sporting values and human rights. Sports bodies are custodians of sporting movements and promote sporting values by ensuring that standards of equal opportunity, diversity, anti-discrimination and integrity are upheld. Respect for human rights is not separate from such objectives; rather respect for human rights strengthens these objectives under a common narrative of “harm free sport”.

A generation of work will be needed to fully align the world of sport with the fundamental principles of human dignity, human rights, and labour rights.

Sports bodies already take meaningful steps to promote integrity and safeguard the well-being and dignity of athletes, fans, officials, volunteers, employees, and local residents. They do this, for example, by providing safe and decent conditions of work, by enforcing non-discriminatory policies and ensuring their sports and sport venues are accessible to persons with disabilities and from all genders and backgrounds, as well as by procuring equipment and services responsibly.

However, despite sport and human rights being natural allies, this has often not been the case. As is increasingly recognised, mega-sporting events can contribute to a range of negative impacts on athletes, fans, communities, children, workers, human rights defenders and representatives of the press. The wider world of sport has also been linked to violations of human rights including discrimination and sexual abuse. In response, society’s expectations of sports bodies have never been higher, and ensuring that sport is harm free across the board must be a matter of urgency.

New Guidance

The Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights (MSE Platform) has produced a new implementation guide for sports bodies large and small. “Championing Rights in the Governance of Sports Bodies” is a joint effort, developed in consultation with the MSE Platform Sports Governing Bodies Task Force, co-chaired by David Grevemberg CBE (Chief Executive, Commonwealth Games Federation) and David Rutherford (Chief Commissioner, New Zealand Human Rights Commission).

Colleagues from Unicef UK and DLA Piper supported the drafting (with special thanks to Lucy Amis and Daniel D’Ambrosio respectively) ensuring that this resource will provide practical guidance and recommendations for all involved in governing sports bodies. The new guide is being launched at the Commonwealth Games Federation General Assembly on 31 March 2018, ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. The publication will form the basis of on-going outreach and training to sports bodies at regional, national and local levels.

Embedding Human Rights Within Sports Body Governance

Ensuring the values of sports bodies are fully aligned with human rights starts at the governance level, with the development and implementation of effective policies.

The new implementation guide for sports bodies large and small will truly help to embed human rights within sports body governance.

Starting with governance, and having the right tools in place to build human rights respecting institutions within the world of sport, is a meaningful step towards the goal of harm free sport for all.

For detailed guidance on embedding human rights within sports body governance, follow this link to access “Championing Rights in the Governance of Sports Bodies”.

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Series on Business, Equality, and Non-Discrimination

30 March 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Gender-based discrimination is endemic to society and found in every country; no company is immune to the risks. From the C-Suite to the shopfloor, women are often underpaid, often denied positions of power, and often unable to influence meaningfully how the organisation operates. Junior female executives' careers are often stalled by the glass ceiling; women are usually outnumbered in boardrooms, if present at all. At the floor of factories, where they may form an overwhelming majority, women can be subject to bullying, harassment, and sometimes sexual violence. These vulnerabilities can multiply when they involve intersecting forms of discrimination - such as when the women are from ethnic, linguistic, or religious minorities, have disabilities, or are in same-sex relationships for example.

In this podcast mini-series dedicated to the theme of business, equality, and non-discrimination, IHRB's Salil Tripathi talks about these dynamics with six experts to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2018 and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2018.

  • Srilatha Batliwala speaks of the need to change the deep culture of an organisation;
  • Nazma Akter reminds us of the importance of listening to women on the shopfloor;
  • Harpreet Kaur speaks of the need for gender impact assessments;
  • Sanyu Awori points out the difficulties faced by women of colour and the inability of corporations to apply standards across countries;
  • Laya Vasudevan highlights the issues faced by the transgender community; and
  • Virginia Bras Gomes notes the complexities of extraterritoriality and the role of the UN and its monitoring mechanisms in achieving gender parity.

Information & Communication Technology

Virginia Bras Gomes on remedies for gender-based human rights abuses

30 March 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 15.32MB - Duration: 11:09 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

In this podcast, Virginia Bras Gomes talks to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about the challenges companies face while operating in diverse environments, with different laws and different jurisdictions, in developing remedies for gender-based human rights abuses. Virginia recognises that states, whose primary responsibility it is to protect human rights, often plead inability to advance women's rights citing cultural relativist arguments and claiming exceptionalism. But she stresses the universality of human rights, and urges companies to do more. She cites two useful general comments from the committee - GC 23, on the right to just and favourable conditions of work, and GC 24, on state obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the context of business and human rights.

Virginia chairs the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. She is also senior social policy adviser in the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security in Portugal. She has been on the board of UN agencies in Portugal as well as a member of the Portuguese National Human Rights Commission. 

 


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of business, equality, and non-discrimination, to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2018 and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2018.

Information & Communication Technology

Sustainable Sourcing, Grievance Mechanisms, and Human Rights at Mega-Sporting Events - Tokyo 2020

29 March 2018

On September 13, 2017, IHRB on behalf of the Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights organised, with the support of the Swiss Government and together with Caux Round Table Japan, its first workshop in Japan, towards making respect for human rights a reality in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

The workshop was attended by 76 persons from 41 organisations, including the International Olympic Committee, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympics headquarters in the Cabinet Secretariat, and other related organisations of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, sponsor companies, NGOs from Japan and abroad, athletes’ organisations, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, as well as U.S. and Swiss Embassies in Japan.

The workshop aimed to identify, and share among the participants, key points and issues surrounding the implementation of sustainable sourcing policies and grievance mechanisms in relation to mega-sporting events.

This meeting report summarises the key points from each contributor, and is available in both English and Japanese.

Information & Communication Technology

Reflections on the Pakistan Ruling Banning Network Shutdowns

23 March 2018

By Haroon Baloch, Journalist and Digital Rights Researcher

In late February 2018, in a landmark judgment, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled that shutting down telecom networks was illegal, rejecting the State’s rationale that security considerations made such shutdowns necessary.

Pakistan has a history of network shutdowns during public gatherings and events. The court termed the shutdowns as ‘illegal’ and ‘inconsistent’ with legal provisions.

For some years now, the prevailing practice in Pakistan has been that citing apprehensions of unforeseen security circumstances, including potential terrorist attacks. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the country’s telecom regulator, has suspended mobile networks in major cities. In some cases these suspensions have lasted for prolonged durations. The shutdowns are often unannounced.

In 2016, with the help of four citizens, advocate Umer Gillani launched and filed a public interest petition in IHC against this unjust practice.

The report 'Security V. Access: The Impact of Mobile Network Shutdowns in Pakistan' contained very important findings on this practice and established that such network interruptions are disproportionate,

Gilani said:

“This wouldn’t have been possible for me, had the wonderful research on this issue not been available. "Security V. Access: The Impact of Mobile Network Shutdowns in Pakistan" contains very important findings on this practice and established that such network interruptions are disproportionate, and do not justify the denial of fundamental rights and access to emergency services merely on apprehensions of unforeseen security challenges.”

The report was based on research in 2015 in Pakistan, which was conducted by Bytes for All Pakistan, an Islamabad-based organisation, with its international partners, IHRB, and Center for the Internet and Human Rights.

Security vs Access

This unprecedented verdict has been largely welcomed by individuals and groups which are at the forefront of digital rights struggle in Pakistan, and across the globe. It has in fact become a precedent for other countries’ courts in the region where similar network shutdown trends are rampant, for instance in Indian-held Kashmir.

In Pakistan, these network disruptions have left citizens handicapped, as they are unable to access emergency health services, online banking, transport... 

The verdict is significant and will contribute to global efforts of fight against arbitrary network disruptions.

Such disruptions are grave because of the scope of fundamental rights being violated. In Pakistan, these network disruptions have left citizens handicapped, as they are unable to access emergency health services, online banking, transport, and so on.

The state can challenge the verdict in the supreme court.

Umer says the case could have been decided on larger grounds, which go beyond the confines of section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, 1996, and does justice to the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution.

The honorable judge in the case, Justice Athar Minallah, did not specifically acknowledge the fundamental right to access telecommunications as being an integral part of the right to life protected under article 9, read with articles 4, 10(a), 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19(b) of the Constitution.

In several instances in the past, higher judiciary in Pakistan has interpreted the right to life as a right defined to encompass access to basic necessities such as electricity, natural gas and healthy environment. For example, in 1994, the Supreme Court had ruled in  Shehla Zia v. WAPDA [PLD 1994 SC 693] case that access and maintenance of healthy environment for citizens is their right to life. Similarly, in Khawaja Asif v. the Federation [PLD 2014 SC 206] case, the apex court termed the access to natural gas as the right to life.

This shows growing recognition that in modern times, life without these necessities would be crippled, because these services are essential to facilitate our day-to-day activities. That is the essence of the Supreme Court’s interpretation. In the network shutdown petition, the petitioners had pled to the court to declare telecommunication right as the right to life, but the court did not rule on that.

The Responsibility to Respect Requires Action

The judgement is also silent on the issue of telecom companies’ responsibility vis-à-vis its consumers. Under telecom rule 7, a telco is bound to give prior notice of suspension, interruption, or disconnection of services to its telecom consumers. Such notices must also disclose the reason for suspension or disconnection of services.

Telcos had never challenged PTA’s directives, and through their silence, they became part of government’s encroachment upon citizens’ human rights.

Moreover, the responsibility of providing continued access to emergency services’ numbers during disconnections lies with the telcos. However, the majority of telcos and internet service providers of Pakistan do not do this. Companies operating in the sector in Pakistan include global telecommunication players including VEON (formerly VimpelCom), Telenor Group, and China Mobile Telecommunication Company.

According to UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, business enterprises should respect human rights, which means they should not infringe upon human rights of others; rather, they should address adverse human rights impacts due to their conduct. The telecom sector has significant impacts on human rights, which include privacy, government surveillance, supply chain labour standards, health and safety, and access to telecommunications. Many telcos have expressed their commitment to uphold international human rights standards. However, their efforts to vigilantly protect rights falls short, at least partly because of governmental actions and orders in Pakistan.

Arbitrary shutdowns in Pakistan are not new. Officially, they have been happening since 2012. However, telcos had never challenged PTA’s directives, and through their silence, they became part of government’s encroachment upon citizens’ human rights.

The UN Guiding Principles are very clear on human rights due diligence. Business enterprises are bound to identify and assess any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which they may be involved either through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships.

In Pakistan, the telcos had never consulted their consumers or concerned stakeholders on the issue of arbitrary shutdowns by the government. Such consultations would have enabled them to gauge the range of human rights being affected or violated, and they could have sought their opinion on future course of action.

It was only in 2016 that China Mobile Communications Pakistan submitted its First Appeal Against Order (FAO), and that too only after the IHC sought responses from the telcos while hearing a public interest petition. 

Telenor Pakistan did however cooperate with Bytes4All and IHRB in its 2015 research on network shutdowns, which provided the basis for the current petition.

Proportionate and Lawful

Now is the right time for companies to positively engage with the Government and other stakeholders for future course of action.

Network shutdowns by the state have been justified as a counter-terrorism measure, but the IHC verdict has shown that the measure is disproportionate. According to the Court's interpretation of Section 54(3) of Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, 1996, the only available legal ground for shutting down telecommunications networks is proclamation of emergency in the country by the President of Pakistan, which is a rare case. That also means, if there is not emergency imposed by the President, network shutdowns should not happen.

If there is not emergency imposed by the President, network shutdowns should not happen.

However, security is a legitimate concern for the state, and most security and human rights experts agree that time-bound, legal shutdowns to address a specific imminent risk are justified under law. But governments have often used the powers to justify disproportionate and widespread shutdowns. Among the recommendations outlined in the 2015 report, the following remain relevant today.

  • Network shutdowns should only be invoked in cases of real and imminent threats.
  • Shutdown should be limited in duration and area and be proportionate to the perceived risk.
  • Where possible, the public should be informed of the shutdown, geography, and duration.
  • Emergency services should remain available during shutdown.
  • Laws should be subject to ongoing review.

Only such clearly established procedures will ensure that shutdowns are proportionate and lawful, and it will clarify to the companies what their obligations are – to the state and to the users, who are the rights-holders.

 

Image: Flickr/Michael Foley

Information & Communication Technology

The 2017 Sporting Chance Forum

21 March 2018

The second annual Sporting Chance Forum convened in Geneva, Switzerland from 30 November to 1 December 2017, hosted by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and the Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights (MSE Platform).

The Forum brought together over 175 representatives from across many stakeholder groups to explore the human rights opportunities and risks associated with mega-sporting events (MSEs) and sport in general, and to assess progress made and challenges remaining since the first Sporting Chance Forum in October 2016.

The Forum was opened by Mary Robinson, Chair of the MSE Platform Steering Committee, who announced a joint commitment to transition the MSE Platform to a permanent, independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights in 2018.  

The Forum also showcased draft work developed collectively by members of the MSE Platform, to further operationalise human rights principles by various actors in the world of sport. The draft tools were consulted on during parallel sessions of the Forum, and will be finalised and published throughout 2018.

This meeting report offers an overview of the two-day discussions, as well as conclusions and next steps for the future Centre for Sport and Human Rights.

The meeting report is also available in French.

You can also watch the opening of the 2017 Sporting Chance Forum below, with remarks from: John Morrison, Chief Executive, Institute for Human Rights and Business; Mary Robinson, Chair of the MSE Platform Steering Committee; Pascale Baeriswyl, State Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Government of Switzerland; Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Guy Ryder, Director General, International Labour Organization; and Thomas Bach, President, International Olympic Committee.

Information & Communication Technology

Sanyu Awori on Gender and Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

21 March 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 15.06MB - Duration: 10:58 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

Sanyu Awori, programme officer at the International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) in Kuala Lumpur, speaks to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about the gaps between corporate policies and performance with regard to respect for women's rights. While there has been progress in some areas, companies need to do much more. Women in developing countries working in supply chains of multinational corporations remain disadvantaged despite state-of-the-art policies designed at the headquarters. When race, religion, disability, and other dimensions are added, the woman at the centre of the intersectionality is acutely vulnerable to exploitation. 

IWRAW  contributes to the progressive interpretation, universalisation, and implementation of women's human rights through the lens of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and other international human rights instruments. At IWRAW, Sanyu coordinates their work on business and women’s human rights. Her work focuses on amplifying women’s voices and lived experiences in the Global South, and influence regional and international processes to integrate women’s human rights in strategies to address corporate responsibility and accountability. Kenyan-born Sanyu has earlier worked with the  Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative based in New Delhi, where she specialised in human rights advocacy in Commonwealth countries. She graduated with a Masters in Human Rights Law from the University of Nottingham. 

 


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of business, equality, and non-discrimination, to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2018 and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2018.

Information & Communication Technology

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica - Where Lies Privacy?

20 March 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

It is the cardinal rule of the Internet that anything you say in cyberspace lives in perpetuity, and there is no such thing as complete privacy.

Users can use cryptographic tools to protect their communications, change their passwords repeatedly, interact only with a trusted few – but the digital footprint that we, as users, leave behind, enables any organisation with resources at hand, to build a fairly detailed picture of who we are. And then, sell us products and services we may – or may not – need. Or, as in the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook case makes clear, play on our hopes and fears to influence our voting choices.

Cambridge Analytica is no ordinary consultancy, and Facebook’s business relationship with it seems to have cried out for greater checks and balances.

The hammering from the market that Facebook has received this week shows that investors have taken a dim view of the company’s activities and explanations for its involvement in the unfolding case involving Cambridge Analytica’s role in the 2016 US Presidential elections. Investors see spades of legal trouble ahead for Facebook and other companies in similar businesses.

Facebook’s response appears to have been remarkably tepid when it learned about researchers, who claimed to be doing academic work involving 50 million of its users’ data, had an arrangement to share user data with Cambridge Analytica. The firm is no ordinary consultancy, and Facebook’s business relationship with it seems to have cried out for greater checks and balances.

How Did We Get Here?

Cambridge Analytica plays major strategic, tactical, and operational roles in elections around the world, most notably in the 2016 US Presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Its Chief Executive has given many presentations about how they helped the campaign identify themes to highlight and specific voters to target. A major Trump campaign donor, the Mercer family, had a financial stake through shell companies in Cambridge Analytica. Its vice-president was Steve Bannon, who would later become chief strategist at the White House during the first seven months of the Trump administration. Furthermore, it actively sought business with Russian companies – when the cloud of Russian involvement in the US Presidential elections of 2016 is so thick it can be seen from outer space.

The exceptional delay in acting on the information – nearly two years – shows that Facebook knew, or should have known, what the consequences of the breach could be.

And yet, no alarm bells appear to have sounded at the social media giant.

Facebook does not appear to have informed the affected users of the data breach, and all that it asked the researchers and Cambridge Analytica to do was to delete the information they continued to possess, seemingly believing that they had obliged. It took further action only after it received reports that Cambridge Analytica had not deleted all the information. Facebook decided to suspend Cambridge Analytica from the network only last week.

Facebook’s prime concern appears to be that its ‘platform policies’ have been violated.

Facebook’s real problem begins there – that it seems to think the only problem is the breach of its policies. The exceptional delay in acting on the information – nearly two years – shows that Facebook knew, or should have known, what the consequences of the breach could be. The lackadaisical manner in which Facebook appears to have treated the matter indicates a failure to undertake effective due diligence.

The road ahead for the company will be rocky.

The UK Information Commissioner has today sought a court warrant to enter Cambridge Analytica’s premises and asked Facebook to stop its audit of Cambridge Analytica, so as not to prejudice her own investigation. In the US, Senator Ron Wyden has asked pointed questions to Facebook about what it knew in 2015; what it did after that; how many similar breaches have occurred or could have occurred; whether it has informed the nearly 50 million people whose privacy has been breached; if not, why not, in this instance or other cases; and whether its actions are consistent with relevant privacy laws.

(In 2011, Facebook entered into a consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission which required the company to maintain a comprehensive privacy programme to address privacy risks and protect confidentiality. Why is it that three years after, such a massive breach could occur, the Senator has asked. He has also sought biennial privacy assessment reports from independent third party professionals that Facebook is required to obtain and provide to the FTC.)

What’s at Stake

To be sure, conducting opposition research, tailoring messages that appeal to the electorate – messages that play on their hopes and fears, and targeting voters by segmenting them in different groups is neither illegal nor necessarily wrong. Marketing companies do it all the time when they attempt to sway consumers from buying one brand over another. But advertising standards exist, which have rules against certain forms, in particular subliminal advertising, which aims to manipulate the viewer’s thinking.

The question is no longer academic as to whether Cambridge Analytica was ‘persuading’ voters or ‘manipulating’ them.

The documentary on Channel 4 clearly shows the firm’s executives boasting about abilities and resources the company can deploy to affect electoral outcomes. Cambridge Analytica refutes this, saying they were trying to get a better sense of the client’s true intentions and had significant concerns following the secretly filmed conversations.

The sophisticated messaging may have contributed in influencing voters to stay at home, or change their votes, in critical, marginal precincts, affecting the overall outcome.

Whether they did it or not is beside the point.

At its simplest, Cambridge Analytica – a firm with an exceptional amount to answer for as to the seemingly unethical and legally questionable tactics aimed at manipulating voters’ decisions – has used information researchers obtained ostensibly for academic purposes from Facebook. And Facebook appears to have been lax in exercising any control over how the vast amount of data in its custody, belonging to millions of users, is used.

The impact of this data breach is colossal. It may have affected the outcome of a US Presidential election, and all that has followed. True, neither Cambridge Analytica, nor Facebook, ‘elected’ Donald Trump to the White House; but the sophisticated messaging may have contributed in influencing voters to stay at home, or change their votes, in critical, marginal precincts, affecting the overall outcome. This is not to absolve the voters of their responsibility – they exercised their choice, and they have to live with the consequence.

What’s likely, however, is both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook may face extensive litigation from people who believe their privacy is compromised, and the compensation bill for that can potentially overwhelm even a tech giant like Facebook. The first such lawsuit is already underway: David Carroll, who teaches at the Parsons School for Design in New York, has sued Cambridge Analytica, under British data protection law, asking the firm to tell him what it knows about him. 

What’s to Come

The genie of social networks or political consultancy firms cannot be put back in the bottle.

The challenge for governments now is to enforce existing laws (and prosecute those who are in breach) and legislate new regulations to ensure that data is not misused and that such data breaches do not occur again.

Governments and the industry have moved rapidly in the past with data breaches – as the cases of Equifax, LinkedIn, and Yahoo! have shown. Companies have paid stiff compensation and penalty to affected parties. That is the minimum expected in this instance.

Deeper understanding of and commitment to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provides a logical framework for further discussion on the responsibilities of these companies. A robust due diligence process helps identify risks and would have provided warning signs.

Users need to know that if they are not paying for a service or product, they are not the company’s customers; they – and their data – are the product being sold.

The deed is now done.

Governments will have to investigate procedural failures of the companies involved, as well as breaches of law and regulations. That may include assessing Facebook’s power and reach, and whether existing laws concerning monopolies can be used to curb its power. In many countries, Facebook has become the equivalent of the Internet – in fact, its controversial Free Basics programme intended to do just that, by making it the sole gateway to the Internet, and the removal of net neutrality may only hasten such a process.

There will be inevitable regulatory changes following this, with stricter rules about data gathering, data retention, and the need for far greater clarity of language needed in explaining consent. Perhaps the business model needs to be turned around – companies like Facebook should pay users for the data they hold, if they are to monetise the data by offering it to advertisers. Users need to know that if they are not paying for a service or product, they are not the company’s customers; they – and their data – are the product being sold.

Righting the Ship

It is clear that more is required for Facebook to know and show that those given access to its users’ data will not go on to misuse it; that the risks their business relationships pose to users’ rights are prevented, mitigated, and where breached also remedied.

These and other steps are essential to restore user trust in the tools and services on which they have come to rely for education, information, and entertainment.

To concretely demonstrate that it respects human rights, Facebook should carefully consider these necessary steps:  

  • Make its privacy policies simple to understand.
  • Make opt-out provisions allowing users to stop third parties from accessing their data more explicit.
  • Retain only the bare minimum data necessary to identify the person opening the account (to prevent impersonation and identity theft), and to facilitate financial transactions.
  • Give an undertaking that it will neither gather nor profile all other forms of data – such as the individual’s preferences, likes, dislikes, political opinions, religious belief, or sexual orientation. If any third party, for academic or commercial purposes, wishes to examine the data, Facebook must seek consent of the users each time, before making such data available.
  • Establish procedures so that if a government agency wishes to examine user data on grounds of national security, its request must be strictly under the law, in writing, made by an appropriate authority, with court approval, and be time-bound and focused on the specific circumstances.
  • Develop technology to ensure that any third party drawing on the data should be able to do so only for a limited time and for specific purposes. The company should be able to prevent the third party from duplicating the data and retain the ability to erase the data remotely after the contracted period is over. It should have built-in software embedded in the program that can alert the company if the third party has breached any condition.
  • Agree to provide for or participate in remedy, which may include an apology, restitution, rehabilitation, financial or non-financial compensation, and punitive sanctions, as appropriate.
  • Provide an undertaking that it has taken steps to prevent harm by guaranteeing non-repetition.

These are necessary steps, but they may still not be sufficient.

Technology moves rapidly, and developers are often several steps ahead of regulators. And yet, these and other steps are essential to restore user trust in the tools and services on which they have come to rely for education, information, and entertainment. And more important, to respect and protect their right to express themselves freely, and to retain their dignity and privacy. 


 

Photo by Isriya Paireepairit

Information & Communication Technology

Public Consultation on Draft Human Rights Guidance for the Commodities Trading Sector

19 March 2018


The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) mandated the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) to work with all representatives from different stakeholder groups to develop Guidance for the commodities trading sector on implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs). 

The draft Guidance is currently available for public consultation through 30th April 2018. The draft’s development has been informed by a Mapping Study published by IHRB in March 2017, and has been prepared by IHRB in consultation with the project multi-stakeholder Advisory Group

Guidance Aim

The Guidance is intended to help representatives of commodity trading firms to implement the (UNGPs) in their company systems and culture. It also serves as tool for the sector as a whole in developing a shared practice of responsible trading which is consistent with international standards relevant for the respect of human rights. This Guidance is not intended to be legally binding.

Methodology

The draft of the Guidance has been informed by a Mapping Study published by IHRB in March 2017. The draft Guidance has been prepared by IHRB in consultation with the project multi-stakeholder Advisory Group.

IHRB thanks members of the Advisory Group for their valuable insights and comments. The draft does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Swiss Government or members of the Advisory Group.

Invitation to Comment

IHRB would welcome comments from all interested stakeholders on the draft Guidance. In making comments, please be as specific as possible, including identifying the relevant section or example being discussed.

Please send comments to commodities [at] ihrb.org by the closing date of Monday 30 April 2018 with a subject line of “Commodities Guidance Draft Feedback”.

Submission of written feedback will be published as received on a dedicated page with each commentator’s submitted name and organisational affiliation. Commentators preferring not to have their feedback published should clearly indicate this in their submission. 

Information & Communication Technology

Laya Vasudevan on the Progress of Transgender Rights in India

19 March 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 18.83MB - Duration: 13:42 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

In this podcast, Laya Vasudevan talks to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about the landmark ruling in the Indian Supreme Court in 2014 which gave transgender men and women and hijras (a traditional South Asian transgender community) the legal status of third gender. She discusses how her organisation, Article 39, conducted public hearings across India in preparation for the case. She also discusses details of the ruling, and what companies can do to improve access to, and treatment at, work for transgender people in India. 

Laya is the director of the Delhi-based Centre for Legal Aid and Rights, which works on women's rights, health rights, and access to justice. In 2014, the centre played a major role in the landmark case, NALSA vs. Union of India, which advanced and protected the rights of the transgender community in India. She has also been a member of the expert committee appointed by the Indian Government on transgender rights, and consulted with IDLO on sexual orientation and gender identity in India. Laya has studied in India and the UK, and was a Chevening Human Rights Scholar in the UK in 1999-2000. 

 


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of business, equality, and non-discrimination, to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2018 and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2018.

Information & Communication Technology

Comments Received on Draft Human Rights Guidance for the Commodities Trading Sector

19 March 2018

The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) mandated the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) to work with all representatives from different stakeholder groups to develop Guidance for the commodities trading sector on implementing the UNGPs. 

The Draft Guidance was available for public consultation until 30th April 2018. 

Comments from:

  1. Vitol SA

  2. Swiss Trading & Shipping Association

  3. Public Eye

  4. Association Suisse des Fabricants et Commerçants de Metaux Precieux

  5. MKS (Switzerland) SA

  6. Colin Tinto - Consultant

  7. DLA Piper

Information & Communication Technology

Nazma Akter on Mistreatment of Women Workers in the Supply Chain

16 March 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 7.11MB - Duration: 5:10 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

Nazma Akter started work at a garment factory in Bangladesh at 11. She began organising her colleagues and protesting against injustice at 14, and today leads AWAJ Foundation, a Bangladeshi organisation that promotes workers' welfare. She is also founder and president of Sommilito Garment Sramik Federation, an affiliated union with over 70,000 garment workers as members, and an alternate for IndustriALL, a global union.

In this podcast, Nazma talks to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about the lack of respect for women's rights in the supply chain. Both brands and consumers take advantage of the lack of political and social structure in manufacturing countries, at the expense of women. She notes progress in the conduct of many companies, particularly after a series of major accidents in Bangladeshi factories, but much remains to be done. Both attitudinal change and stricter enforcement of laws are necessary to bring about change, she says. Only a system that recognises women's rights will enable their empowerment.

 


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of business, equality, and non-discrimination, to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2018 and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2018.

Information & Communication Technology

Harpreet Kaur on Business and Gender in Southeast Asia

13 March 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 6.6MB - Duration: 7:41 m (120 kbps 44100 Hz)

Harpreet Kaur is a gender, workplace, and human rights professional with over thirteen years of experience in research, advocacy and communication. She is Deputy Director of the Genpact Centre for women’s leadership (GCWL) at Ashoka University in India, which aims to steer the global thinking on ‘women, workplace & rights’.  Harpreet is also the founding member of India’s Human Rights & Business Network, and on the advisory panel of India Responsible Business Forum.

In this podcast, Harpreet talks to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about achieving gender equality in the workplace.  In particular, she discusses the outcomes of a consultation hosted by the GCWL in February 2018 on how to apply the gender lens to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Held on behalf of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the consultation brought together delegates from more than 30 countries in South East Asia. Harpreet describes the key outcomes of this consultation – that businesses need to carry out rigorous gender impact assessments to identify gender dynamics at multiple levels, but that they also need to work closely with NGOs to improve gender equality at a societal level, as they do not work in isolation. 

 


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of business, equality, and non-discrimination, to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2018 and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2018.

Information & Communication Technology

Srilatha Batliwala on Gender-Based Harassment in the Workplace

07 March 2018

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 9.09MB - Duration: 10:13 m (124 kbps 44100 Hz)

Srilatha Batliwala is Director, Knowledge Building and Feminist Leadership with CREA (Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action), an international organisation that works at the intersection of gender, sexuality, and human rights. She has published extensively on a range of women’s issues, and is best known for her work on women’s empowerment. She is a member of IHRB's International Advisory Council and also serves on the boards of a number of other international and Indian human rights, women’s rights, and development organisations. 

In a conversation with IHRB's Salil Tripathi, Batliwala notes that progress to improve equality and non-discrimination in recent years is thanks in no small measure to the strong, passionate, and sustained advocacy of the women's movement. When it comes to business and women's rights, companies across the world are increasingly aware of their responsibilities, but what constitutes good and bad practice is also complex and nuanced. Companies can have very strong gender equality policies without necessarily having any visible women in leadership. Conversely, there are organisations with very prominent female leadership and very poor environments for women workers inside those companies. Symbolic and substantive efforts are needed to eradicate gender-based harassment in the workplace, in particular learning how to analyse and address the issue of people in the workplace practising values that contravene - in subtle, hidden, often devious ways - the formal values of the organisation.

 


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of business, equality, and non-discrimination, to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2018 and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2018.

Information & Communication Technology

Charities Should be Held to the Same Human Rights Standards as Business

26 February 2018

By John Morrison, Chief Executive, IHRB

This blog originally appeared on Ethical Corporation.  

The revelations relating to UK-registered but global charity giant Oxfam have caught the attention of media worldwide. Allegations of sexual abuse have also surfaced over recent days involving a growing number of leading charities. It seems the tip of another iceberg has been sighted, as happened in the film industry and involving politicians in a number of parliaments.

Major NGOs have been aware for many years that they need to practise what they preach.

My intention is not to challenge the effectiveness of humanitarian aid or the legitimacy of an organisation such as Oxfam, which I respect very much in many ways. Instead, we should ask a fundamental question: should NGOs be accountable to at least the same international human rights standards that we expect of businesses, and if so, when will we see such implementation happen?

Because NGOs are constituted to meet a public good – sometimes to literally save lives – the nature of their social licence is perhaps even more direct than profit-driven businesses. Major NGOs have been aware for many years that they need to practise what they preach. Oxfam was at the forefront of the “rights-based approach to development” in the 1990s, which sought to align the work of development and humanitarian organisations with fundamental human rights principles and standards.

Although progress was made, some NGOs have failed to ensure that their own management cultures, policies, and procedures meet societal expectations. Fundamentally, human dignity must be respected at all times, in all places, by all actors that pose risks to people.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were agreed unanimously between states in 2011, specify that the responsibility to respect human rights, to avoid infringing the rights of others and address any adverse impacts they cause, relates to all business enterprises. Seven years after the guiding principles were born, they have set their own norm of expected (and increasingly required) behaviour. It must be the case that the charity industry should also conduct its work consistent with international standards like these.

The conduct that is being uncovered is reprehensible. Greater accountability and cultural changes are needed at every level.

In 2015, the Swiss government’s National Contact Point, under the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, allowed a complaint lodged against FIFA to proceed even though world football’s governing body is primarily a not-for-profit under Swiss law. It was deemed that because FIFA engaged in significant commercial activities (and has companies associated with it) its primary legal status was not the issue. Oxfam GB, and many other charities, also have large trading arms.

The UK government has also been clear that major charities are covered by extra-territorial requirements of legislation, such as the 2010 UK Bribery Act or the 2015 Modern Slavery Act. In fact, Oxfam’s Modern Slavery Transparency Statement can be found on its website.

So it seems safe to assume that should human rights due diligence ever become legally binding under UK law, major charities such as Oxfam would also be required to comply. If the spirit of international law already indicates that these charities should respect human rights – both in terms of preventing negative impacts and providing adequate remedies when abuse occurs – then they should do so now without delay.

Oxfam set out its own expectations of business in relation to the UN Guiding Principles in 2013, as many other charities have. All of us working in the charity sector need to reflect on what our own organisations should be doing to respect the rights of our own workers and all who are affected by our activities.

My intent is not to be contentious here. Without doubt, the primary targets of our work must remain governments and businesses. The former have legal duties to protect human rights, and the latter have more involvement and also more leverage than many to ensure that these same rights are respected. But we must all walk the talk if we are to retain public trust and ensure we are worthy recipients of public funds.

The Edelman Trust barometer shows that NGOs are still trusted more than business, but only just. All sorts of institutions need to look hard into the mirror.

Over the years there have been attempts to draw in the behavior of NGOs to the same metrics as other types of institutions. I think, for example, of the Global Accountability Reports published by the One World Trust, or the more basic requirements that NGOs must meet to retain not-for-profit status under most jurisdictions. It will be interesting to see where the UK Charities Commission investigation comes out on any new reporting requirements.

But charities should be ahead of any minimum requirements. Every year the Edelman Trust barometer shows that NGOs are still trusted more than business, but only just: they are, after all, just another type of institution vulnerable to causing harm if they fail to have effective controls in place. All sorts of institutions are needing to look hard into the mirror.

We should say "no" to cuts to overseas assistance, "yes" to greater accountability.

So let’s hope that the current crisis has the right effect. The conduct that is being uncovered is reprehensible. Organisations must never tolerate such abuses, and greater accountability and cultural changes are undoubtedly needed at every level.

We should say “no” to cuts to overseas assistance, even if some of those stoking the negative stories seem to want this outcome. We should say “yes” to greater accountability and charities embracing their own responsibility to respect human rights and ensuring that commitment is embedded across their organisation and activities. And beyond this, UN agencies themselves should embrace similar safeguarding in their own operations, as well as in the public-private partnerships that are emerging in relation to the UN Global Goals on Sustainable Development.

Further debates will need to be had about the role of international organisations and the nature of their responsibilities and duties. More than all else, business and governments must take respect for human dignity and protection of human rights a lot more seriously than has been the case over recent years. We all need a robust civil society to achieve this.

 

Image: Flickr/Unoikorn

Information & Communication Technology

Regulate First. Ask Questions Later.

02 February 2018

By Mark Taylor, Trustee and International Advisory Council Member, IHRB

There is a remarkable lack of concern on the part of policy makers about the dearth of evidence for the effectiveness of the international standards they push at business.

So it was with some anticipation that I read Roel Nieuwenkamp’s recent IHRB blog. As Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct, and an active advocate for responsible business, Roel is a prominent representative of our policy making elite on this question.

Evidence of Effectiveness is Scarce

Roel makes a vital point: we don’t know what effects international business and human rights standards are having on business conduct.  

We don’t know what effects international business and human rights standards are having on business conduct.  

One recent study cautiously suggests there has been little impact. But Roel wants to know how many businesses are aware of, have adopted, and implemented standards, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and whether this is generating respect for human rights.

Roel says the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) only scratches the surface. This is to be expected, given the scale of the task of benchmarking responsible business performance in a field that is literally as vast as the global economy.

The CHRB is only part of the solution and it is woefully under-funded (are you listening donor countries?). But the CHRB answers many of Roel’s questions by looking at policies, procedures, responses, transparency, etc. In fact, it represents an excellent proof of concept – yes we can develop a measure of corporate compliance with international standards and, yes, that measure can be used by markets to assess company performance.

The CHRB is only part of the solution and it is woefully under-funded (are you listening donor countries?)

Still, Roel is right to be concerned.

There is a lack of evidence about the effectiveness of international standards. We – policy makers and citizens – literally have no way of knowing if international standards are effective in reducing human rights violations. After serious progress in setting global norms like the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights and the alignment with them of the OECD Guidelines, there has been a near total absence of investment in testing the effectiveness of those norms.

Limited Investment, Limited Answers

There is no doubt that we could answer most of Roel’s questions with a serious investment in business and human rights research. But there are limits on what we could say.

One such limit is the scarcity of relevant data. There is a lack of independently generated social and economic data linking company activity to human rights phenomena over time.

One such limit is the scarcity of relevant data.

Think of the prevalence of child labour in a particular sub-national locality for example. As far as I know, states do not collect such data in relation to company activities. And if business collects such data, there are limits to what businesses will make public.

Without such data there is no way to know whether changes in business practice – such as those identified by benchmarks like the CHRB – correlate to changes in the status of human rights.

Except by investigating.

Unfortunately, there is also a serious lack of investigative capacity. National regulators of labour markets or environmental authorities rarely if ever investigate the global value chains of their domiciled companies. Even criminal prosecutions for human rights crimes committed abroad are few and far between. And while policy makers claim to rely on civil society and investigative journalists to be the ‘watchdogs’ of corporate behaviour, governments refuse to fund that work. And while NGOs and the media often do great work with few resources, it is not always useful as the basis for a systematic assessment across sectors and countries.

There is also a serious lack of investigative capacity. 

These practical obstacles to generating evidence about the effectiveness of international standards must be solved if the business and human rights norms embedded in the UNGPs and OECD Guidelines are to retain their legitimacy.

Evidence of the Problem is Ample

But nothing in the present state of knowledge requires us to delay the move to “hard” regulation or actively pursue a treaty on business and human rights.

Roel would have us wait a bit with regulation, or a business and human rights treaty, until we can respond to these problems of knowledge and better understand what’s working and what’s not with respect to international standards.

But evidence of effectiveness is rarely the source of political will for new regulation – evidence of a problem is.

But evidence of effectiveness is rarely the source of political will for new regulation – evidence of a problem is. 

While we may not have evidence about the effectiveness of international standards, we have ample evidence of business misconduct. That evidence is historical, systemic, well documented and need not be repeated here.

It is that evidence of misconduct that creates constituencies for legal regulation within civil society, as well as among businesses that do not want to be tarred with the brush of guilt by association with poor performers. In fact, the demand for regulation is a demand to solve very real and very visible social and environmental problems arising from business activity.

The divide is not, as Roel suggests, between “believers and non-believers” in legal regulation. It is between those who trust business versus those who prefer to act on the basis of evidence.

Trust must be earned. Some business leaders are struggling to find ways to build trust. A good place to start would be with business and human rights research and metrics that cast an empirical light on business respect for people and the planet.

But with plenty of anecdotal and systematic evidence of a lack of respect of international standards, a healthy scepticism about business’ willingness to meet international standards amounts to little more than common sense.

Regulating is Not New

Given the evidence we have, holding off on new, binding rules would be illogical. It would also ignore governments' duty to respond to those problems, to regulate to protect human rights and the environment.

This is how the existing bodies of business regulation came about. Rules that protect against corruption, or violations of labour rights and environmental harms, were not put on hold until their effectiveness was determined. Neither was the entire regime of trade and investment liberalisation.

Once in place, these rules became the focus for research, including into effectiveness. In fact, that's the way the OECD recommends its member states should assess the effectiveness of regulation.

In other words, the experience of regulation at the national level indicates that the sensible approach would be for states to regulate first and ask questions about effectiveness later.

The experience of regulation at the national level indicates that the sensible approach would be for states to regulate first and ask questions about effectiveness later.

The solution lies in starting with what we know: governments regulate to protect people and the planet from business related harms.

This is not new and it is not something that usually waits for scientific assessment. Governments responds to constituencies who demand regulation (or at least they should) and the researchers and technocrats tweak those regulations later.  

We also know that governments make treaties amongst themselves to ensure the global harmonisation of the norms that go into such regulation.

Yes, we need reporting, metrics, benchmarks, and investigations: all are necessary to generating the evidence needed to assess the effectiveness of international standards. And we know that all of those things need financial and regulatory support by governments.

So what are we waiting for?

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How to Build an Evidence Base for Policies on Corporate Responsibility

26 January 2018

By Roel Nieuwenkamp, Chair, OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct

Last December I was asked to speak to the European Parliament to discuss trends in policies on responsible business conduct. I presented the state of play of the various soft law (not legally binding) instruments that exist on human rights and responsible business conduct, including the system of National Contact Points (NCPs) that functions as a complaints mechanism on corporate responsibility.

I also discussed the growing trend in this area that is seeing governments increasingly take steps to 'harden' these existing standards. For example, by attaching consequences to NCP statements - such as the withdrawal of trade advocacy support to companies in Canada, and recently also in Germany.

This shift is also highlighted in legislative developments. Notably, the game-changing new French Duty of Vigilance Law mandating due diligence on human rights and other issues such as environmental impacts.

In addition, there are now human rights reporting requirements in the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and subsequent UK Modern Slavery Act. Similar efforts are under way in Switzerland and Australia.

There is a split between the believers in the effectiveness of international non-binding guidelines, and the non-believers who feel mandatory approaches are necessary.

All of this entails a split between the believers and the non-believers.

Believers in what? Believers in the effectiveness of international non-binding guidelines, which establish standards of behaviour combined with an expectation of effective implementation and self-regulation by business. Non-believers, on the other hand, feel mandatory approaches are necessary to effectively ensure responsible business conduct by all companies targeted.

From soft to hard law - a leap of faith?

To jump from 'soft' to 'hard' approaches in this field now requires a leap of faith.

The underlying assumption is that voluntary implementation of responsible business standards, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, does not work well enough on its own to achieve widespread adherence by businesses. That regulation is needed to ensure implementation.

But do we really know that mandating or regulating such standards is truly more effective? The answer is we do not.

Businesses tend to oppose any binding regulation, contending for example that they already have responsible supply chains. This is illustrated by the recent Economist Intelligence Unit’s 'No more Excuses’ study in which only 2% of business executives responded that their supply chains were not responsible. Why the need for new law, these voices ask, when companies already implement supply chain due diligence?

Supporters of regulation contend that if companies are really compliant as they say, giving these standards legal force would not hurt them.

In contrast, civil society – by and large the ‘non-believers' – tends to think the opposite. That businesses are often complacent and not sufficiently implementing adequate due diligence as set out in existing international standards. Supporters of regulation contend that if companies are really compliant as they say, giving these standards legal force would not hurt them.

Who is right? To be frank: we have no clue.

Questions for evidence-based policy making

All legislative developments and other initiatives - whether on human rights due diligence, child labour due diligence, modern slavery, a potential binding international treaty on business and human rights - have one thing in common: a lack of evidence-based policy making.

All legislative developments and other initiatives have one thing in common: a lack of evidence-based policy making.

Essential questions should be answered before considering the development of new binding regulations or a treaty.

A key question of course is:

  • Are existing international standards achieving their desired impact?

Related questions include:

  • How many businesses worldwide are expected to implement the OECD’s due diligence standards?
  • How many businesses are aware of these standards?
  • How many businesses have committed to international standards in their own operations and as part of their supply chains?
  • And finally, how many businesses are effectively implementing these standards?

We have no answers to these simple questions - absolutely nothing.

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark gives only a tiny glimpse of some of the answers. Except for some anecdotal evidence, no comprehensive aggregate data exists to assess the current state of play - let alone information on the impact of implementation of international standards on the ground (or the lack thereof).

In other words, policy-wise, we are driving blindfolded.

Removing the blindfold

The OECD Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct represent the ‘firm government expectation of business behaviour’, and incorporate a legally binding commitment for governments to promote these Guidelines.

Governments can only manage this commitment well if they start measuring their effectiveness.

Before taking further regulatory steps, governments would be wise to start monitoring the awareness and uptake of their existing responsible business standards. Knowing the facts would go a long way in assessing actual needs and benefits and building consensus for policies and regulations in this field.

Governments would be wise to start monitoring the awareness and uptake of their existing responsible business standards.

The German National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, released in December 2016, presents an intriguing compromise. Why?

Because it states that if more than 50% of all German-based companies with over 500 employees have not taken credible action to integrate human rights due diligence in their operations by 2020, the Government will examine further steps, including legislative measures. A noteworthy bridge between believers and non-believers, resulting in a commitment to start building an evidence base for policy.

Other governments should follow Germany’s lead.

A reasonable approach could be to start monitoring due diligence in general on a high level and to carry out in-depth assessments in high risk sectors, for which many OECD due diligence guidance instruments already exist. This means, for example, monitoring the uptake of due diligence standards in the minerals and garment sector supply chains.

Taking this route would remove policy makers’ blindfolds on the effectiveness of corporate responsibility and business & human rights standards worldwide.

Knowing the facts would go a long way in assessing actual needs and benefits and building consensus for policies and regulations.

Information & Communication Technology

New Framework Agreement - Significant Progress in Protecting the Rights of Migrant Construction Work

22 January 2018

By Jin Sook Lee, Gender & Campaign Director, Building and Wood Workers' International, Sarah Tesei, Director of Social Innovation and Human Rights, VINCI

The construction industry in Qatar is an important part of the country’s economic development and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The sector relies on migrant workers who everywhere in the world are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Our organisations believe we can best live up to expectations through a joint and historic engagement for carrying out projects in Qatar.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) call for business to respect national laws as well as international human rights standards in all aspects of their operations. Our organisations - one of the world’s largest construction companies and our partner company responsible on the ground, along with the world’s most representative trade union organisation for construction workers - believe we can best live up to those expectations through a joint and historic engagement for carrying out projects in Qatar.

Shared Commitments

In November 2017, Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), VINCI, a French-based global construction and concessions company, and QDVC, a Qatari company formed by VINCI Construction Grands Projets and Qatari Diar, signed an agreement covering construction carried out by QDVC in Qatar. This agreement, signed in the presence of ILO Director General Guy Ryder, applies to all QDVC operations in Qatar.

BWI has global framework agreements with 22 multinational enterprises, most of which are in construction.

This is the first agreement involving BWI tailored to the specific circumstances of one country, Qatar, and signed with a local partner, QDVC. The agreement complements the commitments on rights and working conditions covered by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between BWI and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body charged by the Government of Qatar to build the World Cup 2022 facilities.  

The QDVC/VINCI/BWI agreement covers a broad range of issues, including occupational health and safety, wages, working time and holidays, among others.

At the global level, our organisations share a commitment to responsible construction.

VINCI is a founding member of the new trade body Building Responsibly and we agree on the need for fair recruitment and on ending abusive practices by recruitment agencies. VINCI has also joined the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment convened by IHRB. BWI has been associated with efforts to take on unscrupulous recruitment agencies through ILO processes and has stressed this issue, along with other global unions, in its interventions with the UN.

A Living Agreement

Our framework agreement represents a consensus both on immediate actions and future priorities. In other words, this “living agreement” builds in future cooperation on specific issues with the expectation that, as the environment changes, the agreement will change with it.

There are problems with the recruitment process when handled by subcontractors and manpower providers and this will be a focus of future work.

As virtually all construction workers in Qatar are migrants, we are addressing special problems that have existed in Qatar and other countries under the “kafala” system. The agreement provides that:

  • The recruitment process is free of fees for migrant workers;
  • Workers are fully informed of terms and conditions of employment and relevant legal provisions in a language they understand, prior to their deployment; 
  • There is no retention of passports and identity documents. QDVC provides workers with a closed cabinet or safety boxes for such documents as well as for other personal documents and valuable belongings.

We recognise that there are problems with the recruitment process when handled by subcontractors and manpower providers and this will be a focus of future work.

We will also address improved employment agreements among subcontracted workers, freedom of movement during off hours, the freedom to leave employment with reasonable notice and with “Non-Objection Certificates (NOCs)” on request. NOCs are required to accept employment elsewhere or to leave the country. 

Wider Reform in Qatar

At about the same time as our agreement was being concluded, the Government of Qatar made several commitments to the ILO to additional changes in legislation dealing with many of these same human rights issues. The planned legislative improvements should create a positive environment for our future cooperation. 

The legal changes will establish a direct responsibility of the State for documents of migrants. They will also require employers to provide safe places for workers’ personal documents where only they have access. This means employers will no longer control employment terms and workers will have the right to seek other jobs.

The planned legislative improvements should create a positive environment for our future cooperation. 

The Government will take further actions to ensure workers are not charged fees or subject to other abuses by recruitment agencies. This will include engagement with home country governments.

The Government of Qatar is also increasing considerably its labour inspection capacity and improving its complaints procedures.

These and other reforms are vital and are part of a process that should see further evolution.

As a result of these reforms announced by the Government of Qatar, the ILO agreed to close the complaint centred on forced labour. The ILO and the Government of Qatar have also entered into a three-year technical cooperation agreement that will bring law and practices into conformity with international standards. 
 

Implementing the Agreement

The QDVC/VINCI/BWI agreement covers a broad range of issues, including occupational health and safety, wages, working time and holidays, among others.

QDVC agrees to provide workers with safe, clean and decent living and leisure facilities.

Future activities on accommodations will include steps to ensure respect for freedom of cultural practices and the right to privacy. 

QDVC will further exercise due diligence with sub-contractors and manpower suppliers and improve systems to ensure the agreement is fully respected throughout the building process. 

Progress for construction workers depends on their effective right to participate in determining their own futures.

QDVC is also working with BWI to establish independent, elected workers’ welfare committees. Progress for construction workers depends on their effective right to participate in determining their own futures. Worker welfare committees are intended to discuss a range of topics including working and living conditions, security and welfare, and will prioritise occupational health and safety issues. The committees also work towards resolving worker complaints.

We will work together on a workers’ education and capacity-building programme for members of the committees. 

The agreement also establishes extensive follow-up and implementation procedures, including regular reporting and a process for dealing with infractions, as well as a reference group with two members from each of the three parties to oversee the agreement, resolving any conflicts, and revising it if and when necessary. 

Our commitment and determination to make this new agreement work are as important as the contents. Our hopes for future cooperation are founded, as the text states, “on the shared belief that all construction workers should be treated with dignity and live and work in decent and safe conditions”.

Our commitment and determination to make this new agreement work are as important as the contents. 

 

Image: Adam Jones/Flickr

Information & Communication Technology

Dhaka Principles - Implementation Guide

18 December 2017

This Implementation Guide (revised in December 2017) provides detailed and practical guidance on implementing the Dhaka Principles, as well as background information and further resources.

Guidance for implementing Principle 1 specifically on responsible recruitment is also being led by the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment. Visit the Responsible Recruitment Gateway for more information.

Information & Communication Technology

A Year of Growing Momentum to Protect Migrant Rights in Southeast Asia

18 December 2017

By Julia Batho, Research Fellow, IHRB

Today, International Migrants Day, 18 December 2017, is a timely moment to review recent efforts in Southeast Asia on labour migration governance, ethical recruitment, and protection of migrant workers’ rights, particularly in the context of supply chains.

This International Migrants Day also marks the fifth anniversary of IHRB’s Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity, which set out expectations for employers and recruiters at every stage of a migrant worker’s journey - from recruitment through employment, to the end of contract. Now re-launched at www.dhaka-principles.org, the Dhaka Principles are available in 18 languages, including Bahasa Indonesian, Urdu and Thai.

IHRB’s Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity set out expectations for employers and recruiters at every stage of a migrant worker’s journey from recruitment through employment, to the end of contract

The past year has seen renewed focus on migration in Southeast Asia through a variety of inter-governmental initiatives and multi-stakeholder networks. There is growing recognition throughout the region of the need for collaborative efforts to fight the abusive recruitment and exploitative employment of migrant workers, and to promote safe and beneficial labour migration.

Promoting dialogue

In May, the member countries of the Colombo Process - a government-driven, consultative forum on the management of overseas employment and contractual labour for migrant sending countries - met in Bangkok to advance ethical recruitment policies and practices. Among the actions to be pursued, governments identified key priorities in three main areas, namely: strengthening national regulatory frameworks, improving cooperation with migrant receiving countries, and strengthening cooperation with the private sector.

Ethical recruitment, transparency in supply chains and protection and redress mechanisms the most urgent issues requiring joint action

In August, the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime launched a new collaboration platform between business and governments to combat labour exploitation in supply chains. At the launch event in Perth, Australia, members of the newly established Bali Process Government and Business Forum identified ethical recruitment, transparency in supply chains and protection and redress mechanisms as the most urgent issues requiring joint action. The three topics were selected as the key priorities for the Forum’s 2017/2018 workplan.

A few months later, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. Although not legally binding, this agreement by ASEAN members stipulates general principles to safeguard the interests and welfare of migrant workers, including by prohibiting the overcharging of recruitment fees and confiscation of passports by recruiters or employers, and by ensuring migrants are able to join trade unions and associations.

At the sub-regional level, the six member states of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT Process) convened in Thailand to develop a set of non-binding guidelines for fair recruitment, which are also expected to be used as reference for the development of bilateral agreements against trafficking.

2017 has also seen wider intergovernmental consultations and negotiations, including input from non-governmental stakeholders and business, as part of the development of the UN led Global Compact for Migration which aims to strengthen state cooperation in ensuring safe, regular and orderly migration between countries.

A framing for action

While some may argue that non-binding principles and recommendations - as enshrined in the ASEAN Consensus and the COMMIT guidelines - are likely to have limited impact at the national level, the crucial role of regional dialogue in advancing state policy-making is undeniable.

Closer interaction between all stakeholders and new political commitments expressed by governments in Southeast Asia represent vital steps in enhancing understanding of existing problems and promoting cooperation in the development of practical solutions to address migrant workers’ issues. The growing momentum also provides a timely opportunity for business-led initiatives, such as the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, convened by IHRB, to influence policy change and advocate for the effective regulation and monitoring of the recruitment industry along recruitment corridors and at the national level.

Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment members have identified Southeast Asia - in particular Thailand and Malaysia - as key targets for engagement over the coming years

Indeed, in light of these developments, Leadership Group members have identified Southeast Asia - in particular Thailand and Malaysia - as key targets for engagement over the coming years. Through collaboration with other initiatives and advocacy with local governments and inter-governmental processes, the Leadership Group is committed to achieving concrete progress in increasing the demand for and supply of ethically sourced labour in the region.

The need for consistent messages

Regional consultative processes have the potential to enhance mutual trust and improve policy convergence and harmonisation, a crucial element in the fields of labour migration and ethical recruitment. The dissemination of consistent key messages and approaches across the region, as well as through business leaderships, can help minimise divergences between labour sending and receiving countries and develop common ground for action in Southeast Asia.

The promotion of internationally recognised standards and frameworks for action, such as the Dhaka Principles and the Employer Pays Principle - will help ensure that consistent messages are communicated across the region (and beyond).

The promotion of internationally recognised standards and frameworks for action, such as the Dhaka Principles and the Employer Pays Principle - will help ensure that consistent messages are communicated across the region (and beyond).

The growing momentum of strengthened regional dialogue in Southeast Asia is undoubtedly encouraging, and represents an important step for improving labour migration governance and advancing responsible recruitment and migrant rights protection in the region.

It is now time to focus on meaningful participation and engagement of all relevant actors in policy development and implementation. Regional talks will only have long-lasting impacts and bring real change to the lives of migrant workers if they are translated into effective collective action on the ground. 

Information & Communication Technology

Maryam Al-Khawaja on Technology Companies

18 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 5.56MB - Duration: 7:55 m (98 kbps 44100 Hz)

Drawing on examples of companies providing surveillance equipment to governments with a poor human rights record, Maryam Al-Khawaja shows how technology can harm people. In this conversation with IHRB’s Salil Tripathi, Al-Khawaja shows the inadequacy of non-judicial remedies to deal with incidents that cause grave harm to human rights, and the failure of companies to do anything about the adverse impacts of their technologies.

Maryam Al-Khawaja is a Bahrainian human rights activist living in Denmark, who was awarded the Rafto Prize in 2013. She is an advisor to the Gulf Center for Human Rights (where she has been director) and offers training to human rights organisations. 

Information & Communication Technology

Richard Meeran on Civil Litigation for Grave Abuses

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 10.01MB - Duration: 21:20m (66 kbps 44100 Hz)

The obstacles litigants face in taking companies to trial are formidable. Evidence-gathering is hard, and victims lack resources. The process of discovery – through which victims’ lawyers get in the information necessary to proceed in the case – remains cumbersome. In this podcast, Richard Meeran, who has represented clients who have grievances against corporate conduct, talks to IHRB’s Salil Tripathi about the challenges and offers ways in which the process can be simplified.

Richard Meeran has been a Partner at London-based public interest law firm, Leigh Day, since 1991. He is the Head of the firm’s International Department.  Over the past 25 years he has pioneered human rights litigation against multinationals, which has led, through a series of cases, to the transformation of UK law on parent company duty of care and forum non conveniens and greater access to justice for victims.


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

Information & Communication Technology

Ajda Cevc on Responsible Recruitment

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 6.58MB - Duration: 9:37 m (96 kbps 44100 Hz)

Companies with operations in far-flung parts of the world are often reliant on workers from foreign countries working in factories that belong to sub-contractors in third countries. Using leverage systematically and judiciously becomes a challenge for companies. In this podcast with IHRB’s Salil Tripathi, IKEA’s Ajda Cevc outlines the complex nature of the problem and elaborates on steps her company has taken to mitigate harm.

Ajda Cevc is project leader at IKEA driving external engagement and internal policy development regarding responsible recruitment of migrant workers. Cevc works on the development and implementation of the group’s updated approach to prevent child labour and supporting young workers, as well as on other human rights initiatives in the supply chain. She came to work at IKEA in 2015 with experience in civil society, and holds a law degree from University of Ljubljana and an LLM in international human rights law from Lund University.


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Claes Cronstedt on Arbitration

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 10.61MB - Duration: 11:01 m (135 kbps 44100 Hz)

The need for an independent arbitration mechanism arises because of the uneven performance of existing options to seek judicial remedy. In many cases victims have had to wait long to get redress, and even then there is no assurance that they will get justice. Court systems are overburdened, and jurisdictional challenges make litigation harder. In this podcast, IHRB’s Salil Tripathi talks to international lawyer Claes Cronstedt who has been leading efforts to establish an arbitration mechanism that can handle complex human rights cases.

Claes Cronstedt is a member of the Swedish bar and a former international partner of Baker & McKenzie. He has been involved in international human rights litigation, in particular the Raoul Wallenberg Case against the USSR. From 2001 to 2014 he was a member of the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Committee of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe. He was a member of the Swedish Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Commission on Business in Society (2001-2004) and a trustee of International Alert, London, working with peaceful transformation of violent conflicts (1999-2006). In 2006-2008 he was a member of the International Commission of Jurists’ Expert Legal Panel on Corporate Complicity in International Crimes. He is the founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Academy for Young Leaders.


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Nnimmo Bassey on Community Injustices

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 4.58MB - Duration: 6:39 m (96 kbps 44100 Hz)

Reports of civil society organisations and lawsuits filed by affected parties would suggest that adverse human rights are more likely to occur in the extractive sector. Oil, mining, and gas exploration companies have often faced accusations of human rights abuses. Nigeria has become the focal point of the interface between oil and communities, and in this podcast with Salil Tripathi, Nnimmo Bassey explains why the communities are losing faith in the institutions meant to protect rights.

Nnimmo Bassey is a Nigerian poet, architect, and environmental activist. He has received the Alternative Nobel Prize and the Rafto Prize for Human Rights. He has been the chair of Friends of the Earth International and executive director of Environmental Rights Action


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Frode Elgesem on OECD National Contact Points

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 4.94MB - Duration: 5:24 m (128 kbps 44100 Hz)

The National Contact Points constituted under the OECD are not courts of law and are not meant to give judgments that offer penalties to offenders. The NCP is a dispute resolution mechanism intended to serve a specific purpose – of bringing together parties in a dispute to arrive at a solution. Frode Elgesem is a Norwegian lawyer and member of the country’s NCP. In this podcast, he speaks with IHRB’s Salil Tripathi about what NCPs can and cannot do.

Frode Elgesem is a senior lawyer who has worked on cases involving white collar crime, European law, anti-corruption matters, anti-trust cases, and human rights. He has been an associate in the office of the attorney general and a senior partner at a law firm. 


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Doug Cassel on an International Treaty

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 14.45MB - Duration: 16:02 m (128 kbps 44100 Hz)

Efforts are underway to draft and negotiate a binding treaty on business and human rights. At one end are advocates and civil society organisations who would like a treaty that addresses all forms of corporate abuses; at the other end are legal experts and governments who do are reluctant to create a body of law that may transfer state obligations to non-state actors and which may focus only on one type of companies – the multinational corporation, ignoring large national or state-owned companies.It is also too early to tell what the treaty might do and how effective it might be. In this podcast with IHRB’s Salil Tripathi, Douglass Cassel explains the process so far and points out the progress made, as well as suggesting some practical ways forward.

Douglass Cassel is Professor of Law and Notre Dame Presidential Fellow at Notre Dame Law School in the United States.  He teaches and publishes scholarly and professional articles in the field of business and human rights. Cassel has been legal advisor to the UN Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, executive council member of the American Society of International Law, and chaired the independent international panel on alleged collusion in sectarian killings in Northern Ireland.


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Usha Ramanathan on Big Data

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 11.72MB - Duration: 13:11 m (124 kbps 44100 Hz)

The challenges that big data poses are mammoth and the questions of governance that are raised are only now being understood, human rights scholar Usha Ramanathan tells IHRB’s Salil Tripathi in this podcast. It is difficult to think of a remedy when society is only beginning to grasp the extent of technology and its pervasive control over lives. Surveillance is not a problem that affects only a few; the Aadhaar project in India shows that it can affect the lives of everyone in the world’s second-most populous nation.

Usha Ramanathan lives in New Delhi, India, where she works on the jurisprudence of law, poverty, and human rights. She has written extensively and spoken on a wide range of issues, including the nature of law, constitutional rights, mass displacement, eminent domain, civil liberty, corporate accountability, surveillance, beggary, criminal law, custodial institutions, and the judicial process.


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Sanchita Saxena on Worker Safety

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 11.01MB - Duration: 16:03 m (96 kbps 44100 Hz)

Initiatives targeting working conditions in Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have sometimes been cited as the way forward to address issues of health and safety of workers. In this podcast, IHRB’s Salil Tripathi talks to Sanchita Banerjee Saxena, Executive Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies (ISAS) at the University of California at Berkeley, about the pervasive problem and the absence of an effective remedy. While noting the progress of initiatives like Accord and Alliance which were designed to help prevent the recurrence of tragedies like the collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saxena argues that such initiatives do not go far enough, and foreign brands and the home state have to play a more active role.

Saxena is also the Director of the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at ISAS under the Institute. She is the author of Made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka: The Labor Behind the Global Garments and Textiles Industries (Cambria Press, 2014). She has also been a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. in 2010 and 2014.  Dr. Saxena holds a PhD in political science from UCLA. Her commentaries have been featured in theNew York Times, Economic and Political Weekly, Thomson Reuters, The Daily Star, Globe and Mail and aired on Public Radio International, Voice of America, LinkTV, and KPFA.


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Anita Ramasastry on Corporate Crime

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 8.78MB - Duration: 10:57 m (112 kbps 44100 Hz)

The law exists to investigate and prosecute companies when their activities cause grave harm to human rights, but the issue gets complicated when multiple jurisdictions are involved, and where political will is lacking. In this podcast with IHRB’s Salil Tripathi, legal expert Anita Ramasastry points out three recent cases from Brazil, Sudan, and Syria which show that governments are taking the cases seriously. She also points out the work of the UN Working Group for Business and Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to clarify corporate responsibility.

Anita Ramasastry is a Member of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights. She is also the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. Her research interests include business and human rights, anti-corruption and law and development. Her current research focuses on the role of business in armed conflict. Author of numerous scholarly articles and reports, she has worked extensively on commerce, crime, and conflict, and human rights due diligence. From 2009 – 2011, Ramasastry served as a senior advisor in the Obama Administration, working in the International Trade Administration of the US Department of Commerce. She is a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Law School and the University of Sydney.


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Charles Radcliffe on LGBTI+ Rights

10 December 2017

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 8.28MB - Duration: 9:07 m (127 kbps 44100 Hz)

Workers perform better if they feel safe and respected at workplace. And yet, not only is discrimination persists, women, LGBTI employees, and ethnic or religious minorities have often faced disadvantaged and been subjected to harassment and bullying. People have begun to challenge that and speaking up against that, and there is wider recognition of the fact that discrimination is bad for business. In this podcast with IHRB’s Salil Tripathi, Charles Radcliffe of the UN Human Rights Office talks about the issues and talks about the new Corporate Standards of Business Conduct to tackle discrimination against LGBTI people.

Charles Radcliffe heads the equality & non-discrimination team at the United Nations Human Rights Office in New York. He also leads the UN’s work on the rights of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people and directs UN Free & Equal – a multimedia campaign that promotes equal rights and fair treatment for LGBTI people globally. Prior to joining the United Nations in 2006, Charles was a founding staff member, and for seven years vice-president, of the International Crisis Group. He began his career as a researcher at the British House of Commons and later as a speechwriter and policy adviser to several British and Australian politicians. He holds a First Class Honours Degree in Law from King’s College London in the United Kingdom and a Masters Degree in International Relations from Sydney University, Australia.


This podcast is part of a mini-series dedicated to the theme of “Realising Access to Effective Remedy”, as part of IHRB's annual Top 10 Business & Human Rights issues for 2018.

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Joint Statement on Centre for Sport and Human Rights

30 November 2017

On the eve of international Human Rights Day (December 10th), a joint statement was issued affirming the commitment to launch a new independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights in 2018.

Announced at the Sporting Chance Forum in Geneva, the planned Centre will be the first of its kind, aimed at helping build a world of sport that protects, respects, and upholds the human rights of athletes, workers, communities, children, fans, volunteers, and the press.

The Centre plans are backed by Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights (MSE Platform), a diverse coalition, including FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, Commonwealth Games Federation, and UEFA, as well as a range of intergovernmental organisations, governments, athletes, hosts, sponsors, broadcasters, civil society representatives, trade unions, employers associations, and national human rights institutions.

Follow IHRB and the MSE Platform for further details throughout 2018. 

Read the full Joint Statement here (and in French and German)

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Heads of OHCHR, ILO, and IOC open the Sporting Chance Forum

30 November 2017

The Sporting Chance Forum opened today in Geneva with speeches from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the Secretary General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Guy Ryder, and the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach all reflecting on the importance of human rights and sport. The opening session was broadcast live and is available below.

They were welcomed by Mary Robinson, Chair of the Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights (MSE Platform), who also announced that an independent Centre on Sport and Human Rights was to be established in 2018.

The Centre plans are backed by the diverse coalition behind the MSE Platform, including FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, Commonwealth Games Federation, and UEFA, as well as a range of intergovernmental organisations, governments, athletes, hosts, sponsors, broadcasters, civil society representatives, trade unions, employers associations, and national human rights institutions. 

The Sporting Chance Forum brings together nearly 200  global leaders, experts, and advocates on sport and human rights, and is hosted by IHRB, the Swiss Federal Department for Foreign Affairs, and the MSE Platform. This is the second annual Forum, the only international event of its kind focused on galvanising collective action around human rights and sport. 

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Realising Ethical Recruitment by Remediating Worker-Paid Recruitment Fees

20 November 2017

By Nikhil Eapen, India Director, Equidem Research

Image: Flickr/ILO

At the end of November 2017, droves of company executives, human rights specialists, and diplomats from around the world will travel to Geneva to attend the UN Forum for Business and Human Rights. The theme of the conference this year is “Realizing Access to Effective Remedy”, and over three days, the Forum is expected to review progress, recognise successes, study gaps and put forward a roadmap for promoting policies and committed action to secure justice for affected rights-holders.

One of the main groups of stakeholders which participants attending this conference will seek to defend, are migrant workers vulnerable to serious exploitation and abuse, despite being at the heart of the global economy.

The Common Practice of Charging Workers for Jobs

                

Joseph Raj, a carpenter from South India borrowed 120,000 Indian rupees ($1850) from a money lender - approximately 40% of his annual salary in India - at a monthly interest rate of 6%, to pay for a job in the construction sector in Qatar. To repay his debt, Joseph was forced to remit home more than 85% of his monthly wage. He adopted a frugal lifestyle - always eating at the camp, not going out on weekly holidays and spending less time with friends. 

A major cause of forced labour in global supply chains today is the charging of recruitment fees to migrant workers. Recruitment charges to workers cover a range of costs: including the recruitment itself, travel, visa and administrative costs, and often other unspecified ‘fees’ and ‘service charges’. Workers are expected to pay some or all of these fees including substantial kickback payments to brokers and potential employers.

In order to afford these fees, workers are forced to take out loans at high interest rates, leaving workers in situations of debt bondage, a form of forced labour in which a person’s labour is demanded as means of repaying a loan, trapping the individual into working for little or no pay until the debt is repaid.The practice of paying for work represents the predominant business model of the recruitment industry in the global South, including within the supply chains of leading brands.

Leadership in Eradicating Worker-Paid Recruitment Fees

Leading global companies are working towards implementation of the Employer Pays model and the Dhaka Principles of Migration with Dignity, whereby the costs of recruitment are borne not by the worker but by the employer.

The Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment has set the ambitious goal of eradicating worker fees within a decade, and the question of reimbursement of fees as an important aspect of remedy must be addressed urgently, alongside improved regulatory environment for the recruitment industry itself.

Leading global companies are working towards implementation of the Employer Pays model and the Dhaka Principles of Migration with Dignity, whereby the costs of recruitment are borne not by the worker but by the employer. 

A new IHRB report, Responsible Recruitment: Remediating Worker-paid Recruitment Fees, profiles five multi-national companies who have sought to address access to remedy by reimbursing recruitment costs to workers found to have paid fees. Each of the remediation programmes vary in size and structure and have been shaped by the local contexts in which these companies operate. Together, they have provided a form of remedy for thousands of workers amounting to millions of dollars in the last decade.

The Challenge of Remedying Worker-Paid Fees

The biggest challenge to implementing a remediation programme for recruitment fees is the indirect financial benefit that companies and suppliers receive when workers pay for their own jobs via recruitment agents.

The biggest challenge to implementing a remediation programme for recruitment fees is the indirect financial benefit that companies and suppliers receive when workers pay for their own jobs via recruitment agents. 

Suppliers and businesses are reluctant to absorb additional costs without a corresponding increase in the cost of their product or service.

An Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) report found in 2016, one of Coca Cola’s primary suppliers reimbursed the recruitment payments of 165 migrant workers to a total amount of $894,000. For companies or suppliers with hundreds or thousands of workers who have paid these fees, the reimbursement cost could amount to millions of dollars.  

In environments where human rights enforcement is weak and charging workers for their jobs is an industry-wide practice, businesses claim that they have limited leverage to engage suppliers on ethical recruitment and remediation practices, particularly those that do not provide goods, services or labour exclusively to them.

Suppliers that find the burden of recruitment fee repayments to be too onerous, or are not required by other clients to remediate workers, are unlikely to adopt this practice.

Further, an absence of recruitment fee receipts, the threat of reprisals on the workers by brokers and others, and the ineffectiveness of company mechanisms means that recruitment debt often either goes undetected or cannot be adequately tracked down the supply chain.

The Value of Collective Approaches

Along with taking responsibility for their own value chains, businesses should adopt collective approaches that both incentivise ethical recruitment practices across their supply chains and make it more difficult for suppliers and recruitment agents to charge workers for jobs.

While remediating recruitment fees might represent an upfront cost, in the long-term, businesses that adopt the ethical recruitment model can expect that as time progresses the need to reimburse workers will fall and the costs of recruitment will fall in line with the true costs of recruitment.

Businesses themselves can help remediate recruitment fees directly by providing financial assistance and contributing towards worker remediation.

Remediation costs can also be better absorbed if they are amortised over the period of the worker’s employment. This can help suppliers spread the costs of recruitment over time.

          

Som Bahadur, a 29-year old Nepali plumber employed in the construction industry in Qatar, said that his experience as a migrant worker would have been far less traumatic had he not been made to pay a large recruitment fee. He took two years to repay his 90,000 Nepalese rupees ($865) loan from a money lender in his village. Som said, "I could not do anything with my salary as it took so long to clear my loan. My life here [in Qatar] would have been better, my family could have lived more comfortably, and I wouldn’t have been stressed all the time.”

While remediating recruitment fees might represent an upfront cost, in the long-term, businesses that adopt the ethical recruitment model can expect that as time progresses the need to reimburse workers will fall and the costs of recruitment will fall in line with the true costs of recruitment.

Over time the real cost of recruitment can be reduced.

No business can address these practices alone.

The most effective route to ethical recruitment is collective initiatives involving businesses directly in a leading role, with the support and guidance of governments, civil society, experts, and migrant workers themselves.

The UN Forum next week will present a grim reminder of the thousands of workers who continue to work in situations of debt bondage and an opportunity to right past injustices and effectively remediate indebted migrant workers.

The UN Forum next week will present a grim reminder of the thousands of workers who continue to work in situations of debt bondage and an opportunity to right past injustices and effectively remediate indebted migrant workers.

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Responsible Recruitment - Remediating Worker-Paid Recruitment Fees

20 November 2017

By Mustafa Qadri, Founder, Equidem Research and Consulting; Research Fellow, IHRB, Nikhil Eapen, India Director, Equidem Research

A major cause of forced labour in global supply chains is the charging of recruitment fees to migrant workers. Some companies have sought to reimburse workers charged these fees, many face serious challenges in doing so.

Reimbursing worker-paid fees is an important step consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, which clarify the baseline expectation for companies to respect human rights, including providing for or cooperating in remediation when they have caused or contributed to adverse human rights impacts.

This report profiles six multi-national companies who have sought to address access to remedy by reimbursing workers found to have paid fees. Each of the remediation programmes vary in size and structure and have been shaped by the local contexts in which these companies operate. Together, they have provided a form of remedy for thousands of workers amounting to millions of dollars in the last decade.

 

Image: Flickr/ILO

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Julia Coburn on CDM and Mexican migrant worker rights in the US

17 November 2017

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 4.75MB - Duration: 5:11 m (128 kbps 44100 Hz)

Centro de los Derechos del Migrante  (CDM) is a workers’ organisation dedicated to the advancement of workers’ rights, in particular Mexican low-wage migrant workers who travel to the US for work. In this podcast, Julia Coburn, CDM's Director of Operations (Mexico), discusses with IHRB's Neill Wilkins one of CDM’s key initiatives, Contratados, a worker-facing workers’ rights information sharing platform for realtime anonymous reports of working conditions. 

Contratados allows workers to make informed decisions about migration.  The platform also connects workers with resources to remediate abuse, and provides opportunites for workers to engage in advocacy initiatives to advance workers rights.

Julia, CDM’s Director of Operations in Mexico, is a longtime CDM supporter.  She is a graduate student at the University for Peace in Costa Rica and a Founding Ally for Migrant Justice. After volunteering with CDM in Zacatecas during college, Julia returned as the 2009 University of Chicago Dr. Aizik Wolf Human Rights Post-Baccalaureate Fellow.  As a Fellow, Julia shaped the Justice in Recruitment program, designing research methods, conducting some of the first survey research on recruitment, and writing extensively about fraud and recruitment abuse. After her Fellowship ended, she moved to CDM’s Baltimore office, where she worked as a Program Associate. Since then, she has continued to support CDM.

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The Power of Collective Investor Action to Safeguard Human Rights

26 October 2017

By David Schilling, Senior Program Director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

We are living in a time of tremendous upheaval, and also great promise.

From existential threats like the ravages of climate change that threaten public health and global water and food supplies, to an unprecedented migrant and refugee crisis  provoking geo-political conflicts and even genocide, there are ‘clear and present dangers’ straining so many communities around the world.

There are ‘clear and present dangers’ straining so many communities around the world.

But in this time of great challenge there are also important solutions and opportunities to respond that are presenting themselves.

The Case for Investor Advocacy

One of them is the establishment of a new initiative, the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, which seeks to harness the collective power of investors in the work to guard against human rights abuses. This Alliance, led by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), will convene investors from around the world to use their collective influence to advocate for greater justice and to press companies and policy-makers on a range of human rights risks.

The groundwork in establishing the link between corporate practices and human rights risks has already been laid and the case for investor advocacy on these issues is powerful.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide a global framework to help companies assess and address human rights risks in their operations and supply chains. While some companies have shown leadership in integrating these principles into their policies and practices, most are still unaware of the breadth and depth of human rights impacts attributed to their businesses. 

Most companies are still unaware of the breadth and depth of human rights impacts attributed to their businesses.

Shareholders have seen gaps in corporate human rights due diligence lead to legal, reputational and financial consequences that impact their investments. The recent Corporate Human Rights Benchmark report and the KnowTheChain sector benchmark reports provide further evidence of the importance of assessing corporate human rights performance for a range of stakeholders.

Mobilising Collective Action

There is an urgent need to accelerate change on business and human rights by building sufficient scale and focus through investor mobilization: the advent of this new Alliance helps to address this need.

When we issued a call to action after the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013 the response was immediate. In an incredibly short time we were able to amass an investor coalition representing over $4 trillion in assets to call for corporate participation in the newly formed Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this initiative in support of trade unions, NGOs, and progressive companies has helped to dramatically improve working conditions in this sector – in fact it has likely saved many lives. This was a compelling indication that human rights and worker rights are of profound concern to the broader investor community and that a central hub for organizing this work would be welcome.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this initiative in support of trade unions, NGOs, and progressive companies has helped to dramatically improve working conditions in this sector – in fact it has likely saved many lives. 

ICCR’s faith-based members have been working in the vineyard of human rights and labor rights for many years, and our community has made significant inroads in bringing greater corporate consciousness to these issues in many sectors and across multiple supply chains. Investors have helped to highlight forced labor and unsafe working conditions in the apparel, footwear and electronic sectors. Through our advocacy in partnership with NGOs and other stakeholders, we have changed the way these sectors view their workers and monitor their supply chains.

Our “No Fees” initiative is bringing corporate awareness to the human rights risks inherent in the recruitment process when workers are forced to pay for employment.

Our support for key human rights legislation and regulation both here and overseas makes clear to policymakers why these risks are viewed as material by the investment community and underscores the need for public policy that levels the playing field for all companies.

While we are still in the early stages of building out the structure, the Alliance is already receiving a strong reception from the global investment community. From state pension funds to unions, asset management firms large and small, and the religious investors that first pioneered this work so long ago, this Alliance is being welcomed as a much-needed platform to facilitate collaboration and amplify the investor voice on these critical issues.

Our voices will be joined by the many governmental, civil society, and corporate voices that are dedicated to safeguarding human rights and we look forward to using our collective leverage to put the UN Guiding Principles into practice. We hope you will join us.

There is an urgent need to accelerate change on business and human rights by building sufficient scale and focus through investor mobilization

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Japan’s Technical Intern Training Programme - Learning the Hard Way?

16 October 2017

By Takeshi Hayakawa, IHRB Visiting Researcher 2016, Jon Barnes, Independent Researcher; Research Fellow, IHRB

In September 2017, 37 member states endorsed an appeal during the UN General Assembly for urgent action on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7. This is the target that advocates immediate progress to eradicate human trafficking, forced labour, and modern slavery globally by 2030.

One of the signatories of the call was Japan.

This signal by Tokyo is welcome if it leads to firm action to tackle growing evidence of modern slavery problems in the country. Migrant workers are one of the groups most vulnerable to the worst forms of labour exploitation and abuses in supply chains. Japan, with its low birth rate and ageing population, is increasingly relying on foreign sources to tackle labour shortages in lower-skill sectors of its economy.

Japan’s treatment of migrant workers is likely to face increasing scrutiny, not least in the construction sector, as the country prepares to host the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In 2014, Japan’s government reportedly estimated it would require an additional 150,000 workers between 2015 and 2020 to meet the sector’s overall needs.

 

How the TITP Works

An important, yet increasingly controversial, mechanism for recruiting migrant construction workers in Japan – and foreign labour for many other sectors – is the Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP). The supposed official purpose of this state-supported scheme, set up formally in 1993, is to aid the industrial development of developing countries through the transfer of skills and expertise gained by developing country ’trainees’ who undergo one to three year placements in Japanese companies.

The supposed official purpose...is to aid the industrial development of developing countries through the transfer of skills and expertise gained by developing country ’trainees’ 

TITP interns, 74.5 per cent of whom come from China and Vietnam, are hired in their countries of origin by recruiting agencies, which then work with Japanese business associations (so-called ‘supervising organisations’) to broker their placement with individual enterprises (‘implementing organisations’). In October 2016, Japan was hosting 211,108 TITP ‘interns’.

A controversial feature of TITP is its requirement that when ‘interns’ move to the second year of their internship, they must remain with the same enterprise that took them on in the first year. This renders the interns vulnerable to exploitation, particularly when their residency and immigration status is tied to such an arrangement. The result is a power imbalance in which migrant workers have a subordinate relationship with employers and are less able to claim their rights.

Growing Criticism

As such, TITP has faced growing criticism within Japan and internationally.

Critics allege that the scheme operates largely as a guest-worker programme providing cheap labour rather than the professional development of 'trainees', and that it involves widespread exploitation and human rights abuses, including human trafficking and forced labour.

Critics allege that TITP involves widespread exploitation and human rights abuses, including human trafficking and forced labour.

The US State Department, in its 2016 “Human Trafficking in Persons Report”, observed:

“Some of [the technical intern trainees] pay up to $10,000 for jobs and are employed under contracts that mandate forfeiture of the equivalent of thousands of dollars if they leave. Reports continue of excessive fees, deposits, and ‘punishment’ contracts by sending organisations under this programme. Some employers confiscate trainees’ passports and other personal identity documents and control the movements of technical intern trainees to prevent their escape or communication with persons outside the program.”

Amid growing pressure to address the issues, the Japanese government in 2016 introduced legislation on TITP, which is due to enter into force by November 2017. This envisages the creation of a new TITP oversight body with the legal authority to conduct investigations in collaboration with labour and justice ministries, as well as some measures to improve regulation of the business associations and enterprises involved in the programme.

Civil society organisations, however, have criticised the legislation as lacking serious ambition, and are particularly unhappy with its increase of TITP’s maximum term for interns from three to five years. The extension, they argue, will merely prolong the abuse of victims. It could also double the number of interns who work in Japan.

Strategy Needed

Whatever the debates about how TITP should be reformed and whether it should be scrapped or replaced, Japan needs a more comprehensive strategy to prevent and address abuses affecting migrant workers.

Japan is not alone in facing the challenge of protecting migrant workers’ rights.

The Government could move to strengthen and enforce existing domestic labour law protections and prevent immigration policies acting act as a source of discrimination and vulnerability, as well as adopt relevant international standards and tools as a spur for national action. (Japan has not ratified International Labour Organization conventions on migrant worker protection and is yet to ratify the 2014 protocol of ILO Convention 29 promoting binding action on forced labour.)

Japan is not alone in facing the challenge of protecting migrant workers’ rights. 

Growing pressure for change has led some governments to introduce legislation to encourage business practice avoiding forced labour in supply chains, and Japan could build on their lessons in taking similar action itself. These moves include, for example, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act. Meanwhile, tools developed and promoted through multi-stakeholder dialogue to promote respect for migrant worker rights, such as the Dhaka Principles for Migration with Dignity, now translated into Japanese, are useful for companies in Japan seeking to overcome the problems raised by TITP.

In a positive move, the Japanese government stated in late 2016 that it will develop a national action plan (NAP) to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). This is significant as key features of the UNGPs, and the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework they rest on, are crucial to tackling the challenges of TITP.

As far as the SDG 8.7 target is concerned, it should be stressed that the UNGPs, along with ILO Conventions, are identified as an official means of achieving the SDGs and all stakeholders need to do far more to achieve a solid link in practice.

Tokyo 2020 preparations are a litmus test of how committed Japanese government and businesses are addressing migrant worker rights.

The Japanese government announced its plans for a NAP specifically in the context of Tokyo 2020, aware that the Olympic Games will attract human rights scrutiny. Indeed, Tokyo 2020 preparations are a litmus test of how committed the Government and businesses are to the strategic action needed to address the adverse impacts associated with the TITP, not just in relation to the Games but in Japan’s economy as a whole.

Such action is crucial to protect migrant workers, but also for Japan’s international image if, in the context of construction for the 2020 Tokyo games, it is to avoid controversies of the kind surrounding Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup for example.

More information on the TITP and its implications can be found in IHRB’s new report: “Learning Experience? Japan’s Technical Intern Training Programme and the Challenge of Protecting the Rights of Migrant Workers” published in October 2017.

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