How different types of enterprises engage in human rights movements

3 posts / 0 new
Last post
How different types of enterprises engage in human rights movements

Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting framework for the discussion in this thread:

  • How could international companies engage in human rights movement building?
  • How could small and local businesses engage in human rights movement building?
  • How does the process of engagement vary according to the size of the enterprise?
  • Share stories of success.
Getting companies to speak up on behalf of human rights issues

Companies exert enormous influence through their lobbying, marketing and business relationships.  There are good reasons to push back on this influence, given that it vastly outweighs the voice of civil society and can undermine democratic processes.  But there are times when it may be helpful to have companies speak out in support of human rights issues or human rights defenders.  Under shareholder pressure, Pepsi was willing to publicly acknowledge the right to water -- a right that mainstream human rights groups have been tentative about, let alone governments.  Under pressure from Oxfam, Coke publicly declared zero tolerance for land grabs and pushed for stronger land rights provisions at a key UN-guided proccess (info about that here).  Just as environmental groups have rallied companies to support their causes (CERES has been very effective doing that), some human rights- minded groups have looked to apparel, extractives, IT and other companies to push for strong oversight and regulations, and help civil society groups gain access to political processes. We need to insist that companies "talk the walk" - speak out about the sustainabililty and human rights commitments that they make and condemn human rights violations publicly. BHRRC has tools to encourage companies to speak up around human rights defenders - here.   I believe we can do that without risking a further corruption of the system, but it's an issue that has to be treated with eyes wide open for risks of legitimating or greenwashing bad actors, having human rights language coopted and crowding out civil society voices.  

Business and Rule of Law | One possible access point

I could not agree more with Chris's comments. Certainly business can play a powerful role by speaking out and adding weight (even resources) to defend civic institutions/space and challenge/call out erosion of rights. I also agree it a delicate balance. One (not the only or per se the best) access point for activists, civil society and all of us to engage companies in such conversations might be with reference to rule of law. 

I am sure others in the discussion have thought more about the pros and cons of this. It is clear to me that we need to be highly cautious/conscientious to ensure that if we are encouraging corporate involvement/influence on public institutions for good, we can't be normalising or providing cover for influence for bad. Futher, strong "rule of law" can be bad if political will seeks to direct/apply State institutions to discriminate, victimise, intimidate, threaten, even murder.  Again, I am sure others have thought about this more than I have and would love to hear views. 

What I did want to share was this link to the UN Global Compact "Business for Rule of Law Framework". At the very least this might be a thought provoking resource for folks out there.