Interdisciplinary Inquiry

07/18/2012

New brief published on business and human rights by the Center for Sustainable Economies

The United States Institute for Peace (USIP) has just released a report called Business and Human Rights: An Issue whose time has come. USIP’s Center for Sustainable Economies hosts a taskforce on business and peace, which explores creative and effective ways in which the corporate sector could avoid fomenting conflict while being aware of actions that could promote peace. There is growing interest in the connection between business and human rights, particularly in resource-rich countries where contracting and oversight failures often put local communities at a disadvantage and could contribute to the onset of violent conflict. Violent conflict in turn generally negatively affects the bottom line of most businesses. This report contributes to the work of the task force by using a conflict-sensitive framework to address this issue.

The report found that business activities in fragile and conflict-affected regions could adversely impact the human rights of host populations in diverse ways, and could trigger or sustain violent conflict. Additionally, the international “Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework on Business and Human Rights” could help businesses avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts when they occur. This framework would complement (and not replace) exiting initiatives like the U.N. Global Compact, IFC Performance Standards and OECD Guidelines. It provides a human rights lens that does not treat communities as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘needy,’ but as viable partners with rights.

Implementation of the framework (and other voluntary standards) will always be fraught with difficulty. However, companies could become more amenable if they discover that compli­ance could enhance risk management and improve productivity. Coordination, communication and accountability are vital for credible and effective imple­mentation of the framework. Key steps have been identified to help corporations comply.

Co-authors Dr. Jill Shankleman, a former Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at USIP, advises corporations and banks on political and social risks of large scale foreign direct investments; Hannah Clayton supports private and public sector bodies to integrate human rights principles and standards into organizational practice and culture.

The entire report can be downloaded here.

Posted at 11:03 AM

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