Arab NGO Network for Development
Monthly Newsletter

 

Business and Human Rights

 

Business and Human Rights Seminar

Brief

In the context of the Pilot Project for the Promotion of Social Dialogue in the Southern Mediterranean Region (SOLiD), in partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and BUSINESSMED, ANND held a 2-day seminar in Beirut on 7 and 8 September 2016, to discuss issues related to Business and Human Rights.

SOLiD-South Mediterranean Social Dialogue is a pilot project for the promotion of social dialogue in the Southern Mediterranean Neighborhood. It is a three years programme (2016-2018), with a €3.750 million budget, financed by the European Union. SOLiD brings together regional and international representatives of social partners as well as a number of relevant partners from the EU. The project is implemented by a consortium which consists of 10 members: ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation), BUSINESSMED (Union of Mediterranean Confederation of Enterprises), SOLIDAR (European network of NGOs), CNT Belgium (National Labor Council), CESE Morocco (Economic, Social and Environmental Council), ATUC (Arab Trade Union Confederation), ANND (Arab NGO Network for Development), ISCOS (Italian Union Institute for Cooperation and Development), Progetto SUD Italy (The Institute South Project), and AIP (Portugal Industry Association).

The seminar looked at the challenges facing human rights under the critical economic, social and political environment and at the contribution of social dialogue in improving human rights respect. The subject of business sector and human rights is considered an important topic discussed since ever. Its importance lies in the negative effects the multinationals have on human rights and the difficulty of restoring the balance or compensating for the losses caused by them, especially if the individuals who have been subjected to violations are from the developing countries where it is difficult for the individuals and governments to hold such firms accountable. Moreover, the enforced local legislations may not be applicable to international companies due to the absence of the power or the lack of jurisdiction of national courts.

The main objectives of the seminar were to:

  • Discuss issues related to the business community’s responsibility in upholding human rights.
  • Discuss human rights challenges under specific economic, social, and political environment.
  • Discuss contribution of social dialogue to improve human rights compliance.
  • Look into the role of CSOs in upholding human rights standards in initiatives involving the private sector.

Day one of the seminar focused on private sector involvement in Development. It included the following themes:

  • Introduction to business environment and role of private sector in development of the region.
  • Discussion of questions related to FfD and domestic resource mobilization in the new development paradigm.
  • Discussion of rights-based approach to business sector involvement in development.
  • Focus on flexibility in employment and PPPs.
  • Discussion of redistributive policies, tax justice, social protection, and gender dimension in private sector involvement in development.

Day two of the seminar focused on mechanisms for business sector accountability, including:

  • Introduction to international legal frameworks related to business and human rights.
  • Discussion of various human rights mechanisms to monitor corporate compliance with international human rights standards.
  • Discussion of local means of accountability from a rights-based perspective, through social dialogue.
  • Roundtable dialogue on responsible business conduct standards in the Arab region.

Several conclusions were reached to enhance CSO participation in social dialogue, including:

  • Need to enhance accountability, knowledge, and capacity on use of international mechanisms.
  • Right to access information and knowledge of policies and agreements.
  • Need to enhance legal work.
  • Gender mainstreaming.
  • Right to form unions and independent organizations.
  • Enhance cooperation between civil society, unions, and specialized business sector (especially marginalized enterprises) and reach strategic agreement on national level covering all sectors.
  • Activate dialogue through dialogue institutions, such as social and economic councils.

The main outcome of the conference was the recommendation to form joint working groups between representatives of unions and CSOs to follow-up on issues discussed in the seminar to enhance participation in social dialogue on 3 three themes:

  • Theme 1: Role of the state in upholding human rights.
  • Theme 2: Role of business sector in protecting human rights.
  • Theme 3: Role of international institutions and partners.

Another main outcome revolved around three major questions to be asked in enhancing social dialogue:

  • Is social dialogue possible with the absence or weakness of political powers and outside the framework of the state?
  • Is social dialogue possible with the absence or weakness of a trade union movement?
  • Is social dialogue useful with the lack of an alternative and sustainable developmental vision?

These questions will be raised and discussed through a civil society working group.

For a detailed report on the meeting, please check:

http://www.annd.org/data/file/files/SOLiD-BusinessAndHumanRights-WorkshopReport-EN.pdf

 

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