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Jakarta Post

Businesses told to respect human rights

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, May 27, 2013   /  12:22 pm

Companies operating in Indonesia should refer to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to prevent human rights abuses while conducting their businesses, observers have demanded.

Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the Human Rights Resource Center for ASEAN, said the guiding principles would help corporations to apply human rights principles while running their businesses. '€œThe guiding principles will provide direction to companies that might not have grasped human rights concepts yet,'€ Marzuki told a seminar in Jakarta on Friday. '€œWith the guiding principles, the abstract concept of human rights becomes concrete.'€

Makarim Wibisono, executive director of the ASEAN Foundation, noted that the United Nations encouraged the use of these principles to address prevalent conflicts between businesses interests and human rights. '€œCases of human rights violations within the business sector have remained unchecked for quite a long time,'€ he said.

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The framework was formulated by Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Business and Human Rights and Harvard Kennedy School Professor John Ruggie.

The idea of creating this framework was initiated in the early 1970s after the United Nations Economic and Social Council finished its study on the impact of transnational corporations. This framework is based upon three '€œinterrelated and mutually supporting pillars'€, which are; the state duty to protect its citizens from abuses, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights and greater access by victims to effective remedy.

James Kallman, the president director of Mazars, an international organization that provides human rights consultancy to large corporations, said that human rights violations in business practices were still a problem in Indonesia.

'€œDo you know that there are over 1,000 human rights cases reported to the National Human Rights Commission [Komnas HAM] every year in which companies are accused of doing something wrong to their employees, or more frequently to communities?'€ Kallman said. '€œThe reports are related to environmental and land acquisition issues in which the lands of indigenous people are taken away,'€ he added.

Kallman said that it was very important that business practitioners respected human rights. '€œWhat Professor John Ruggie said was that companies must respect human rights. What a powerful word. How come Professor Ruggie didn'€™t say '€˜companies must comply'€™? It'€™s a totally different meaning. Respect is something that comes from the heart,'€ Kallman said.

Kallman pointed out some concrete ways in which companies could show their commitment to human rights protection. '€œHow can they do it? They have to look at their businesses and see how their practices harm human beings. They must analyze the risk. Does it hurt a worker or a member of the community? How could it impact negatively on the life of someone? That is what due diligence is about. To assess these risks,'€ Kallman said. Kallman cited some consequences that companies could face should they fail to respect human rights. '€œNobody will invest, nobody will loan money and eventually you will suffer losses in your share price. In the long-term, you will cease to exist.'€ (nai/ogi)

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