Group photo of the speakers, participants, and the secretariat.
Group photo of the speakers, participants, and the secretariat.

Researchers from the Foreign Service Institute’s Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies attended a workshop-forum entitled, “A Workshop on Business and Human Rights in Select Countries in Asia”. The event was held last 4 November 2014 at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City, and was organized by RAFI-Shift and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-Asia (ESCR-Asia) in collaboration with Makati Business Club (MBC), Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP), Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation (APPFI), and Asian Consortium on Human Rights-based Access to Justice (HRBA2J-Asia).

The workshop sought to provide information on the integration of human rights principles in trade policies, share experiences in the Philippines and Northeast Asia, and introduce the Reporting, Assurance and Framework Initiative (RAFI) by Shift.

Chairman Loretta Rosales of CHRP stressed that it is the main task of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) to articulate, mainstream and disseminate the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into the socio-economic discourse and agenda. Dr. Marina Durano of the University of the Philippines (UP) emphasized that macro-economic trade and human rights policies must be in accordance with national trade policies as the implementation of the latter may have profound effects on the former.

Mr. Peter Perfecto of MBC then discussed the Integrity Initiative which was launched to mainstream and integrate human rights into the principles and practices of Philippine business. Speakers from Mongolia, China, and Japan also shared national experiences in advancing business and human rights. Common violations against human rights include fair and just remuneration, water, livelihood, life, and environment.

Lastly, Ms. Caroline Rees, President of Shift, elaborated on the RAFI Reporting Framework on the UN Guiding Principles, which was created to help companies reach the evolving expectations for more and better public information about their ability to responsibly respect human rights.

Participants concluded that the overarching challenge in integrating human rights into business principles and practices is the diverse perspectives among stakeholders and other interested actors on the definition of human rights.  Hence, initiatives, programs, and projects focusing on business and human rights should be kept fairly general to allow businesses and corporations operate in their own sphere while taking into consideration the human rights aspect. The group also acknowledged the need to enhance dialogue among stakeholders to ensure an exchange of multi-faceted ideas in advancing human rights into business principles and practices.

The multi-sectoral workshop was attended by representatives from the government, national human rights institutions (NHRIs), business sector, civil society organizations (CSO), labor groups, and non-government organizations (NGOs).