Regional meet on Business and Human Rights in ASEAN sets agenda for national action

Jun 1, 2017

This workshop follows up on an ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) meeting held in November 2016 (Singapore), where an ASEAN Regional Strategy on CSR and Human Rights was discussed and presented.

Bangkok : Representatives from the public and private sectors as well as civil society groups from ASEAN member states gathered in Bangkok on Thursday in a workshop that will examine the region’s efforts in ensuring its international human rights commitments are reconciled with prevalent business practices. 

The ASEAN region has undergone a remarkable economic and social transformation since it was founded in 1967. 

ASEAN countries recorded, in the last ten years, an average level of growth higher than most developed countries and lagging only behind two other Asian nations, China and India.

However, this progress has, in some cases, been accompanied by negative repercussions for the human rights and has resulted in an enormous strain on the environment. 

ASEAN, too, faces challenges such as corruption, land grabbing, forced labour, persecution of human rights defenders, discrimination against vulnerable groups including indigenous peoples and migrant workers, and environmental and health disasters such as the transboundary haze. 

Five organisations (ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), Ministry of Justice of Thailand, UNDP, ASEAN CSR Network and UNESCAP) co-organised the two-day conference titled “Regional Workshop on Business and Human Rights: Moving ahead with National Action Plans in ASEAN”. 

The deliberations will contribute to embedding human rights in business activities in the ASEAN region, with a particular focus on the roles, duties and responsibilities of governments and business.

A growing community of supporters of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the region are gathering here to reaffirm the principle that economic growth, human rights and environmental protection are all mutually reinforcing drivers of sustainable well-being and prosperity. 

“A business environment fully respectful of human rights attracts further long-term sustainable investments where risks are better managed. More investments create opportunities for economic growth which translates into more means for the States to help disadvantaged communities and fulfill their rights,” said Valerie Cliff, Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, at UNDP’s Bangkok Regional Hub.

"A first critical step for the successful implementation of the Agenda will be for Member States to put in place a robust monitoring and review framework backed by indicators that are grounded in human rights. In this process led by governments, UNDP will play an important role at country level to convene and facilitate dialogue between governments, civil society, academia and the private sector, said Ms Cliff. 

“We believe that responsible businesses means applying frameworks that protect, respect human rights and have access to remedies. This cannot be done alone. In ASEAN there is a regional commitment from multi-stakeholder groups to ensure that the environment is sustained and people have improved lifes.” said, Ms Yanti Triwadiantini, Chair, ASEAN CSR Network. 

This workshop follows up on an ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) meeting held in November 2016 (Singapore), where an ASEAN Regional Strategy on CSR and Human Rights was discussed and presented. The proposed regional strategy calls for states, businesses, trade unions, civil society and other stakeholders in the region to work hand-in-hand to mainstream human rights practices in business operations. 

It reinforces the objectives of the ASEAN “to realise a rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN Community, where our peoples enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms, higher quality of life and the benefits of community building, reinforcing our sense of togetherness and common identity, guided by the purposes and principles of the ASEAN Charter.” (ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead together. Point 4 of the ASEAN Community Vision, page 13).

This regional workshop focuses on how decision-makers from all sectors, in particular governments and businesses, can implement this call and drive momentum for an ASEAN community that protects not just profits, but also people and the planet.

Sessions at the two-day conference will discuss the challenges and opportunities in developing National Action Plans on human rights, and dialogues with civil society organisations and trade unions. 

One of the expected outcomes of this meeting is to take stock of how far ASEAN has progressed with regard to internationally-accepted business and human rights principles, as reflected by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) – the global standard for states and business enterprises on their respective obligations in relation to preventing and addressing business-related human rights impacts

The programme was made possible with support from Government of Sweden, Oxfam and Global Compact Network Thailand. 

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For more Information on our work on Business and Human Rights, Contact:

Livio Sarandrea 

Programme Specialist

Crisis Prevention and Rule of Law

livio.sarandrea@undp.org