The Asia-Pacific region has long been synonymous with economic dynamism. Over the last several decades, the volume of capital and trade flows has ballooned in the region, and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. By some estimates, Asia Pacific will become the world’s largest economic region by 2030.
However, these gains have not been without costs and risks. In some countries in Asia, economic growth is linked to contaminated water supplies, accelerated deforestation, and increased air pollution. Large infrastructure projects have led to environmental degradation and displacement. Elsewhere, rapid economic growth has resulted in hazardous working environments, exploitation, and other rights violations, with long-term implications on the stability and prosperity of individuals, families, and society.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council in 2011, comprise a set of 31 principles directed at States and companies to clarify existing duties and responsibilities to protect and respect human rights. The three-pillared ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ framework also underlines both sectors’ duties in providing effective remedy through judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms.
There has been strong momentum in support of national dialogue and action around Business and Human Rights in many parts of Asia. However, many in the business sector have yet to fully appreciate the place of human rights in their operations. Companies have yet to see how a human rights-based view of supply chain management or the creation of internal remedial mechanisms can help them mitigate risks while sustaining profitability. Importantly, businesses in the wider Asia-Pacific region have also yet to fully realize the strength of their voice in positively shaping the national social discourse on rights.