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Global Perspectives on the Responsibility to Respect

This collaboration looks at how companies in emerging economies are implementing the Guiding Principles.

October 2014

PARTNERS: Oxfam, Global Compact Network Netherlands

This collaboration has concluded. The results of the collaboration --- a comprehensive guide for companies on doing business with respect for human rights, alongside multimedia case stories -- can be found at www.businessrespecthumanrights.org

The last decade has seen a rapid increase in public awareness of the negative impacts that business can have on human rights, as well as the development of the Guiding Principles, the authoritative global framework to prevent and address such impacts. There is growing recognition by companies and other stakeholders of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, but that development has been slower in reaching companies – and importantly, affected stakeholders – in the Global South and emerging economies.

Only a relatively small number of companies in those countries are actively engaged in the topic of business and human rights, and an even smaller group have publicly available policies or information about their human rights due diligence approaches. There is an urgent need to scale up learning about what works in meeting the responsibility to respect, including among small and medium-size companies, and to engage civil society stakeholders in that discussion. | Also see our reporting program's outreach in developing and emerging economies

The collaboration's objectives therefore are to: 

  • Contribute to greater awareness among companies in four key emerging economies of their responsibility to respect human rights under the Guiding Principles; 
  • Build the capacity of companies and civil society actors in those countries to support improved business respect for human rights on the ground; 
  • Share the learning gained among a much wider audience of interested stakeholders through a new, independent website. 

The collaboration explored perspectives from company and civil society actors on challenges in, and effective approaches to, implementation of the responsibility to respect in Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey. The partners worked closely with both local UN Global Compact networks and Oxfam country offices (and their local civil society networks) in the four countries involved. 

The collaboration held thematic in-country workshops with local companies and civil society stakeholders in each of the four countries. Topics that were explored include both specific human rights issues (e.g., the rights to water and sanitation, land-related human rights issues and the rights of indigenous peoples) as well as human rights management approaches (e.g., engaging with governments on human rights issues, innovative approaches to supply chain management and remediation processes including effective grievance mechanisms). The importance of meaningful stakeholder engagement was a theme throughout all country workshops.

The learning from these workshops supported an update of the 2010 Global Compact Network Netherlands publication How to Do Business with Respect for Human Rights, based on the UN "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework. The revised edition of this publication, Doing Business With Respect for Human Rights (October 2016) incorporates additional civil society as well as company perspectives. The updated publication forms the basis for an independent website, www.businessrespecthumanrights.org, that offers an interactive journey through the guidance as well as featuring case studies from the four focus countries. 

This collaboration is generously supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

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