Business and Human Rights Compliance – Challenges and Trends
7 December - 8 December
The German-Southeast Asian Center of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance (CPG), in cooperation with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Bangkok/Laos Office, will host an international conference on “Business and Human Rights Compliance” on 7 and 8 December 2017 at the Holiday Inn Sukhumvit in Bangkok.
Participation is free of charge. Please register by filling in the form at the bottom.
For further information, please contact us via email@example.com (Khun Venus).
- Thursday, 7 December 2017: 9.00 to 17.00
- Friday, 8 December 2017: 9.00 to 13.00
Confirmed speakers (continually updated):
- Bo Bo, Myanmar Campaign Director, EarthRights International, Yangon
- Nathan G. Bush, Partner, DLA Piper, Singapore
- Maureen Harris, Southeast Asia Program Director, International Rivers, Bangkok
- Pamela Kiesselbach, Senior Consultant, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, Hong Kong
- Assist. Prof. Dr. Roman Meinhold, Business Administration Division, Mahidol University, Bangkok
- Dr. Carl Middleton, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok
- Dr. Matthew Mullen, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Bangkok
- Christopher Ng, Regional Secretary, UNI Global Union, Asia & Pacific, Singapore
- Anna Platonova, Senior Programme Manager, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mission in Thailand, Bangkok
- Jerome Pons, Head of Operations, Delegation of the European Union to Thailand, Bangkok
- Karin Wenger, South East Asia Correspondent, Swiss National Public Radio and Television (SRF), Bangkok
- Hnin Wut Yee, Programme & Outreach Manager, Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), Yangon
The ever present human right challenges to business conduct in the ASEAN region have become more visible in recent years for a number of reasons. Issues like Land-grabbing, expropriation, and displacement due to investment and infrastructure projects, environmental pollution, multiform abuse and exploitation of migrant workers, outright slavery and sub-standard work-safety standards are among the standard problems.
The problematique has come to the fore with the increasing invest dynamics involving multinational business entities in vulnerable markets and the general development of compliance requirements widening the scope of liability to the supply chain. Since more recently, a variety of international, regional (European Union) and domestic regulations incorporating binding and voluntary mechanisms has started to address the issue.
Noteworthy to mention are on the international level so far first and foremost the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011 which have set lasting standards for countries to amend their laws, seconded by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, lastly updated in 2011.
The EU has established a number of reporting and, partly also monitoring duties, by the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive of 2014, reinforced by the non-binding guidelines of the Commission of 2017, which are complementing Timber Regulation of 2013 and the Conflict Minerals Regulation of 2017.
National laws with partly extraterritorial applicability have been enacted or are in preparation in a number of countries, including the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, the UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015 and, with a heightened standard, the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law of 2017 while the Netherlands and Switzerland are preparing similar legislation.
All these efforts directly address multinationals linked to markets in the region either by direct investment or via supply chains.
Decisively, all the human right violations at stake are insufficiently prevented on the ground. Efforts of Southeast Asian countries to complement the existing penal law frame by the enactment of more advanced anti-human-trafficking legislation (Malaysia 2007, Thailand 2008, Vietnam 2011, Singapore 2014) for instance have not decisively improved the situation not to speak of promises like the right to a safe, clean and sustainable development as being enshrined under article 28(f) of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.
Nevertheless, in a number of countries in the region, the responsibility of multinational actors for their involvement in human right abuse is echoed by deliberations and reform discussions.
Stock exchanges as well as market regulators in the region have started to require relevant companies to report on their human rights impacts. These include, for instance, Bursa Malaysia, the Indonesian Capital Market and Financial Institution Supervisory, the Singapore Exchange and the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
This meets a changing awareness in the business sphere where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies and related compliance mechanisms have been implemented to prevent liability and loss of reputation.
However, human rights violations committed or sponsored by private businesses continue to take place. In some cases, business-to-government contracts or provisions contained in free-trade agreements prevent effective remedies or regulatory responses. In other cases, lack of law enforcement and corruption contribute to further violations. Moreover, intimidation and lack of legal assistance may leave otherwise effective remedies unused.
Before this background, the conference is intended to cover three main areas:
1. Trends in laws and policies enforcing human rights in business
- International/regional/national legal frameworks, transnational application of national laws
- Development financing and human rights obligations
- Free-trade agreements, investor-state contracts, arbitration
2. Monitoring by independent organizations and public interest groups
- Mapping of human rights violations
- Control by non-governmental organizations and the media
- Monitoring by human rights commissions and ombudsmen
- Legal assistance and representation, access to justice
3. Compliance with human rights obligations by businesses
- Corporate laws and stock market reporting obligations
- Third-party due diligence: Supply chain management, joint ventures and contractors
- Due diligence in the recruitment of (migrant) workers
- Compliance management systems and certification
- Corporate Social Responsibility and corporate culture