ASEAN continues promotion of human rights in business conduct


BANGKOK, 1 August 2022 – The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) conducted the “AICHR Regional Dialogue: Sharing Good Practices on Business and Human Rights and Recovery from COVID-19 in ASEAN,” on 19-20 July.

The two-day event served as a consultation among AICHR, ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and relevant bodies from ASEAN member States (AMSs), business community and international experts, as well as Civil Society Organisations, to strengthen the promotion and implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) in the region.

In her welcome remark, Prof. Dr. Amara Pongsapich, Representative of Thailand to the AICHR highlighted that this Regional Dialogue was created to share best practices to move forward in implementing UNGPs. She reiterated the importance of cross pillar and cross sectoral collaboration within the three communities as encouraged by the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

Business companies can create opportunities that enhance the livelihood of peoples, workers and the communities around them, yet at the same time their practices can cause detriments. The adverse impacts are discouraged, mitigated, and prevented through, for example, the adoption of effective and comprehensive strategies on business and human rights.

The UNGPs which was endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, clarify what is expected by states and businesses to prevent and address impacts on human rights arising from business activities. This coincides with scrutiny from the public and investors on the impacts of business on people around the world.

Pichamon Yeophantong, Vice Chairperson and Member from Asia-Pacific States of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, in her remarks, shared that there are great challenges that lie ahead as governments grapple with long term impacts of COVID-19.

She welcomed a whole-of-ASEAN approach to achieve a recovery agenda based on human rights. She further urged AMSs to strengthen worker protection, and increase safety nets for their families, and highlighted that respect for human rights must be embedded in company policies, while gender, health and environment lenses should be integrated throughout policies and processes.

The topics presented by participants, included, among others; national progress and key activities related to the development of National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAPs) in AMSs; Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) in context of the pandemic; implementation of social safety net measures by the states;  NHRIs role to ensure effective remedy; institutional investors’ strategies to ensure rights-based investment practices; companies’ promises to build a responsible business community; while experiences and concerns faced by MSMEs.

In her remarks, Dato’ Prof. Dr. Aishah Bidin, Representative of Malaysia to the AICHR, shared that the success of the recovery framework depends on the commitment of member states, and the contributions of key stakeholders.

UNGPs are fundamental in making responsible recovery a reality and HRDD can provide a strong guidance for states. Meaningful progress requires a systemic approach adopted by all stakeholders. Recommendations should be viewed as best practices for all times, not just in times of crisis.

The Regional Dialogue participants commended AICHR’s commitment to continue its efforts on working with multi-stakeholders on the issue. Greater and mutual understanding on business and human rights will strengthen effectiveness of the promotion and protection of human rights that are crosscutting issues and should be the responsibility of all parties.

AICHR Thailand and AICHR Malaysia, hosted the Regional Dialogue with support from OHCHR, the United Nations Development Programme and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The outcome from the Regional Dialogue will be discussed at the International Workshop on “Enhancing cooperation between regional and international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights” which will be convened by the OHCHR on 18-19 October in Geneva, Switzerland.

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