Business and human rights
Graphic: Workers in a garment factory, Bangladesh
While broad-based business activity provides skills, opportunities and a decent livelihood for individuals and communities, exploitative conditions, poor safety standards, pollution and displacement can severely undermine the rights of workers and communities.
The growing role and impact of the corporate sector, both within countries and across borders, has placed the issue of business and human rights firmly on the agenda of the United Nations, regional human rights bodies and national human rights institutions.
In 2008, Professor John Ruggie, the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, proposed a "protect, respect and remedy" policy framework to better manage the challenges of business and human rights.
The approach rests on three pillars: the duty of the State to protect against human rights abuses; corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and greater access for victims to effective remedy.
A set of Guiding Principles was released in 2011 to support the implementation of the "protect, respect, remedy" framework.
However, giving practical effect to a human rights model for business remains a vastly complex undertaking in a world of 80,000 transnational corporations, ten times as many subsidiaries and countless national firms.
Graphic: Miners at work in Mongolia
Our challenge is to make sure that business is not part of the problem but a source of solutions. Human rights must be respected at every step of production.
Promoting respect for human rights by business is a priority for the APF and for our members.
Gaps in governance provide the environment in which harmful practices by companies of all kinds can occur, without adequate sanctions or reparation.
National human rights institutions (NHRIs) play a critical role in responding to these governance gaps and upholding the Guiding Principles as advisors, reform seekers, educators and complaint handlers.
In the Edinburgh Declaration, adopted in 2010, NHRIs from around the globe pledged to take action to curb corporate abuse of human rights and provide greater support for victims of rights violations.
In the Asia Pacific region, APF members have initiated a range of practical projects and developed relationships with key stakeholders - including government, business and civil groups - in order to hold an ongoing dialogue on business and human rights.
Our members also agreed to contribute to regional and international efforts, including supporting the activities of the GANHRI Working Group on Business and Human Rights and engaging with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights.