Monday, 6 April 2015

Human Rights and Business in India

Businesses, with their geographical and monetary reach owing to extensive globalization, have had a powerful impact on the Human society through employment generation, raising living standard, community development and provision of goods and services for enhancing daily-life convenience. Particular emphasis has been on its effects on Human Rights, and today it is considered an integral pillar of the Business Responsibility discourse. The most significant development on this in the recent years has been the release of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) for implementing the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework in 2011. Developed by the United Nations through a consultative process spanning 6 years, it enumerates the roles and responsibilities of Governments and Businesses towards protecting Human rights, and encourages nations to have a national action plan on businesses and human rights.

India has actively espoused the importance of Human Rights, having played a key role in developing and adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and followed this with the adoption of the Constitution of India, and its articulation of Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy. In more recent times, the Government of India enacted the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission. However, there were no clear directives for the role of businesses in Human Rights emancipation. To this end, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs released the National Voluntary Guidelines (NVGs) for Business in 2011, wherein one of its Nine Principles of Business Responsibility is devoted to Human Rights. The Companies Act 2013 relies heavily on the NVGs to provide frameworks for businesses to advance Human Rights both inside and outside the workplace.

Despite the presence of suitable legislative architectures, the awareness in businesses regarding their roles and responsibilities on advancing Human rights, and amongst citizens about their rights as consumers, is very low. Businesses need to incorporate Human Rights into their core businesses and CSR initiatives, and engage with various stakeholders to implement, assess and report their initiatives. To discuss these issues further and chart a way forward, Centre for Responsible Business (CRB) in collaboration with ISEAL Alliance, UK, is organizing a webinar on the topic ‘Advancing Human Rights in Businesses in India’. The webinar will bring together a panel comprising leaders from companies and civil society organizations with extensive Human Rights experiences to share their perspectives on this topic. The 90 minute webinar will be organized on 15th April 2015, and will start at 10:30 pm (GMT).

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