In globalization era human rights are everyone’s business

View of the Scottish Parliament chamber © Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament photoRepresentatives of some 80 national human rights institutions converge on Edinburgh, Scotland to participate in the 10th biennial International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions. 

The conference is being hosted by the Scottish Human Rights Commission and held in cooperation with the UN Human Rights office and the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

Human rights campaigners, academics and experts will also join the debate on issues connected to human rights and business - such as child labour, privatisation and procurement, human trafficking and environmental degradation - and discuss the role national human rights institutions can play in overcoming these challenges.

“The interplay of business practices and human rights protection has attracted increasing attention over the last two decades. Corporate activities and investments are a vital force in development. And development is inextricably linked with human rights and security, including human security”, said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay at the opening. “However, business enterprises not always act with awareness of this linkage and so contribute to obstruction rather than realization of human rights.”

In the rise of transnational business activity under globalization and despite measures taken in past decades to address the impact of business on human rights worldwide, national and international regulations to control human rights abuses have been ineffective.

Furthermore, the increasing demand on resources, climate change and the effects of the global economic meltdown have exacerbated the need for greater alignment between the international community, including national human rights institutions, and the corporate world.

John Ruggie, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights stressed the important support national human rights institutions can give to the business and human rights space.

“For many companies, human rights are something new on their radar screen. They may find them confusing – even frightening”, Ruggie said. “Of course, companies deal with far more complex and scary bodies of law, but until human rights standards become part of their DNA, they may need advice and guidance on how to understand human rights in practice.”

At the end of the conference, delegates will be invited to adopt the ‘Edinburgh Declaration’ which will initiate the development of national, regional and international action programmes on business and human rights.

“The Declaration which you will adopt in the coming days as the outcome of this conference represents a suitable platform to reiterate your commitment to the preparation of substantive action plans for your respective institutions”, Pillay said.

“As co-organizer of this Conference, I would like to extend my appreciation to all the participants for their contributions. In particular, I note the outcome document from the NGO forum as an important element of discussion which could help refine strategies of multi-stakeholders’ cooperation.”

8 October 2010