Corporate Activism or Basic Human Rights Due Diligence?
What is the role and responsibilites of business in protecting fundamental human rights and civic space?
DanChurchAid (DCA), The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) are pleased to invite you to join this panel debate on The Role and Responsibilities of Business in Protecting Fundamental Freedoms and Civic Space.
The objective of the panel debate is to facilitate a multi-stakeholder discussion on the role and responsibilities of business in protecting fundamental freedoms and civic space, linking it to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Danish strategy for development and humanitarian assistance, The World 2030. The panels will provide an opportunity for business and other stakeholders to expand awareness and understanding of their important role in protecting fundamental freedoms, human rights defenders and the interlinkages to safeguarding business interests.
BHRRC holds vast expertise within the issue-field and will initiate the debate by setting the scene based on recent developments, guidelines and examples of business actions from corporations such as Unilever and Adidas. This, to promote an engaged discussion amongst panellist and audience by providing the space for a range of actors to discuss and reflect upon opportunities to advance impacts through cross sector collaborations and collective Danish impacts.
13.30-13.35 Welcome by Gitte Dyrhagen Husager, Private Sector Focal Point, DanChurchAid
13.35-13.40 Opening remarks by representative from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
13.40-13.50 Introduction to the debate: Shrinking civic space in emerging markets – What is at stake? By Gitte Dyrhagen Husager
13.50-14.20 Presentation by Mauricio Lazala, Deputy Director & Tanika West, Development Manager, BHRRC
14.20-15.00 Panel debate: The Responsibilities of Business moderated by Mauricio Lazala
- Jonas Nøddekær, International Director, DanChurchAid
- Irene Quist Mortensen, CSR Business Partner, Arla International
- Mads Øvlisen, Chairman, The Danish OECD Contact Point
- Elin Wrzoncki, Programme Manager, The Danish Institute for Human Rights
15.00-15.15 Coffee Break
15.15-15.55 Panel debate: The Role and Practices of Business moderated by Mauricio Lazala
- Susanne Stormer, Vice President, Sustainability Management & Reporting, Novo Nordisk
- Mikkel Stenbæk Hansen, Director, Danish Ethical Trading Initiative
- Claus Primdal Sørensen, Head of CSR, Danish Export Credit Agency
- Misha Wolsgaard-Iversen, Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam Ibis
15.45-16.00 Concluding remarks by Gitte Dyrhagen Husager
Registration via mail to Roya Høvsgaard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Since the 2011 endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights (UNGPs) we have seen a rise in businesses stepping up to human rights challenges related to their operational spheres. The awareness on the business potential to provide key contributions to human rights was additionally underlined in the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identifying businesses as key actors to be mobilised to secure sustainable development underpinned by the respect for human rights and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.
This year, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, as well as the 20th anniversary of the UN Resolution on Human Rights Defenders. However, we still experience a world were civic freedoms are under pressure through the passing of restrictive national legislations and coercive measures from duty bearers. The closing of the “civic space” results in a rising number of threats and violence towards civil society organisations and human rights defenders.
Many companies have traditionally seen civil society and human rights defenders as opponents, because of their role in challenging corporate actions or policies. Voices spanning from academia and the World Economic Forum, to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Head of Social and Environmental Affairs at Adidas are now contesting this notion, with the counterargument that a free and vibrant civic environment is not only needed for business to survive, but also essential for companies to get a “social licence to operate” and ultimately thrive in the long term. By doing so, the companies will also take further steps to change the perception of companies as human rights offenders, and enhance opportunities for broader stakeholder collaborations to address and prevent human rights violations.
By not speaking up for fundamental freedoms and access to justice, businesses are exposing themselves to substantial risks, and thus compromising their own abilities to operate, move people and capital across borders, and function. Successful business depends on open societies and strong institutions, building on respect for human rights and the rule of law, which enables the creativity, innovation and critical thinking needed to secure their investments as recognised by the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal 16 and 17.