Blog series discusses key challenges for business & human rights field

Aaron Marr Page of public interest law firm, Forum Nobis, is publishing a series of blogs in The Huffington Post about the business & human rights movement.  The blogs trace the evolution of business and human rights advocacy and highlight key struggles and challenges in the field.

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Article
17 May 2016

BHRRC's on its Company Response Mechanism

Author: Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

The recent blog series, The Alchemy of Business and Human Rights, takes a critical look at the business and human rights field, highlighting lack of remedy and the inequity in arms for those affected by abuse. The latest article focuses on Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s company response process. The blog highlights the value of our approach to affected communities and individuals, while challenging the Resource Centre to address weak and tangential company responses. This follows analysis by Menno Kamminga and our own briefings that look at trends and quality of responses....There is a wealth of expertise that may help improve the way our Company Response Mechanism works to promote corporate accountability and eradicate abuse. We invite human rights advocates – whether in civil society, business, or government – to help us by responding to the questions below.

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Article
17 May 2016

The Alchemy of Business and Human Rights (Part IV): The Rules of the Game

Author: Aaron Marr Page, Forum Nobis, on Huffington Post (USA)

The BHRRC has emerged as the essential BHR civil society institution...  It also produces what has become a key resource in the field: a Weekly Update [that] focuses on allegations of human rights abuses or other non-compliance by businesses...  the value that companies put on the BHRRC space is clear. Indeed it is not just “a” space but really “the” space — a chance to speak directly to the very audience of BHR professionals who are essentially charged with imposing “public” accountability on companies under the BHR regime... The platform has led to many success stories, but there are also moments of pause...responses are not held to any standard and every response is published.. [this] means that companies are able to bring diverse response strategies into the BHRRC space, some of which arguably are at odds with the vindication of human rights, or even with more neutral principles of BHR... there is legitimate concern that the BHRRC’s “level playing field” may, in some cases, replicate or even exacerbate power asymmetries between companies and the kinds of individuals and communities who typically lay claims against them.

[Refers to specific cases regarding NXP Semiconductors, Motorola Solutions,  ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, India’s National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) &  Kabir Steel]

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Article
16 May 2016

The Alchemy of Business and Human Rights (Part III): The Missing Institution

Author: Aaron Marr Page, Forum Nobis , on Huffington Post (USA)

The UNGPs set forth the “Protect - Respect - Remedy” Framework: three “Pillars” that reference core principles and also serve to allocate or divvy up responsibility between core stakeholders... Is something missing? I have always thought so. The first two pillars establish a nice subject-object rhythm: X has a duty to advance Y. I’m no MBA, but even I recognize this as sound management practice: immediately upon creating a task, giving someone primary responsibility to complete it... real reform may lag until human rights advocates force some reconsideration of the terms of the BHR deal, which in this case might be a renewed understanding of their role or some other way of addressing the Third Pillar’s almost built-in lack of leadership. 

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Article
30 March 2016

USA: The Alchemy of Business & Human Rights (Part II): A Pendulum Swing?

Author: Aaron Marr Page, Forum Nobis , on Huffington Post (USA)

In the previous blog in this series, we began looking at the alchemy of the new Business & Human Rights (BHR) field...But we also reviewed some long-standing criticisms...One example is a recent public letter by BHR “founder” Prof. John Ruggie himself, addressed to the new Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development...[It] expresses some alarm at the new Commission’s framing of the “business case”: [W]hen it comes to the social side of the development picture too many companies are quick to jump to promotional initiatives, skipping the essential starting point of reducing negative impacts on people associated with their own business activities and value chains....

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Article
29 March 2016

USA: The Alchemy of “Business & Human Rights” (Part I): The BHR Boom Years

Author: Aaron Marr Page, Forum Nobis, on Huffington Post (USA)

"There is no begrudging the almost magical success of "Business & Human Rights" (BHR) — the new name for the newly revamped field of human rights advocacy that has emerged over the last decade to, well, supplement (read: not replace) what used to go by "corporate accountability"....In addition to offering an olive branch of respect and trust to the corporate world, BHR offered to re-frame the entire discourse in ways that were deeply attractive to business...Even where legal efforts still played a role, BHR sought to cast traditional lawsuits as just one among many options, including a variety of new (or established, but underutilized) quasi-judicial grievance mechanisms...The blogs in this series will look at how individuals and institutions are trying to (or need to) question and experiment with the BHR potion, understand its side effects, and turn a phenomenon, magical though it may be, into a dependable engine of change.

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