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Engaging with Businesses on Human Rights and Social Equity

On December 13th, 2016, Partners in Change (PIC) in collaboration with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) conducted a full day workshop entitled Engaging with Businesses on Human Rights and Social Equity at Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bengaluru. The workshop was part of the initiative undertaken by ETI and PIC to bring a focus on key international and national developments in the human rights and business field critical to the development of a National Action Plan (NAP) and also set to the framing of human rights within the National Voluntary Guidelines on the Social, Economic and Environmental Responsibilities of Business (NVGs).

The purpose of the workshop was to bring together the different sectors of business, civil society organizations and staff and students of management institutions in an effort to give specific support to CSOs efforts in the promotion of human rights through identifying appropriate ways of bringing business into the realm of Human Rights. The workshop participants ( Appendix 1) were representatives from Southern NGOs, CBOs who were working amongst child labourers, migrant workers, garment workers, Dalits, farmers, state departments, adolescent girls, adivasis and tribal communities.

The workshop began with Manoj K Chakravarti, Chief Operating Officer-Centre for Corporate Governance and Citizenship (CCGC) at IIM Bangalore and delivering the welcome address and introducing the IIMBs CCGC. He said we need to look at how this relationship between human rights and business can be stronger?

Professor Vasanthi Srinivasan, IIMB faculty from the Organizational Behaviour & Human Resources Management area introducing the theme of the workshop said that we need get much more clarity on relationship between human rights and business and also look at what would be meaningful in curriculum to educate the corporate on human rights.

The key message was delivered by Mr. Viraf Mehta, Partners in Change and member, NVGs drafting committee. Viraf presented the case for greater emphasis on the background of the BHR development in India and the revival of the National guidelines with a view on engaging Businesses with Human Rights and calling for social parity.

An expert panel was moderated by Mr. Viraf Mehta which included: Mr. Subhash Mittal, Secretary, Socio Research & Reform Foundation ( SRRF), Ms. Amita V. Joseph, CEO, Business and Community Foundation  ( BCF), Mr. Paul Bhaskar, Chairman, PEACE Trust, Ms. Rekha, Cividep and Mr. Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People‚Äôs Watch. The panel discussion touched upon following pertaining points

  • The monetary inflow into the CSR has been increasing over the years but yet the true nature of the CSR projects has not been to include communities external to the corporates. Furthermore the nature of the funds for the CSR projects is not disclosed by the Businesses.
  • Policies within the company are made subjective by the board members.
  • Major lacunae in terms of audit requirement made available to the public domain.
  • Creating agendas which create value to the CSR by the companies, how to act upon it?
  • Bringing together the local voices for CSR.
  • State is a violator of Human rights.
  • Powerful lobbying systems for bringing to light the invisible people to forefront.
  • Preparedness to handle the businesses which are ready to come forth for engaging in Human rights.
  • Research based findings among the textile workers belonging to Bangalore has shown that basic rights are nonexistent.
  • The make the NCHR become active and visible to make certain that non- profit organizations are not to become victimized.