Profitable Partnerships, a workshop on business and human rights in select countries in Asia, was conducted by RAFI-SHIFT - New York and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-Asia (ESCR-Asia), in cooperation with the Makati Business Club (MBC), the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP), the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation (APPFI) and the Asian Consortium on Human Rights-based Access to Justice (HRBA2J-Asia).

Held at the Asian Institute of Management on November 4, 2014, the workshop endeavored to attain an increased understanding of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, learn and appreciate emerging practices in the Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, and Mongolia, and to listen to a presentation on a proposed Reporting and Assurance Framework Initiative (RAFI).

The speakers include Caroline Rees, president of SHIFT, Hon. Loretta Ann Rosales of the CHRP, Dr. Marina Durano of the University of the Philippines (UP), Mr. Peter Perfecto, Executive Director of the Makati Business Club and representatives from human rights organizations from Mongolia, China, and Japan. Representing APPFI, Dr. Baviera chaired the session on East Asian cases. Representatives from the CHRP, peoples’ organizations, CSOs, NGOs, academe, business groups, embassies, government and media attended.

The RAFI and Ruggie

The Reporting and Assurance Framework Initiative (RAFI) and the Respect, Protect and Remedy Framework on Business and Human Rights (popularly referred to as the Ruggie Framework after its developer, John Ruggie) endeavor to develop a better platform for dialogue between the business sector and national human rights institutions (NHRI).

The Respect, Protect and Remedy Framework offers conceptual and operational principles to guide business enterprises and government institutions in performing their respective duties and responsibilities while protecting and respecting human rights.

The RAFI is undergoing consultation with businesses, civil society, governments, the academe and other experts since June 2013, on how to define the parameters for reporting human rights issues for business associations.

Makati Business Club and Integrity Initiative

The Makati Business Club together with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines developed the Integrity Initiative. This initiative plans to promote social responsibility of the corporate community to promote and rebuild a culture of integrity. It also plans to promote international standards in business human rights.

There are currently 3000 signatories to the integrity pledge from the business sector and 43 from the government. Signatories undergo constant assessment. They are proposing government incentives for signatories. MBC Executive Director Peter Perfecto hopes that they could integrate human rights and the RAFI in the Integrity Initiative.

A Profitable Partnership

In her welcome note, Ms. Minerva Gonzales, Chairperson of ESRC Asia, noted the significance of nurturing spaces and dialogues in bridging human rights and business endeavors. She hopes that the sectors that make the pillars for sustainable development - civil society, government and the business sector - can work together in filling the gaps to make this profitable partnership a reality.  (Lucia de Guzman and Austin Ong)