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The Implications of Being Socially Responsible in 2011

Published: Saturday, January 08, 2011

To what extent have you considered the implications of the Guiding Principles for the Implementation of the United Nations 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework?  I introduced the Guiding Principles in a previous post and will examine some of the implications today.

The Rights-Based Lens

The rights-based lens implied by the Guiding Principles requires a 360 degree perspective of the human rights consequences of a chosen business decision.  And while individual rights are usually described as stand-alone concepts, they are anything but independent of one another.  Human rights are universal; they apply to all people, all of the time.

The inter-dependent nature of human rights is one of their advantages; impacting one right has direct implications for how other rights are realized or, adversely, compromised. 

Responsibilities to Migrant Workers

A business dependent on migrant labour from a developing country to an industrialized country or from a developing country to another developing country, must understand the social consequences resulting from migration, particularly its impact on family relationships.   There are at least 10 articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which must be considered whenever children are affected by migratory work.  Articles 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 18, 20, 25, and 35 are among the children's rights that could be adversely affected by the absence of one or both parents. 

Article 5 recognizes the parent's responsibility to protect their children and for children to benefit from parental care.  Article 9, specifically addresses the protection of children when separated from their parents.  A child has the right to a family and the protection offered by the family relationship. The Implementation Check-lists for each article are a great resource. [Apologies in advance; the Implementation Check-lists file is very large and will take a while to download!!]

Independent Third Party Observations

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its review of periodic reports submitted by states parties with citizens who work off-shore, has been critical of the state party for not ensuring adequate child protection measures in place to protect the children left behind.  These children are often left in the care of relatives who are unable to provide the necessary care and support of them.  The children are regularly neglected and abused and worse, exploited.  The Guiding Principles will encourage companies recruiting migrant labour to examine the implications of their decisions beyond their immediate business interests and to put in place any mitigative measures to prevent adverse human rights consequences. 

As the UN Special Representative reminds us in the Framework's Preamble, and based on the evidence he spent years gathering, society expects businesses not to infringe on the rights of others.

Implications for HIV/AIDS Transmission

Studies have also shown the impact migrant worker populations have on HIV transmission contributing to spousal infection rates and to the rise in children orphaned as a result.

Now, with the Guiding Principles in place, the company has the responsibility to put in place mitigation measures to protect spouses and the children of migrant workers from HIV transmission.  Mitigation measures could include workplace health education for employees, free condom distribution, and policy changes to increase the frequency of paid visits home to visit family.  Efforts could also include support for entire families to live together, avoiding the need for separation in the first place.

For all businesses, this level of analysis is not going to occur without essential training in human rights.  More specifically and importantly, it will be training in a rights-based approach that will encourage the application of a holistic lens to policy frameworks and business decisions. 


photo credit: Circus - abstract oil pastel drawing/collage, oil pastel and collage on a page from an old magic catalog, by crackedmoon  November 27, 2007


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