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‘Rebel’ Farmers and ‘Unruly’ Employees: The Situation of Human Rights Defenders Promoting Corporate Accountability in East Asia

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The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the Asian Forum for Human Rights (FORUM-ASIA) offer this document as a submission to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The intention of this document is to lay out the challenges faced by human rights defenders (HRDs) working to promote corporate accountability across East Asia, with a particular focus on investments and operations in ASEAN countries. We encourage the Working Group to effectively and comprehensively consider these issues in its work, and in particular to provide space to address the situation of HRDs at its Asian regional forum announced for 2016.

At the national level, it is hoped that this document will spur conversation among government, civil society, and corporate actors and that those conversations, at minimum, will help to feed into participation at the regional forum. We also encourage domestic and international stakeholders to use the recommendations contained at the end of this report to inform advocacy at the multilateral level, including shaping debates at the Human Rights Council (the Council); informing treaty bodies; and strengthening attention to HRDs working on corporate accountability in recommendations made in the context of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

This report does not contain a detailed legal analysis of the legislative frameworks governing foreign direct investment, corporate social responsibility, or land concessions in the selected countries. Country by country differences in approach to commercial, investment, and development law and policy create very different legal environments for the operations of NGOs and corporate accountability HRDs. As such, we hope that national-level groups and international experts will feel free to use this as a possible starting point for additional research to inform the Working Group, and to shape their participation in the upcoming regional forum.

We also note that it would be impossible to address all sectors in all countries. For host countries, we have focused on those sectors that contribute most to a country’s overall GDP, whether export or domestic. Home country profiles will focus exclusively on government efforts, and space for civil society, to improve respect for human rights by companies domiciled in that country.

This submission uses engagement with a range of multistakeholder initiatives as a proxy for government engagement and, where possible, as a common benchmark for transparency and community dialogue. However, a more extensive review of international multistakeholder or ‘CSR’ efforts, including with international and regional financial institutions, may better reflect the attitudes and actions of the corporate sector towards HRDs and host governments.

Click here to download the Joint Submission to the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations