Publication: Training emerging market companies on human rights - Lessons from Indonesia

In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. They provide an international framework setting out the responsibility of businesses and governments for business impacts on human rights. Since then, they have been widely taken up by governments, civil society and businesses. The core concept for businesses is the corporate responsibility to respect human rights which requires companies to act with due diligence to know what human rights impacts they cause, contribute to, or are linked with and show how they prevent, mitigate and remediate them.

There is wide acknowledgement by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, UN Global Compact (UNGC) and other experts of the need for capacity building to support the implementation of the Guiding Principles, in particular in emerging markets and developing economies. The UN Working Group’s Pilot Survey of the Implementation of the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights sheds some light on the nature of this capacity gap, concluding that:

The survey indicates that a deepening and more nuancing of business action may be necessary. One of the most striking patterns of the survey results is that when asked general questions about the components of the responsibility to respect (policy commitment, addressing impacts, communication and reporting) a high number of companies (often around 80% and above) were confident that their company does have some form of practice in place. However, when respondents were asked questions pertaining to how mature or embedded practices were, the response rate dropped considerably – often (and interestingly) with a spike in “unsure” responses.

twentyfifty ltd. has been providing consultancy and training to businesses on human rights for more than a decade. Since 2008 they have had a relationship with the German Global Compact Network (DGCN) which has developed a programme containing a number of interventions which seeks to develop capacity amongst its membership to implement the Guiding Principles; these include a training course, implementation projects undertaken by the course participants, publications, webinars, focus sessions at DGCN meetings, and a ‘peer learning group’ comprising of ten companies. The training course has also been delivered with the Ukrainian, Kenyan, and UK Global Compact Networks.

The objective of this project was to take the experience and approach developed in Europe and to:

  • Identify and engage national partners (principally the national UN Global Compact Network) to support a capacity building process in Indonesia
  • Identify the specific needs of members of the National Global Compact Network and tailor the course to meet these needs
  • Deliver the course(s) and learn the lessons for future capacity building in Indonesia and other emerging economies
  • Establish the foundations for the development of an on‐going process of capacity building on business and human rights in Indonesia.

Indonesia was selected because of its importance as an emerging economic power where there are numerous human rights challenges including the impacts of economic activities such as mining and plantation agriculture. Further, it has an active national GC Network with over 120 members and there is some existing awareness of the UN Guiding Principles due to activities and visits of John Ruggie, the Shift project and Mazars (see below).