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FOCUS December 2020 Volume 102

Governments, Business and Human Rights


The commitment of governments in Asia-Pacific to ensure that human rights are protected in business operations is weak. One has to note the few national action plans (NAPs) on business and human rights in the region. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports two NAPs (Thailand and Japan) having been adopted as of October 2020, and nine NAPs still being prepared (Australia, Azerbaijan, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Pakistan) as of early December 2020.

But more serious concern is raised on the capacity of governments to enforce existing laws that protect the human rights of people affected by business operations. There is likewise serious concern on contradictory provisions among laws that allow business enterprises to pursue operations without being held accountable for human rights abuses. Laws that provide incentives to companies on development projects and natural resource extraction may contradict those that protect the rights of people to land, water and even health.

This is where effective participation of stakeholders in the development of policies on business and human rights is needed. Workers, indigenous peoples, urban poor and members of communities affected by business operations are some of the stakeholders whose voices should be adequately heard and whose proposals should be part of government policies and programs on business and human rights.