- 3South Africa
- back to top
The project’s first workshop was held in Indonesia and built on existing engagement by the local partners (the Indonesia Global Compact Network, IGCN, and Oxfam in Indonesia) on business and human rights over the last few years. At least some stakeholders were, therefore, already aware of some of the core content of the UN Guiding Principles.
The workshop was held in Jakarta on 24 and 25 February 2015, and attended by over 65 participants on the first day, and by over 40 on the second day, with companies (including various SMEs), civil society organisations and academic experts. The first day featured a ‘senior leaders briefing’, which included a panel discussion with speakers from Asia Pulp and Paper, Unilever and Oxfam in Indonesia, and which generated a high turnout. The majority of companies and civil society organisations (CSOs) attending on the first day also took part in the in-depth, topical sessions on the second day.
The afternoon of the first day featured parallel sessions for business and civil society to discuss specific challenges and opportunities related to the implementation of the Guiding Principles in Indonesia. In the civil society session, participants discussed how the UN Guiding Principles could be made more tangible in Indonesia, for example, by ‘translating’ the UN Guiding Principles for the Indonesian context, considering ways in which the UN Guiding Principles could be a reference for national policies and regulation, and how they could support CSO advocacy tools. Meanwhile, businesses discussed how the UN Guiding Principles could be further implemented through training, supporting smallholder farmers in meeting human rights standards, and, more generally, supporting responsible business, including where companies are in conflict with communities, in order to enhance business’ legitimacy as a social actor.
The second day involved in-depth sessions on two important topics in the Indonesian context: the rights to water and sanitation, and land-related human rights impacts, including in connection with large plantations (for example, palm oil), deforestation and mining. Particular attention was given to the implementation of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) with regard to potential impacts on indigenous peoples and their lands.
During the workshop, the president of IGCN posed a challenge to participants: to transform the workshop’s momentum into a more permanent working group on business and human rights. A working group was subsequently established, hosted by IGCN, and with the participation of Indonesian and international businesses, Oxfam and other civil society organisations. The working group has been meeting regularly since then to discuss ongoing initiatives and to share lessons learnt on the implementation of respect for human rights. Oxfam in Indonesia and IGCN are also collaborating with other partners in a multi-year EU-funded project to support the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles in Indonesia, including implementation of the UNGP Reporting Framework (discussed in Chapter 3.6).
Finally, for this project, Oxfam in Indonesia conducted a field visit to Asia Pulp and Paper’s new OKI mill in South Sumatra, to learn first-hand about the company’s new stakeholder consultation and consent process, which resulted in the Indonesia case story, featured throughout the guidance.
The workshop in Mexico City took place on 7 and 8 October 2015. Over 60 participants from companies and civil society participated for nearly two full days. In addition to the local Global Network and Oxfam Mexico, the project partners worked closely with the leading civil society organisation (CSO) PODER in the design and delivery of the workshop. PODER is coordinating the CSO coalition involved in the development of a National Action Plan (NAP) on the UN Guiding Principles in Mexico, and was able to help ensure that the workshop took account of, and helped to support, the broader business and human rights discussion in Mexico.
As in Indonesia, the first day featured a senior leaders event, which included the Dutch Ambassador to Mexico. It also involved sessions exploring the relevance of the UN Guiding Principles in the Mexican context, examples of company implementation and civil society perspectives on company approaches, and sector-specific small group discussions.
The second day began with parallel sessions for business and civil society participants. All participants then returned to plenary for a discussion of key topics, particularly the right to water and land-related impacts. The discussion included a focus on impacts on indigenous peoples, which was greatly strengthened by the participation of leaders from the local Yaqui tribe. The importance of stakeholder engagement was highlighted throughout the discussions, including through reflections on a number of case studies where such engagement had been absent or was poorly implemented.
Feedback from local partners indicated that the workshop helped raise further awareness of the importance of business and human rights and the UN Guiding Principles in Mexico, particularly with business. Importantly, it also enabled the development of new or strengthened relationships between stakeholders that should help support future discussions, particularly in relation to the NAP.
Based on discussions with local project partners (the Global Compact Network South Africa and Oxfam in South Africa), the project team concluded that, in order to ensure a good atmosphere for productive discussion, the business and civil society workshops should largely be held separately.
Owing to logistical demands, it was decided that the workshops would be conducted on two separate occasions. An initial 1.5-day workshop for business was led by Shift in Johannesburg in July 2015, hosted by the Global Compact Network South Africa. It was followed by an informal and productive half-day multi-stakeholder conversation involving a small number of civil society representatives (including Oxfam in South Africa). In October 2015, Oxfam built on the outcomes of this first workshop, and led a similar session with local civil society actors for 1.5 days. Again, there was an informal discussion of the outcomes with a small group of companies in a half-day round-table.
Approximately 40 participants from sectors including mining, finance, construction, energy, and food and beverage participated in the business workshop. Social expectations on companies to address inequalities stemming from the apartheid era remain high in South Africa, and this was a key theme throughout the discussion.
The second day focused on topics of particular relevance to the South African context: growing concern over the rights to water and sanitation; land-related impacts (including through the process of land reallocation following apartheid); and remediation and grievance mechanisms, which has special resonance given the ongoing litigation and other remedy processes over injustices involving companies dating back to the apartheid era.
For the informal multi-stakeholder discussion, a smaller group of business participants was joined by a few CSO representatives for a facilitated exchange. Topics discussed included: the role of, and challenges for, business in the context of inadequate public services; how to conduct meaningful stakeholder engagement with workers and local communities; and how to engage the government in discussions on business and human rights. For a number of business participants, it was their first experience engaging in such a dialogue on business and human rights in South Africa. Participants agreed that it was important to continue the exchange, with the CSO-focused workshop in October providing the next opportunity.
The workshop with CSOs in October engaged over 15 participants from diverse organisations. The first day was spent in discussions and exercises to help build participants’ understanding of core UN Guiding Principle concepts, and whether and how they can help support the objectives of CSOs. The second day was partly spent preparing for the afternoon discussion with business representatives so as to ensure that a meaningful dialogue would take place. Many CSOs in the room were active in and around mining areas where human rights impacts are of great concern. For some, it was also the first time they had been in a round-table setting with companies discussing these issues.
The final project workshop took place in Istanbul on 26 and 27 January 2016, in partnership with Global Compact Network Turkey and Oxfam Turkey, and focused on the responsibility to respect human rights in supply chains. Over the course of two days, over 70 participants engaged in discussions on the human rights impacts on workers in Turkish supply chains, how to address those challenges in line with the UN Guiding Principles, and how those in the room could work together to promote the UN Guiding Principles among companies and other relevant actors more widely.
The opening included a call for greater private sector and NGO collaboration and partnerships, which are seen as crucial to local civil society efforts to reduce poverty and inequality. For business, NGOs are seen as an important partner in meeting their human rights responsibilities.
After an introduction to the UN Guiding Principles and discussion among participants, the workshop explored examples of company efforts to strengthen respect for human rights in supply chains and civil society perspectives on trends across industries in Turkey. The role of consumers, the need for effective government regulation and the need to focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were identified as important areas. Some participants also observed that some recent trends point in the direction of less respect for rights, such as an increase in the prevalence of child labour and the related trend of decreasing wages for workers.
The second day of the workshop focused on innovative approaches to improve respect for human rights in the supply chain – those that go beyond social compliance auditing. DeFacto shared its experience as a relatively young company setting up such a programme, which is featured in the Turkey case story in this guidance and on the project website. The subsequent discussion broadened the experience to other industries, including food, cotton and other agricultural products.
The afternoon involved a closer look at the particular issue of women’s rights. The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) shared its experience in working with Turkish suppliers to improve their labour practices. One of the key challenges faced by women in apparel supply chains is that they are typically unregistered, meaning that they do not have access to social security and other social protection, and are more open to exploitation, such as being underpaid.
While member companies are responsible for managing their suppliers, FWF offers them a variety of tools and support programmes to help them achieve the FWF minimum standards.
In the concluding session of the workshop, participants discussed ways in which further work could promote respect for human rights in a cross-sectoral way. Participants felt it was timely to involve other organisations in the discussion, including various governmental bodies, in order to build on the examples already given and enhance progress on the ground.