On April 17-18, the <11th Asia Human Rights Forum: Human Rights and Asian Corporate Leaderhip> took place at Regency Room, Grand Hyatt Seoul.
The forum was co-organized by Human Asia, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and Korea University Human Rights Center. The forum was also sponsored by National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Maeil Business Newspaper, POSCO, Ildong Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., The Jeongam Foundation, The Daesan Agriculture Foundation and Social Science Korea (SSK) Human Rights Forum.
The forum started with opening remarks by Changrok Soh, Director of Korea Universtiy Human Rights Center, congratulatory speech by both the president of National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the president of Korea University, welcoming remarks by Therese Jebsen, senior advisor of Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, and keynote speech by Dr. Surya Deva, member of UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
As the globalization of the world economy accelerates, the role of corporations has increased dramatically. They are recognized as critical to realize development goals and seen as agents that improve lives for humankind, rather than passively complying with rules and laws and observing the labor and environmental regulations of states.
As the responsibility for respecting human rights is recognized as the basic principle of corporate activities, the expectations of the international community for the protection and promotion of human rights by the government and corporations are further heightened with the expansion of the global economy and the development of science and technology. Especially due to the uncertainty in the global economic environment, corporations must pay greater attention to this global trend to mitigate or eliminate adverse impacts and to manage risk and secure long - term competitiveness. Operating in ways that are consistent with human rights responsibilities can even offer an opportunity and challenge for sustainability to businesses, instead of being seen as a burden.
The forum aimed to bring companies and civil society stakeholders together for sharing perspectives, challenges, and devising ways to ensure greater business respect for human rights. It also aimed to identify the specific issues and challenges related to corporate activities and human rights in Asia by recognizing the meaning and value of human rights. In addition, there were discussions on ways to systematize the practical implementation mechanisms that integrate education and research to enhance the corporation capability in ‘human rights-friendly business’.
The following four perspectives were used to discuss the new paradigm and characteristics of corporate and human rights as an intergrated framework of global community:
1) Why would companies care about respecting human rights
2) Human Rights-Friendly Business for enhancing corporate transparency and sustainability
3) Developing human rights friendly business environment
4) Role of Business for improving human rights through Mega sporting events: focusing on upcoming Olympics in Korea (2018), Japan (2020) and China (2022)