Oxfam Introduces ASEAN Civil Society Actors to “Getting it Right” Tool to Build their Capacity to Implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Jakarta, 21–22 March 2016—In order to gain insight and ideas on the development of National Action Plans (NAPs) in South East Asia as well as to build the capacity of civil society actors on the United Nation Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), Oxfam South East Asia held a two-day workshop on “Community-Based Human Rights Impact Assessment Training and National Action Plan” in Jakarta, Indonesia. Representatives of Oxfam’s international, regional and national programs, national and regional non-governmental organisations, academics, and other CSOs participated in the workshop.

The workshop began with a training on the UNGP, in particular on the necessity of establishing NAPs. The training was facilitated by Sara Blackwell, Esq., Legal and Policy Coordinator of International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR). She referred to the call of the Human Rights Council to all Member States in May 2014 to develop NAPs on business and human rights in their respective national context. Since the launch of UNGP in 2011, there have been positive developments in terms of NAPs in South East Asia. Ms. Blackwell cited Malaysia as example for having launched a framework for developing its NAP in March 2015. She also pointed to the ongoing progress other ASEAN Member States are making towards developing a NAP, such as Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines. 

Civil society actors in the workshop shared how NAPs should highlight the state duty to protect human rights by engaging civil society. Consultations with community should be made possible before, during, and after business operations. Government needs to encourage business enterprises to communicate how they address their human rights impacts. Business enterprises should conduct human rights due diligence process for responsible business. Human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) represent a key first step in identifying possible, existing, and/or potential human rights impacts of corporate activities. Presently HRIAs developed by companies more often than not emphasise the risks for business rather than the human rights of communities. Maintaining the focus of HRIA on safeguarding the rights and interests of affected communities as part of companies’ risk management is a must for the communities’ best interest.

A community-based human rights impact assessment approach thus offers an alternative path, allowing affected communities to drive the process of participation and information gathering, framed by their own understanding of human rights.  Communities can be engaged in solving human rights threats by working with NGOs, companies, and governments on a more equal footing. Ensuring the perspectives of affected people as the departure point, the HRIAs can be more focused on addressing their concerns and their aspirations for human rights protection, promotion, and respect.

The second part of the workshop was thus utilised to introduce “Getting it Right,” an HRIA tool developed by Oxfam America and Canada-based Rights & Democracy. The powerful tool allows communities and the organisations that support them to identify human rights impacts, propose responses, and engage government and corporate actors to take action to respect human rights. “Getting it Right is available online and has been used in a number of HRIA projects, among others in Brazil and Chile.