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NHRC: Bangladesh yet to address balancing business and human rights

  • Published at 04:26 pm June 23rd, 2019
Speakers at a program on Sunday, June 23, 2019 at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka Dhaka Tribune

Speakers at the program urged the government to take immediate measures, stressing there was no time to waste

The National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh (NHRC, B) said the government is lagging behind in taking any initiatives to address the balance between the rights of business and the human rights of people, despite making great strides towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The remarks came at a program on Sunday at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.

Speakers at the program urged the government to take immediate measures, stressing there was no time to waste.

Planning Minister MA Mannan, chief guest at the program, said: “For the past couple of years, the government has taken several measures with the future in mind. While there has been much criticism, we have never taken a step back.”

Sharmeela Rasool, chief technical advisor of the UNDP Human Rights Programme, said the world has already witnessed how negative coverage of any company can be incredibly damaging for business, citing the Facebook leaks, the Mercedes supply chain story, and deplorable working conditions at Apple’s China factories, as classic examples.

She said: “Businesses in Bangladesh need to understand that people are now responding more than ever before, if you do something wrong.”

Sharmeela elaborated on the difference between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Human Rights, saying that addressing the latter makes for a more effective tool.

Quoting a Harvard University study, she said the performance of sustainable companies is 4.8% higher than traditional companies. She suggested the government act quickly to achieve the SDG goals as India has already taken the lead in South Asia.

Dr Khairuzzaman Mozumder, joint secretary of the Finance Division, said business and human rights as an issue was first addressed in 2011. He noted that as of now, 23 countries have already formulated national action plans for business and human rights, while 18 others, including India, are at an advanced stage.

Earlier in February, the Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs released a zero draft of their national action plan.

Dr Khairuzzaman lamented Bangladesh’s position, saying measures were previously taken regarding CSR, which saw very little progress.

He suggested that a ministry – indicating the Ministry of Commerce - can take the lead here, as the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has done in India.

NHRC,B Chairman, Kazi Reazul Haque said: “We need to make a national plan for business and human rights to sustain our economic growth. The state would protect human rights and ensure its policies are implemented and businesses comply with the directives. We need to ensure a decent livelihood for everyone.”

Abul Kalam Azad, principal coordinator (SDG Affairs) at the Prime Minister’s Office, was the chief guest at the closing session of the program. Officials from several ministries and senior NHRC officials were also present at the program.

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