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10 Dec 2018

Adam Barnett, Communications Officer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Universal Declaration of Human Rights changed the world - Phil Bloomer on BBC Newshour

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PB: Businesses are upholding human rights, and businesses are abusing human rights, around the world. Economic globalisation that’s happened around the world over the last 40 years has really created untold wealth. And yet the inequality that’s also grown with that, because human rights have not been at the heart of business, has essentially meant that a lot of the potential to really deliver shared prosperity, to emancipate the majority from drudgery and abuse, has been squandered. So what we are seeking to do is to put human rights more at the centre of business, so people can get a living wage, so that they get decent working hours. 

BBC: I think some companies would say, well, look, they are trying to adhere to such principles. There have been examples of sweatshops being exposed, and companies then saying, they’re not going to use such facilities. Is that not true?

PB: Absolutely. We value enormously the small cluster of responsible companies that are now really seeking to be able to enshrine and embed human rights at the heart of their businesses. Just today, as a celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which [has its] 70th anniversary today, a small group of companies and investors have come out saying that they not only seek to uphold and promote civic freedoms, human rights, in their supply chains and their operations around the world, but that they are also seeking to help and defend and support the very human rights defenders who seek to hold open those civic freedoms in those societies. Companies like adidas, Anglo-American – they’ve all come out today with that statement, and we applaud that.

BBC: Now, you mention the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How far have we come since then?

PB: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has changed the world profoundly. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the wife of the President, FDR, and seen as one of the main architects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said, ‘Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places.’ And I believe strongly that you can go across the UK, South Africa, India, Brazil, Mexico - you can go to all these countries, and you will find in the farms, in the fields, in the factories, and in homes, the essential human freedoms that have been opened up by that Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Follow Phil Bloomer on Twitter @pbloomer