Blog: Shrinking civic freedoms - How does this affect businesses, and what role can they play?

Author: Mauricio Lazala, Deputy Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, in World Economic Forum Agenda, Published on: 28 March 2017

"Civil rights are under attack. Here’s why the business world should care", 27 Mar 2017

Indigenous people of Cauca department, Colombia, march in protest over land rights. © 2004 Gerardo Chaves, Courtesy of Photoshare

In many countries around the world, civic freedoms have been shrinking: laws to stifle dissent have been passed, rising populism has stirred xenophobia, and those who dare to speak truth to power have faced intimidation and even violence...How does this affect business, and what role has – and should – the business world play? While many of these increasing restrictions come from governments, in some cases the business world is guilty of helping erode the civic space... These businesses are exposing themselves to substantial risks and are on the wrong side of history. [T]here is a strong business case for supporting a healthy and vibrant civic environment. [B]oth civil society and business need the same sort of environment in which to thrive. Luckily, there are companies that understand they can play a positive role in protecting civic activists and civic freedoms – and several of them are doing so... What these companies realize is that they cannot, and do not want to, ignore the dismantling of civic freedoms in many parts of the world, both for self-interest and moral reasons. Other businesses would do well to follow their example. [Refers to Microsoft, S Group, Tiffany & Co.].

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Related companies: Microsoft S Group Tiffany