World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2017: Businesses need to use their influence to stand up for human rights

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 starts today in Davos

 

Years of building pressure in many parts of the world, at least since the global financial crisis, crystallised into dramatic political results during 2016 as public disaffection with the status quo gained traction. At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017, (17-20 Jan), businesses need to take a clear, unequivocal stance that they will not only prevent and mitigate human rights abuses in their operations, but that they will not tolerate links to human rights abuses anywhere in their supply chains and that they will use their considerable influence to stand up for human rights and prevent rights violations in wider society. 

To follow what's happening at WEF 2017, live feed from the Forum is available here and the program of the Open Forum 2017 can be accessed here.

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Article
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Author: ONU Brasil (Brazil)

“ONU pede que empresários reunidos em Davos defendam direitos humanos”, 18 de janeiro de 2017

O alto comissário da ONU para os direitos humanos, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, pediu...[em 13 de janeiro]...a empresários...no Fórum Econômico Mundial em Davos, na Suíça, que utilizassem “sua...influência para defender os direitos humanos e prevenir violações nos países em que operam...Começamos o ano cheios de ansiedade sobre o estado do mundo: o perturbador aumento das divisões políticas e comportamentais, e o ódio instantâneo; os ataques contra direitos humanos fundamentais, particularmente daqueles já vulneráveis; e a continuada disseminação da falha em garantir acesso justo a recursos, prosperidade e segurança econômica para todos…Os princípios e leis duramente conquistados na Declaração Universal dos Direitos Humanos estão cada vez mais em perigo...Companhias precisam declarar claramente…que não irão tolerar ligação com abusos de direitos humanos em qualquer parte de suas operações ou cadeias de suprimento — e devem ter sistemas para garantir que tais abusos sejam ativamente evitados e…resolvidos. Muitas companhias já começaram a tomar passos para evitar e mitigar abusos de direitos humanos em suas operações, em linha com o Guia da ONU de Princípios para Empresas e Direitos Humanos…”…

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Article
20 January 2017

Corporate tax avoidance is a human rights issue, Oxfam director says at World Economic Forum

Author: Graeme Wearden, Guardian (UK)

"Davos 2017: Oxfam attacks failing global tax avoidance battle", 19 Jan 2017

Efforts to tackle global tax avoidance are being undermined by a “race to the bottom” on corporate tax rates led by Britain and the US, the World Economic Forum heard on Thursday.  Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of Oxfam International, told an audience at Davos that world leaders are failing...to make firms pay their fair share..."This year we need to see progress on this corporate tax competition,”...Byanyima cited data showing that Kenya is losing $1.1bn (£893m) through tax exemptions and incentives each year.  “That’s almost double its health budget; in a country where one in 40 children die at childbirth. This is really a human rights issue.”...the UK prime minister, Theresa May, warned European politicians that Britain would set “competitive tax rates” to lure companies and investors to Britain, if it didn’t get an acceptable Brexit deal.  However, on Thursday, she told leaders in Davos that businesses need to pay their fair share of tax...Byanyima argues that businesses need to see tax as a moral issue, and an obligation to help fund heath, education, to create jobs and opportunities for young people...

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Report
17 January 2017

Business strategies to implement SDGs will enable long-term growth, says report

Author: Business & Sustainable Development Commission

"Better Business, Better World", January 2017

…Signs of…imperfections in today’s markets are everywhere…The resulting uncertainty makes it hard for business leaders to see the way ahead…This report offers a positive alternative: setting business strategy and transforming markets in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals…[T]he Business and Sustainable Development Commission has been researching the impact on business of achieving these 17 objectives…They provide a viable model for long-term growth, as long as businesses move towards them together…Achieving the Global Goals opens up…market opportunities in the four economic systems examined by the Commission. These are food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being…To capture these opportunities…, businesses need to pursue social and environmental sustainability as avidly as they pursue market share and shareholder value…The report…is a call to action for…business leaders. It explains why they should go for growth in line with the Global Goals and how to lead that change, in their own businesses and beyond…

Company actions targeting SDGs include:
• Vodafone mobile plans enabling women in Turkey to find education & work - Goal 4 Quality Education & Goal 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
• Unilever programmes on hand-washing, safe drinking water & oral health - Goal 6 Clean Water & Sanitation
• Abraaj Group plans to improve resourcing of healthcare facilities in Africa and South Asia - Goal 9 Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

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Article
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Author: Béatrice Héraud, Novethic (France) (copyright: www.novethic.fr)

Le World Economic Forum s’ouvre aujourd’hui. Pendant 4 jours, 3 000 grands patrons, jeunes talents, dirigeants politiques, prix Nobel ou engagés humanitaires, se réunissent à Davos. Le thème de cette année : "Pour une politique réactive et responsable". Un pari gagnant selon une étude publiée en amont du forum. Ses auteurs estiment qu’une économie plus responsable pourrait générer 12 000 milliards de dollars et créer 380 millions d’emplois d’ici 2030...[Lire la suite : http://www.novethic.fr/isr-et-rse/actualite-de-la-rse/isr-rse/forum-de-davos-la-strategie-gagnante-d-un-business-responsable-144252.html]

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Article
17 January 2017

Time is ripe for increased international solidarity with civil society and for stronger coalitions of businesses to advocate for human rights promotion, says World Economic Forum

Author: Silvia Magnoni & Kira Youdina, World Economic Forum

"Fraying Rule of Law and Declining Civic Freedoms: Citizens and Civic Space at Risk (The Global Risks Report 2017, 12th Edition)", 13 Jan 2017

Civil society actors are increasingly looking to the private sector for support expanding their space to operate…Civil society helps to hold economic actors to account for respecting basic rights, promoting competition by creating a more equal playing field...Brain drain fuelled by unstable and corrupt environments means that business loses out on the country’s top human potential. Restrictions to the civic space risks endanger the ability of businesses to achieve their SDG targets. Increased international solidarity with affected civil society and stronger coalitions of businesses to advance and advocate for human rights promotion are concrete recommendations that have been identified by many organizations as priorities for action…Despite the global nature of closing civil society space, there is still not much awareness...about…the potential risks it can engender: increased social and economic instability, augmented social polarization, more fragile governance, and major detriment to basic civil and political rights that have been...acquired ...in the past 50 years. With technological innovation creating new opportunities for social inclusion and civic empowerment, time is ripe for all actors to come together and enable an open civic space by collectively taking measures and engaging technology to address this risk effectively.

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Article
16 January 2017

An Economy for the 99%

Author: Oxfam International

New estimates show that just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. As growth benefits the richest, the rest of society – especially the poorest – suffers...An Economy for the 99% looks at how large corporations and the super-rich are driving the inequality crisis and what can be done to change this...[W]hen corporations increasingly work for the rich, the benefits of economic growth are denied to those who need them most...[C]orporations are driven to squeeze their workers and producers ever harder – and to avoid paying taxes which would benefit everyone, and the poorest people in particular...While many chief executives...have seen their incomes skyrocket, wages for ordinary workers and producers have barely increased, and in some cases have got worse...In extreme cases, forced labour or slavery can be used to keep corporate costs down...Across the world, corporations are relentlessly squeezing down the costs of labour – and ensuring that workers and producers in their supply chains get less...Corporations maximize profit in part by paying as little tax as possible....Developing countries lose $100bn every year to tax dodging...It is the poorest people who lose out the most, as they are most reliant on the public services that these forgone billions could have provided...[Refers to Alphabet, Apple, Burger King, Facebook, Microsoft, Shell & Walmart]

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Article
16 January 2017

Davos study says businesses can unlock $12 trillion via key development goals

Author: Reuters

Companies could unlock at least $12 trillion in market opportunities by 2030 and create up to 380 million jobs by implementing a few key development goals, according to a study by a group including global business and finance leaders. The report, released on Monday by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, said pressure on business to become a "responsible social actor" was likely to grow...The study said businesses have a key role to play in achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to end poverty and protect the planet. "Achieving the global goals opens up an economic prize of at least $12 trillion by 2030 for the private sector and potentially 2-3 times more," the study said, adding this could be achieved by action in just four areas - energy, cities, agriculture and health. The $12 trillion - made up of business savings and revenue gains - would be equal to a tenth of forecast global economic output while 90 percent of the new jobs would be in the developing world, the study said...

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Article
16 January 2017

World Economic Forum registers sharp rise in female attendance since introduction of gender quota

Author: CNBC

Some of the world's most powerful, influential leaders will descend upon snowy Davos in Switzerland this week, yet how many of those voicing their opinions will be women? The answer: still a far cry from 50 percent. It's an issue the World Economic Forum (WEF) has been keen on addressing. In 2011, the non-profit introduced its very own gender quota, requesting strategic partners – made up of 100 companies at the time – to bring at least one woman for every five senior executives that attended. And there's been an upturn in female attendance since. Out of the 3,000 participants attending WEF 2017, 21 percent will be made up of women, compared to the reported 9-15 percent figure seen during 2001 to 2005, and the 18 percent seen in 2016...

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Article
15 January 2017

World Economic Forum says living standards better growth gauge than GDP

Author: Bloomberg

Developed and developing countries alike should emphasize living standards over absolute growth as the best measure of economic performance, according to the organizers of the annual World Economic Forum. Per-capita median incomes declined by 2.4 percent between 2008 and 2013 across 26 advanced economies, the forum said in a report released Monday, highlighting the "insecurity and inequality accompanying technological change and globalization." Countries should gauge their economic progress based on "inclusive development" and increase spending on programs like job training to ease the burden of inequality, the report said...To reverse slides in living standards, the forum said governments need to prioritize education, gender parity and smoothing the transition from school to work, as well as expanding infrastructure. Additionally, it said economic integration should be re-focused to emphasize making it easier for companies to trade within countries as well as between them, particularly for small and medium-sized firms...

Article
13 January 2017

Business actors can be powerful advocates for human rights, top UN human rights official says to business leaders before World Economic Forum

Author: Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

"Davos: Zeid calls on business leaders to stand up for human rights", 13 Jan 2017

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein sends a strong message to business leaders in time for Davos
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein sends a strong message to business leaders in time for Davos

The top United Nations human rights official today called on business leaders gathering at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in...Davos next week to use their considerable influence to stand up for human rights and prevent rights violations in countries where they operate. “The hard-won laws and principles of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights are increasingly imperiled, and the business leaders...have a key role to play to stem this terrible tide and to insist upon respect for human rights in the States where they operate...Responsible business relies on stability – sound institutions, the smooth functioning of justice, sustainable development and public confidence in their personal safety," Mr. Zeid said, stressing that human rights lie at the core of such long-term stability. "Companies need to take a clear, unequivocal stance that they will not tolerate links to human rights abuses anywhere in their operations and supply chains – and to have systems in place to ensure such abuses are actively prevented and promptly addressed. "

“Business actors can be powerful advocates for human rights – for the empowerment of women, for equal rights regardless of race, nationality or sexual orientation, for the rights of all to adequate housing, to an adequate standard of living, to education, healthcare and more.”

"Many companies have already begun taking steps to prevent and mitigate human rights abuses in their operations in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including by setting up ways for people to safely lodge complaints"...Many companies have also taken action to defend and promote human rights. We have seen banks withdrawing funding for projects where human rights violations have occurred, for example"...Zeid commended the steps taken by some leading companies to take a stand against media outlets peddling hate speech and xenophobic content and called on others to show similar leadership and to join in the fight for the global values that are currently under threat. 

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