News story 13th Mar 2014

UN business and human rights principles focus of workshop

How can the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights help businesses avoid contributing to human tragedy and take steps to remedy past wrongs?

These are the questions Shelley Marshall from the Department of Business Law and Taxation will answer at an upcoming workshop entitled 'Business and Human Rights: Introduction to the UN Guiding Principles' held as part of the the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) Victorian Division's Business and Human Rights Workshop Series 2014.

Workshop

Ms Marshall is an international expert on corporate accountability, conducting research on business behaviour and human rights in India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bulgaria and Australia. Her work focuses on the human rights impact of Australian and UK businesses overseas.

"This workshop is being held almost one year after the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, when 1,129 people died when a building housing numerous garment factories collapsed," Ms Marshall said.

"The Rana Plaza tragedy brought international attention to the human cost of failing to respect human rights in business practices, with many high profile international brands found to be associated with the catastrophe."

Under the UN Principles, states have a responsibility to disseminate and implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Australia is yet to release its National Action Plan.

The Rana Plaza tragedy brought international attention to the human cost of failing to respect human rights in business practices, with many high profile international brands found to be associated with the catastrophe.

Ms Shelley Marshall

Department of Business Law and Taxation

"Though some steps are being taken in this direction, currently, Australia has very weak systems for setting clear expectations for Australian companies to respect human rights wherever they operate – whether in Australia or overseas," Ms Marshall said.

"Perhaps more alarmingly, we lack a firm process for obliging companies with the worst human rights records to change their behaviour."

Keynote speakers, including Oxfam's Corporate Accountability and Fair Trade Adviser Daisy Gardener and Sarah McGrath, Adviser to the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, will address what companies can do and steps that the government is taking.

The UNAA Business and Human Rights Workshops bring together experts and practitioners from across business, government, and civil society with the aim to provide a unique learning forum on how to integrate the responsibility to respect human rights into corporate structures and operations, including through partnership and collaboration.

The first workshop for 2014, 'Business and Human Rights: Introduction to the UN Guiding Principles', will be held at Level 12, 469 La Trobe Street, Melbourne on Monday 17 March 2014 between 8.30am and 12.30pm.

For more information on the workshops and to register, visit the UNAA Victoria website.

By Shelley Marshall

  • shelley-marshall-pr

    Ms Shelley Marshall

    Department of Business Law and Taxation Monash Business School

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