Business practices in focus on Human Rights Day in the Philippines

The EU leads in integrating business with human rights, while promoting responsible business conduct in its external policy.

Cover - Human rights integration in business practices made a key focus of Human Rights Day in the Philippines

In observance of this year’s Human Rights Day (10 December), the EU Delegation to the Philippines (EUD) partnered with the University of Asia and the Pacific to carry out a seminar from the less often explored angle of business.

Business and Human Rights: Challenges and Opportunities’ took place 12 December 2022 on the university’s Pasig City campus, in cooperation with the School of Social Sciences, Law and Governance. Presenters from the EU, UN and Philippines discussed the EU’s direction — in parallel with UN guidance — on these cross-cutting issues, along with government initiatives and private sector best practice in the Philippines.

The panel discussion tackled the question of how the Philippines can ensure economic growth while respecting human rights, and looked at the international, national and corporate policies in place for businesses to implement their obligations in this regard. Discussants stressed that businesses have the power to drive equality in the workforce and community, along with a responsibility to protect their partners, workers and consumers.

It was attended by 60 representatives from the Philippine Government, business associations — including those with a focus on women and sustainable development — and CSOs for human rights, environment and climate change, in addition to diplomats from Spain, Poland, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland and UN officials from human rights and labour bodies OHCHR and the ILO. Youths were also an integral part of the seminar, with student leaders attending from academic institutions across the Philippines and Australia. Besides the host university, others present included Ateneo de Manila University, Far Eastern University and the University of Melbourne.

In his opening remarks, EU Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Luc Veron made clear the seminar’s message that ‘human rights is good for business’. He explained how increasingly complex and global supply chains require high human rights and sustainability standards, and that the EU requires that companies active and competing within its internal market respect these standards.

The EU supports the international approach outlined in the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which stresses that not only do states have a duty to protect human rights, but companies also have a responsibility to respect them, including in their global supply chains. The Philippines has continued to observe Human Rights Day since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

On the backdrop of the seminar, EUD has been actively campaigning on social media such as Facebook to mobilise further stakeholders around its business and human rights aims and increase awareness of their importance amongst the general public.

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