Traditionally, the delivery of human rights has been the responsibility of the State. But the rapid growth of corporations and the impact of business on the lives of people have given rise to global debate on the roles and responsibilities of the business sector with regard to human rights.
In June 2011, the Human Rights Council had adopted the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘the Guiding Principles’). These were developed by Professor John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights. They emphasise the duty of the State to protect human rights; ensure that other actors respect human rights; and ensure access to remedy in the case of violation of rights.
In Malaysia, the impact of business activities on human rights is becoming clearer. Many people are expressing concern about the arbitrary manner in which corporations carry out their activities. Their level of understanding of human rights and social responsibilities, and commitment to fulfilling these responsibilities, are still in their infancy. Therefore, SUHAKAM is working on stepping up awareness programmes for the business sector, including government-linked companies.
(i) SUHAKAM-RWI Research Project
In late 2012, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) had given the Commission a grant to research ‘The Role of SUHAKAM in Addressing Corporate Human Rights Violations: A Study on Logging and Plantation Industries in Malaysia’. The Commission selected the topic in light of issues raised during the National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Malaysia (NI).
The Commission has organised separate discussions with these industries and alleged victims – mainly involving the indigenous community – to gather input. The report was submitted to RWI on 19 December 2013.
(ii) Impact of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on human rights in Malaysia
Principle 9 of the Guiding Principles requires the State – while providing investor protection – to retain adequate policy and regulatory ability to safeguard human rights when negotiating investment treaties, free trade agreements or contracts for investment. The Commission has been monitoring the negotiations on the TPPA to ensure that the Government puts in place safeguards as envisaged under of Principle 9. It also reiterates its call to the Government to ensure that all trade agreements are in line with obligations under UN treaties that Malaysia has signed – the CRC, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and CRPD.
RTD on Business and Human Rights in Malaysia, 5 June 2014 – click here for further information