Human Rights Snippets

28 January 2005

‘The human rights abuses in Congo have been aided and abetted by the business community, those companies in pursuit of natural resources…but if ‘we’ go, who delivers services, provides the example of how it could be done…we do not always have the choice to withdraw without destroying our business, and I believe that we can engage in ways that help the community…companies with a good HR record will be seen to do well…but what about this issue of a levelling playing field…in extractives, huge royalties are paid to governments, and there must be a case for transparency…the publish what you pay initiative…but companies who take a lead on this, like BP, find it hard if governments will not make all companies do this…same with pharmaceutical pricing, where collective approaches are needed…there is a clear lack of global governance that delivers a level playing field…who will regulate…BP’s experience is some what overstated, they ‘lost’ revenues equivalent to $4 BILLION…it is clearly in businesses interest to promote certain types of regulation…the most fundamental regulation that would help would be protection of property rights and the rights to do trade freely…this would enrich poor people and promote economic efficiency…when you pay a decent wage and have concerns about health and safety, then you incur a cost disadvantage compared to local companies, who care less, we lose business for exactly this reason, so I would be in favour of a level playing field…our experience with the Kimberly Process has worked well in addressing human rights issues, we (De Beers) have signed up to the EITI, but it going nowhere unless governments own it more fully, business needs NGOs, and these initiatives work because of them, their courage and insight, we do need your advice, Save the Children will not engage with us, and we would like them to…De Soto’s view of property rights as human rights is interesting…we have to resist the mafia for example in Russia that openly dispossesses small business people…are governments supporting this, why do they do nothing…if there are no human rights, there will be no business, we have to have independence of justice, freedom of speech (in Russia, we have freedom of speech, the problem is after the speech), the Yukos case is just one example, it happens all the time in Russia with small and medium sized businesses…we must be careful to avoid HR being applied to a narrow issue, such as conditions in jails, we must make sure that we go to the heart of the political system, not tinker with outcomes…the HR community is concerned about the fight against terrorism, how do we find the right balance between the two, but a positive HR rights is essential to defend us all against terrorism, which breeds where HRs are missing.’

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