In the past few years, the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) region has become increasingly engaged in the business and human rights agenda, including input form government, civil society, business and national human rights institutions into the work of the former UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights. GBI sought to support existing efforts and forums, and convened a business roundtable in Malaysia in November 2011 and a business roundtable and conference in Indonesia in 2014.

Conference - Understanding and Implementing Respect for Human Rights in a Business Context 6 November 2014 – and Business Round Table Dialogue on Developing a road-map for enhanced business commitment and practice related to human rights and our society - 7 November 2014

On 6 November 2014 a unique and timely conference was held in Jakarta. Over 200 representatives from Indonesian private and state-owned enterprises, multinational companies, and civil society experts convened to exchange experiences, share challenges, and suggest ways forward regarding human rights in a business context.

Featured speakers included representatives from Acuatico, Adidas, Asia Pulp & Paper, APRIL Indonesia, Bank Negara Indonesia, BASF, Better Work Indonesia, Chevron, GE, HP, Motorola Mobility, Novo Nordisk, Sampoerna, Shell, Sintesa Group. Sime Darby, Total, and the United Nations.

Following the conference, on 7 November 2014, senior business leaders from Indonesian and multinational companies convened for a three hour dialogue on enhancing business commitment and practices related to human rights and societal impacts. The dialogue was attended by 30 senior business leaders and focused on the human rights practices, challenges and experiences of companies operating and investing in Indonesia and ASEAN and recommendations for ways forward to support business catalyse leadership and action on respect for human rights in practice.

The convening partners recognized that there are existing practices on areas of human rights by businesses headquartered and operating in Indonesia. There is also clear leadership from key individuals, businesses and organisations that are committed to advancing business and human rights learning, understanding and practices. From the meeting’s key messages and themes, a proposal for next steps and action was recommended. KADIN and HRRC have signed an MOU to establish cooperation on business and human rights. A work plan will be finalized in early 2015.

“Indonesia could be a leader in implementing the UN Guiding Principles for two reasons: we are nation with a population over 240 million with economic potential in the context of growing democratization; and there is a reposition of economic giants and leadership globally… We are looking to the Indonesia business community to align itself to best practices on business and human rights and to follow the UNGPs.” Marzuki Darusman, Executive Director, Human Rights Resource Centre

“Human rights is being mainstreamed into the business discourse. Human rights will become innate in our cultural DNA. Doing well, doing good – it makes business sense.” Felia Salim, Vice President Director, Bank Negara Indonesia

“This is a new beginning for us, a new journey. Companies need to learn from each other. The journey will require business learning and sharing of experiences.” Shinta Widjaja Kamdani, CEO, Sintesa Group

“KADIN is pleased to discuss respect for human rights, dignity and the relationship of this to the private sector. Throughout all activities we recognize that companies should consider the implications of their activities on human rights. Today is only the beginning and it is my hope that it paves the path for future.” Suryo Bambang Sulisto, Chairman, KADIN

“Indonesia and ASEAN have vibrant, market-based economies operating in diverse industries. Economic progress must be matched with social progress so that Indonesia is a good place to invest. This issue is a strategic necessity for our prosperity and growth.” Makarim Wibisono, formerly Executive Director, ASEAN Foundation

Business and Human Rights Roundtable -  Implementing Corporate Respect for Human Rights – 10 November 2011, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This one-day Roundtable was aimed at business leaders from the ASEAN region and was attended by over 130 participants including over 90 from business, 9 representatives from UN agencies, 16 from civil society, 10 from academic institutions and 5 from business associations. This meeting was the first of its kind in ASEAN.

Speakers at the event included representatives from leading businesses such as Sime Darby, SN Aboitz Power, The Coca-Cola Company, Vale, General Electric Company, Millenia Hotel Private Limited and Flextronics; from regional bodies including the ASEAN Foundation; National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs); and from NGOs and Civil Society groups including Oxfam and the Institute for Human Rights and Business.

“The genius of the UN Guiding Principles is that they provide us with a very streamlined framework of how business, big or small, can approach that work. The opportunity presented by the Guiding Principles is for business to be proactive in a way that is not being pushed by external stakeholders but for the business to decide in their own way how they are going to go about that. All companies need forums like this to exchange views and learning.” Ed Potter, Director, Global Workplace Rights, The Coca-Cola Company

“We cannot have a sustainable business if we have issues in the community.  Recognition of human rights is something we are all aware of – is it the very basis of respect and dignity, but businesses don’t see much cause for concern in our country.  We need to make sure there are common standards, methods and indicators so we can measure against others.” Manny Rubio, President and CEO, SN Aboitz Power, Philippines

“Our previous understanding of CSR was around investment and philanthropy. The UN GPs and other codes of conduct and initiatives that have similar writing and similar processes to the UN GPs are really about the core business.  These processes will require a lot of dialogue among stakeholders and learning around the challenges that each will face.”  Alexandra Guaqueta, Lecturer at the School of International Studies, Flinders University

“Increasingly companies from this region are becoming international ambassadors – they are investing abroad sometimes in fairly difficult places and if they end up operating without a framework or an understanding of human rights they will have problems.  Avoiding complicity requires due diligence.” Salil Tripathi, Director of Policy, Institute for Human Rights and Business