Latin America

Since GBI began in 2009, we have had the opportunity to engage with business leaders from across the region with two Roundtable events in Colombia (2010) and Brazil (2011).  Following the latter event, our local partners in Brazil have initiated a business network on business and human rights.

Business and Human Rights Roundtable - Human Rights and Business Practices: Understanding Responsibilities - 31 March 2011, São Paulo, Brazil

The event was attended by over 120 people, including 80 business participants, 20 from civil society, 10 from academic institutions, 5 representatives from UN bodies and 5 from business associations. Moving forward, we plan to work with Cerrejόn Coal and others in Colombia to build further knowledge and commitment there.

Speakers at the event included representatives from Natura Cosmetics, Itaipu Binacional, Cerrejón, General Electric Company, Shell, Instituto Ethos, Conectas Human Rights, UN Global Compact Regional Support Centre, Latin America and the Caribbean, Grupo Libra, Institute for Human Rights and Business, Centre for Human Rights and Environment, Flextronics, and Telefonica.

“What we can do, and what we now must do with the Guiding Principles from John Ruggie, is understand that we do have a responsibility to respect human rights.  We do have a responsibility to reach out to our fellow corporate citizens to help to advance that understanding and that respect of human rights.” Bob Corcoran, Vice President Corporate Citizenship, General Electric Company and President of the GE Foundation  

 “Human rights concerns affect entire communities.  Modern communications including new technologies and variances of social networking are forcing a reconsideration of traditional corporate communication tools and strategies. Traditional corporate outreach to NGOs and to communities are no longer sufficient to properly address stakeholder concerns.”  Jorge Daniel Taillant, Strategic Advisor, Centre for Human Rights and Environment

“Large companies invest tremendous resources where they operate and that presence affects the community.  Whether one looks at it from the perspective of pure social responsibility or as safeguarding an investment, corporations have an interest in building good and sustainable relationships with their workers and surrounding communities.” Heloisa Covolan, Corporate Responsibility Director, Itaipu Binacional

Business and Human Rights Roundtable, Colombia – 24 May 2010, Bogota, Colombia

64 participants including 44 senior business leaders, 6 representatives from the Colombian Government, 4 United Nations representatives, and 10 from Civil Society attended this half-day event.

As well as CEOs and senior leaders from some of Colombia’s larger corporations, non-business organisations and individuals contributing expertise and views included the Former Vice-President of Colombia; Former Director of the Vice-President’s Office Programme on Human Rights; Special Advisor to the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights; Calvert Investments, Institute for Human Rights and Business; and the President’s Advisor on Mining, Infrastructure and Oil.

“The debate in Colombia has moved on from being related to corporate philanthropy to new discussions on business accountability and there are very encouraging figures released showing the percentage of profits earmarked for developing corporate accountability in Colombian companies. It should also be noted that Colombia is the most advanced nation in the integration of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.” Francisco Santos, (Former) Vice-President of Colombia

“How does a company show that it respects human rights?  The answer is to conduct due diligence. John Ruggie speaks of the need to move away from ‘naming and shaming’ to ‘knowing and showing’.”  Gerald Pachoud, Special Advisor to the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights

“I think Colombia is emerging not only as an example of serious problems but more positively as a model for innovative solutions.  As progress continues to be made and international recognition of that progress grows, relationships with donors can improve along with the climate for trade and investment”.  Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments and Former US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

“Emerging issues in Colombia for business include land, which for many is the core of the conflict in Colombia. More specifically, internal forced displacement, the volume of abandoned land, and informality in land tenure are relevant here. Companies are now facing the effects of a series of unresolved issues regarding land tenure in the midst of multiple conflicts that so often have resorted to violence.”  Angela Rivas Gamboa, Head of Business and Peace Building, Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP)

“In Colombia the business responsibility to respect human rights has a constitutional definition in Article 33 and Article 34 of the Charter where the connection between business and human rights is clear and transparent and to be respected by every company.  Democratic security is security for everyone not just for some.”  Jose Rafael Unda, President’s Advisor on Mining, Infrastructure and Oil