Human Asia organized the forum titled ‘Business and Human Rights: Trends and Challenges' at the Novotel Ambassador Dongdaemun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on December 4, 2020 in tandem with the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.
The forum, which was the first-ever to be co-hosted by the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, provided a space to facilitate discussion for both state and business enterprises to more effectively implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and enhance corporate responsibility.
As the supply chain of companies has recently expanded overseas due to ongoing globalization, the issue of human rights management by business enterprises has emerged as an international agenda. The roles and responsibilities of business enterprises and governments for human rights management are being consequently growing in importance and being internationally emphasised. Accordingly, in South Korea, the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea signed a MOU on May 26 to promise mutual cooperation for the domestic growth of effective human rights management, so that human rights management can further grow and be realized in private companies beyond state-owned enterprises.
Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, all overseas and some domestic speakers attended online. General attendees also attended online. Sign language interpretation was provided and the forum material book was produced with VOICEYE (voice-speaking) embedded for enhanced access.
In Session 1, moderated by Sang-Soo Lee (Professor of the Graduate School of Law at Sogang University and Executive Director of the Asia Business and Human Rights Center), activists from international civil society groups were invited to discuss various cases of human rights abuses and violations in business operations.
In Session 2, moderated by Changrok Soh, (President of Human Asia, Member of the UN Human Rights Committee on Civil and Political rights and Professor of the Graduate School of International Studies at Korea University), experts and government officials were invited to discuss international trends in business and human rights. Additionally, Seryeon Ryan Song, (Professor of the Graduate School of Law at Kyung Hee University and Executive Director of the Asia Business and Human Rights Center) emphasized the necessity of establishing a stand-alone National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights, and legalizing mandatory human rights due diligence.
Following this, Minwoo Kim (Research Professor at the International Human Rights Center of Korea University and Managing Director of the Asia Business and Human Rights Center) presented an analysis of the disclosure status of the human rights impacts assessment reports by state-owned enterprises, which was conducted by the Asia Business and Human Rights Center for the last three months. In addition, he emphasized that an increasing number of state-owned enterprises have been carrying out human rights management on the basis of the manual published by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.
Changrok Soh promised to resolve the relevant issues discussed in this forum through the Asia Business and Human Rights Center housed at Human Asia and emphasized the need for the direction and consistency of government policies.