Sadly, four NZX50 companies recognising the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights seems really good when one remembers that only 1 out 50 has a female CEO.
As I sit typing this on our 17-hour flight back to NZ, unable to sleep, I’m able to reflect on the fastest 2 weeks of my life, and in particular, what I learned in the 3 days of the forum. The sessions were all very different but very informative, to the point where I’m a little overwhelmed (or maybe just a little jetlagged!).
Human rights are something that we often bring up in many discussions across the United Nations. Next year in 2019, it will mark the 70th year celebration on the Universal Declaration of Human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on the 10th of December in 1948, which consist 30 articles that outline the most fundamental rights for every human being. Being in the diplomatic city of Geneva, surrounded by the UN human rights headquarters, it has been rather an interesting journey in learning about the work of UN on human rights and the involvement of UN agency such as International Labour Organisation (ILO), Plan International and the New Zealand Permanent Mission in Geneva.
Whilst learning about the work that's going on behind protecting and exercising fundamental human rights, a question was brought up upon - whilst we celebrate the successfulness of the advance we have today and the celebration of embracing all cultures, there is so much more work to be done, so much more unforeseen issues to be discussed. With a total budget of 2.6 billion USD, the suggestion that the United Nations might not be able to afford to solve all the human rights issues in the world perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise.
The current state of human rights globally is under pressure, it is no longer a priority but rather a pariah. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being a declaration, it is not legally binding but carries moral weight and values. For decades, men and women across all states who have stood and survived the two world wars has understood utterly the idea that there will be no peace without justice, no development without better standards of life, and there will be no freedom without social progress and collaborations. But as decades went by, the generation is departing. In an era where racist can deliberately discriminate in public whilst fully dress in democracy and uphold the rule of law, we are backsliding in our effort to find a common solution.
Human rights are threatened, as many leaders around the world consider such concept as "outdated", criticism is made abruptly and publicly towards the progress made amongst women's rights, indigenous rights and many others; space for civic activism is shrinking, the fear that advocating for something that is fundamental ensuring the safety of us; and the contempt of the rights of people are masked, as they are forced to flee from their home in order to escape prosecution. With the legitimacy of human rights being attacked, we question ourselves: How are we able ensure that these human rights are exercised correctly, to strength the human rights across the globe and make it more "normal"?
Luckily, we are talking about human rights and human dignity, and this should be done without borders. In an emerging society, many are fighting to make human rights accessible to all. Take an example of the implementation of the UN Forum on Business and Human rights, this has opened up global ethical dialogue in regard to how we address key issues and challenges faced in the business and human rights sector. With a theme of "Business on Human Rights - build on what works", it will allow us to have an extensive insight on corporate responsibly in regard to human rights and how we can advance further progress on human rights in the future in terms of AI intelligence and machines.
As for now, we are at a pivotal point in history, where we are not too late to make a difference. I look forward to participating fully in this conference and gather insights on this new innovative partnership between business, government agency, civil society and international organisation. Stay tuned for my experiences at the UN BHR 2018.
Wow, we’ve only been here a week, but it’s been a week jam-packed full of meetings and tours! Just thought I’d share a bit about what we’ve been doing and some tips for any of you who might be travelling to Geneva.
Before I could take a break, 2018 has already come to an end. In just less than 2 hours, I will be hopping on a 24-hour flight to Geneva, transitioning at Doha. It has been a rather tough year, transitioning into first year university and officially moving out of home, plus constant travelling around the country and the globe. Since attending the 9th University Scholars Leadership Symposium (USLS) this August in Bangkok Thailand, I have been anticipating attending the UN BHR – United Nations forum on Business and Human Rights conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Although it is not my first time in Europe, it will be my first time flying alone to one of the world’s diplomatic capital since I turn 18.
My very first UN experience occurred earlier this year in Bangkok Thailand, where I was selected as one of the two young journalists in the southern hemisphere on behalf of YRE (Young Reporters for the Environment) global to attend the conference. The experience I have gained from this conference was rather eye opening, as it made me realized that climate change affects all aspects and it is interconnected with all parts of the SDGs. Unlike my two-other amazing delegates Katrine and Libby, I am someone who comes from a strong background of environmentalism, I have focused my activism work around climate actions and environment protection rather than human rights. In saying so, I do have high expectations for this conference as I am going in with an open mind, hoping to hear about some of the world’s most complex problems in person and network with other youth delegates in a global scale.
Leading up to my departure from Auckland, I had some time to reflect on how I would maximise my time in Europe. One particular thing that has crossed my mind is what is the one thing I would like to learn more about, from attending a conference that is in a field that I am unfamiliar with. Just as I was typing away on my laptop and reading upon recent articles, a NZ herald article with the title of “Air New Zealand scraps single use plastic from flights” caught my attention. With the biggest New Zealand airline removing a further of 14 single-use plastic products from its flights over the next year, this sure is good news on reducing anymore single use plastic heading into landfill. Just like that, a thought occurred to me – heading into a UN forum based on business and human rights, I could possibly research into how more NZ business can become more sustainable and contribute to reducing carbon footprints locally. The forum is a perfect opportunity for me to ask the question of how local business in NZ can to be more sustainable; how can we help small enterprise to learn the impact climate change has on them and reduce importing plastic packaging from overseas; lastly, how can we as consumers create a difference in the supply-chain process?
And just like that, anxious and excited at the same time, I am on my way to Geneva. In a year filled with ups and downs, I cannot be readier to expand my horizons furthermore and get to know my other two delegates on our 11-day journey in Europe.
It’s a little daunting, knowing I’ll be in Europe for the 1st time in a little over 24 hours, but when you’re in the world’s diplomatic capital, it’ll be an incredible experience regardless of the small hiccups we might experience.
The Age of Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence presents exciting opportunities for everyone but it also presents challenges such as protecting people’s right to privacy. I am really looking forward to attending sessions on disruptive technology at the Business and Human Rights Forum next month.