Advancing the business and human rights agenda: Dialogue, empowerment, and constructive engagement

As corporations are going global, they are increasingly confronted with human rights challenges. As such, new ways to deal with human rights challenges in corporate operations must be developed as traditional governance mechanisms are not always able to tackle them. This article presents five different views on innovative solutions for the relationships between business and human rights that all build on empowerment, dialogue and constructive engagement. The different approaches highlight an emerging trend toward a more active role for corporations in the protection of human rights. The first examines the need for enhanced dialogue between corporations and their stakeholders. The next three each examine a different facet of empowerment, a critical factor for the respect and protection of human rights: empowerment of the poor, of communities, and of consumers. The final one presents a case study of constructive corporate engagement in Myanmar (Burma). Altogether, these research projects provide insight into the complex relationships between corporate operations and human rights, by highlighting the importance of stakeholder dialogue and empowerment. All the five projects were presented during the Second Swiss Master Class in Corporate Social Responsibility, held in Lausanne, Switzerland on December 12, 2008. The audience for this conference, which examined business and human rights, was composed of researchers, governmental representatives, and business and non-governmental organization practitioners.
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