Corporations must respect human rights when investing abroad

Toronto – Feb. 18, 2009 – While business opportunities are multiplying in the context of globalization, it is imperative that corporations respect human rights when investing in developing countries.

That point was hammered home yesterday by Rémy M. Beauregard, President of Rights & Democracy (the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development), at the Club canadien de Toronto, which brings together the city’s French-speaking business community.

“Corporations must adopt responsible behaviour in the context of the emergence of a new world order,” stressed Mr. Beauregard.

“Western societies should not take advantage of a state’s weakness to do something abroad that they would not be able to do in their own country,” he continued.

Mr. Beauregard noted that the primary responsibility of ensuring that the people’s rights are respected falls to the state. However, all other stakeholders in society also have duties with respect to human rights.

“The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every organ of society must respect human rights and secure their observance. This also applies to the private sector,” he maintained.

Mr. Beauregard’s address was the first in a series that aims to familiarize a range of audiences with the results of the Investment and Human Rights initiative carried out by Rights & Democracy since 2004.

The goal of this important initiative is to ensure that human rights are taken into account in foreign investment projects in vulnerable countries.

To that end, Rights & Democracy has developed a methodology to assess the impact of investment on human rights. One of these assessments carried out in the Philippines enabled a civil society group to submit a weighty report to a United Nations committee with the objective of having its rights respected.

“The communities affected by these projects now have the possibility of demanding that their governments, corporations and international institutions ensure respect of their rights,” concluded Mr. Beauregard.