Vienna, Austria – The Austrian AWEPA Section hosted, together with the Network for Social Responsibility (NeSoVe), an event on the topic of human rights and economy entitled “Menschen, Rechte, Wirtschaft“ on 17 November 2014 , within the framework of the NorthSouthDialogue programme.
During the event, the trend in Austria to increasingly put economic cooperation in the focus of development policy in order to improve the lives of people in the partner countries in the South, went hand in hand with the discussion about which demands internationally active companies should meet in order to actually achieve this goal.
If “northern” companies are doing business in the “global south” questions regarding their responsibility in terms of human rights violations arise – not only since the terrible events of “Rana Plaza” in Bangladesh. Within the European Union provisions of labor law and consumer protection law are quite comprehensively protecting human rights.
At international level, the UN Human Rights Council voted in June 2014 for the establishment of a working group to develop a binding international instrument on business and human rights. The resolution (“Ecuador initiative”) found worldwide support, but was rejected by Austria.
As part of an Austrian Development Agency (ADA) funded project on human rights and corporate responsibility entrusted on the Network for Social Responsibility (NeSoVe), a study was commissioned on the legal situation and regulatory gaps in relation to human rights responsibilities of Austrian companies operating outside Europe.
The study entitled “Human Rights and Business Abroad – Measures recommended to safeguard Human Rights effectively on activities of Austrian enterprises abroad” was presented at the event in the Austrian Parliament.
The study includes individual measures on how to induce positive changes in terms of the universal implementation of human rights on legal level. The Austrian government is not only responsible for the enforcement of human rights in Austria, but in all countries in which Austrian companies operate.
With this study, the political decision makers should be stimulated to enforce a change of policy.
Voluntary CSR activities proved not to be an adequate response to the urgent issues related to human rights violations. The regulatory gaps in Austrian law, as well as measures to enable a more effective binding legal protection of foreign activities of Austrian companies, are set forth in detail in the presented study.
This event was a cooperation of the AWEPA Section in the Austrian Parliament, more specifically Hon. Bures (the President of the National Council), together with the NorthSouthDialogue of Parliaments, and the Netzwerk Soziale Verantworung. Hon. Bayr, Austrian MP and Head of the AWEPA Section played an active role in the event with her welcoming words and concluding remarks. Also Hon. Huainigg Deputy Head of Section was present.