By Laura Zamarriego Maestre
“Already in the eighteenth century, people, for the fact of being, are recognized individual rights. Later, in the 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution crystallized, labor rights began to be won. Are the rights of the first generation fulfilled? No. And those of the second? No. Now we are in the third, that of human rights. Are they fulfilled? Neither ”, he states forcefully.
The text that the General Assembly of the United Nations issued on December 10, 1948 still plays in the field of theory today. But the theory also moves realities, not just the superstructure. Although insufficient, it is good that human rights are there as utopian rights to walk towards. Ethical aspirations must be converted into laws or customs.
The 21st century will have to take care of a heavy heritage of human tragedies. The BBC reported that Syrian refugees with minors were illegally employed in textile factories in Turkey for suppliers of European clothing brands. Amnesty International warned of labor abuses in the cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, by suppliers that processed this mineral and then sold it to large technology companies.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have put the role of companies as key agents for sustainable development on the game board. Talking about human rights is talking about very complex problems that require shared solutions, working in a network. We need alliances, to know what the other sectors think. In this sense, the Sustainable Development Goals open the door for us to work in this collaborative way.
Companies, believe it or not, are agents of justice. One more piece of this puzzle called the global world. The key is “for people to become aware of the impact that a company has on human rights. It is an ethic of conviction. The mechanisms to transform individual sensitivity into collective sensitivity are basic ”.
"Until now, emerging countries blamed only multinationals, and multinationals on the legislation of those countries," says Isidro Boix, from CCOO Industria. "Reputational problems have to do with the impact of volunteer activity, and talking to those impacted," says Boix. Because sometimes it is forgotten that human rights are a non-negotiable ethical minimum.
Spanish companies are not immune to this challenge. The latest Report on Corporate Social Responsibility shows that 32 of the 35 companies that make up this listing index are present in at least one of the 20 countries considered to be at extreme risk of human rights violations. And there are already 23 of the 35 that explicitly report on the existence of a policy of respect for human rights within their company.
Business interest in human rights is still limited, but promising. We believe that progress is being made in raising awareness about human rights in the private sector. The SDGs have been the necessary push for the impact that companies and organizations can have on society ”, he continues.
The global agenda for 2030 takes a fundamental step: shifting the debate from why to how. All the SDGs have an impact on human rights, in one way or another, that is why it is necessary to insist on the need to build bridges and work hand in hand with the different agents.
Leonardo Pérez-Aranda, from Oxfam Intermón, acknowledges the progress that the SDGs represent “The approach that the SDG agenda made is a bit soft. Undoubtedly, it manages to transcend economics to go up one more step and put human rights-related issues on the table, but it is striking that none of the 169 goals makes an express mention of human rights. "
"We are faced with the tensions of a globalized world in which rights are combined with countries that produce at low cost, at the same time that first world countries are tempted to lower the bar on social rights," he adds. The Oxfam Intermón representative speaks bluntly: “If you have a furious short-term vision of the company, you will not solve any problem. You have to influence the strategy, the management; keep up with the times ”.