Joy Bravo, who works on the Commission of Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP), says the the issues of business, human rights and the environment is so important because it has a big impact on the most vulnerable sectors in the Philippines. “Out of these vulnerable sectors, the indigenous peoples are worst affected, especially when it comes to issues of traditional use of land, security, livelihood and health,” she says.
Bravo participated in one of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s workshop in the spring on business, human rights and the environment for Southeast Asian National Human Rights Institutions.
She says protecting the human rights of these vulnerable individuals is within the legal mandate of the Commission of Human Rights in the Philippines. One way the Commission is doing this is through being a part of the process of developing a national action plan on business and human rights that the government of the Philippines has initiated.
She says the drafting process focuses on analysing a framework, not only from the traditional civil and political rights perspective but also from the perspective of economic, social and cultural rights. The process, she says, means putting in measures to assess what impact different business coming into the Philippines have on human rights and the environment.
“In relation to this specific issue, I feel like I’m groping in the dark,” she says. “Right now, a Philippines-Australian company is coming into our region in the Philippines and it’s in the exploration stage to start an open pit mining in our region. Not only is this potential open mining pit the largest so far in the Philippines, but if it’s realised, it would be the largest so far worldwide. My concern is how I can ensure that the human rights of the people in my region are protected, as well as the environment.”
Bravo continues: “The people look up to the Commission of Human Rights in the Philippines and they rely on us to help them. But we as a Commission have limited knowledge about these issues and even though we understand the concept of a rights-based approach to development, we’re still struggling with the implementation phase. So when I was selected to participate in this workshop I felt very privileged to get to learn more about the UNGPs and other international principals and instruments so that I can bring something substantial back to my region when I return home. I know they expect that of me. It is a big challenge and a big job and I just hope I can do it justice.”
Business and Human Rights in Southeast Asia
RWI believes these types of conferences are important because the issue of business, human rights and the environment is very topical in Southeast Asia given the rapid economic growth in the region which unfortunately leaves much to ask for in terms of ensuring people’s enjoyment of human rights and the maintenance of a sustainable environment.
The Southeast Asian NHRIs are dealing with issues relating to business, human rights and the environment on a daily basis and this workshop provided a venue for them to discuss best practices and lessons learnt with each other.