business human rights partnership

Less Blame, More Partnership


The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law recently held the third phase of a course on Human Rights, Gender Equality and Environment/Climate Change in the Framework of the SDGs in South Asia. Participants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India met for two days in Sri Lanka.

RWI’s Regional Asia Programme aims to contribute to a just, inclusive and sustainable development in the region through mutually reinforcing protection of human rights, gender equality and the environment. This course brings corporations together with other stakeholders to enhance mutual learning.

Initially, an atmosphere of suspicion loomed between corporates participants and trade union participants, says Sabastian Saragih, RWI’s Senior Programme Officer.

Differing views were clear; the private sector participants believed that the trade union members’ priorities were political, and not focused enough on productivity. In contrast, the trade union members believed that corporate participants didn’t prioritise human rights. The debate continued for a long time, until one participant spoke up and said: ‘Let’s stop blaming each other and look for potential partnerships.’”

Following that comment, Sabastian Saragih says the training ran smoothly. All participants agreed that there was a need to build structured partnership in order to spread knowledge and best practice. As a result, this phase brought seemingly opposed groups together for an open discussion about just, inclusive and sustainable development.

“We believe this is a very good outcome,” says Sabastian Saragih.

Radu Mares, RWI’s Associate Professor and Team Leader of Economic Globalisation and Human Rights, and Anisha Rajapakse, Consultant at consultant for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on the Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT), facilitated the workshop. In addition, Balasingham Skantakhumar, Senior Programme Officer for the ILO Office in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and Mohammed Zahidullah, Head of Sustainability of DBL Group-Bangladesh, shared their particular experiences from their work.

All participants from the first three phases of the course will participate in the final phase in December.

This initiative is part of RWI’s Regional Asia Programme 2017-2021 that is funded by Swedish International Development Agency.