Conversations in Human Rights series starts up

Panel-sideview 400x300The issue of corporate responsibility and human rights has increasingly become a focus of public debate and media attention. What is the most effective strategy for encouraging corporate respect for human rights? Should the United Nations move forward with the proposed treaty on transnational business and human rights, or should it focus on implementing current voluntary codes of conduct?

These and many other questions were explored September 10th during the first of this year’s Conversations in Human Rights, focused on business and human rights. Sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the series presents different issues with commentary from leading scholars and experts.

Panel participants for this event included Professor Fritz Mayer (Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke), Professor Aseem Prakash (Political Science, University of Washington), and Dr. Puvan Selvanathan (Head of Food and Agriculture at the U.N. Global Compact).

The panel explored the effectiveness of the U.N. Global Compact, a voluntary initiative covering corporate practices with respect to the environment, labor, human rights, and corruption, as well as the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted in 2011. Panelists also debated the potential of the proposed U.N. treaty to motivate corporate compliance and promote discussion of business and human rights issues.

One of the main challenges highlighted by panelists and members of the audience concerned how to properly ensure that best practices are followed throughout complicated global value chains – and specifically how to incentive big firms to facilitate compliance by smaller producers down the chain who may already be under significant production pressure. Panelists discussed whether an information model or enforcement model is better suited to improve corporate practices across the global value chain.

The panel, moderated by DHRC at KIE Project Director Suzanne Katzenstein, also addressed questions from the audience.