First Business and Human Rights training for Government Officials in Viet Nam

Apr 18, 2018

Respect for human rights in business is a win-win for both Government and businesses. Good for human rights, and good for business. Ensuring responsible business behavior puts a focus on how the profits are made by businesses -rather than how the profits are spent, and an essential Government strategy to attract investment and ensure sustainable social development.

This is a core premise of a training workshop on Business and Human Rights for Government officials, the first of its kind in Viet Nam, delivered in April 2018 by the Central Institue for Economic Management (CIEM) of the Minsitry of Planning and Investment (MPI), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the United NationsChildren’s Fund (UNICEF).

According to a forecast by Goldman Sachs in 2015, Viet Nam’s economy will become the 17th strongest in the world by 2025. Rapid economic development brings with it a unique set of both opportunities and risks to human rights protection.

Opening the training workshop, Dr Nguyen Dinh Cung, President of CIEM, said: “Business must uphold human rights norms and standards in their practices and the State must take the lead”.

According to Ms Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Country Director in Viet Nam, the UN Guiding Principles have been championed by some of the largest multinationals in the world, who recognize that respect for human rights is the only sustainable strategy for continued growth.

“While Industry 4.0 with enhanced automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence will bring clear benefits to increased productivity, we know it also raises fundamental challenges to ensuring that No One is Left Behind,” Ms Wiesen noted. “There is a need for guidance on some tough questions, such as: What does it mean for those who can be skilled and retrained and those who can’t? What do these innovations mean for social protection? Who will be able to adapt quicker and who will be left behind?”

Ms Lesley Miller, Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Viet Nam highlighted that children are consumers, family members of employees, young workers and members of the communities and environments in which business operates and said “In order to ensure that the negative impacts of business on children are minimized and the positive impacts maximized, it is essential that government takes appropriate action to protect and promote children’s rights in the context of business operations”. Examples were shared by UNICEF on how governments can ensure that all business activity respects children’s rights through laws, policies, research, monitoring, awareness raising, and remedies.

Representatives from UN agencies then presented the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Children's Rights and Business Principles, Women Empowerment Principles and discussed how these principles can help the Government and businesses better understand their duties and responsibilities to protect and respect human rights.

Taking the participants through the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, Ms Marianne Oehlers from UNICEF, said: “Women working conditions impact directly on their ability to invest, care and protect their children”.

Meanwhile, Ms Vu Phuong Ly from UNWomen called for gender equality in Viet Nam’s labour code. “77 industries remain restricted or off limits to women in Viet Nam. Women should be allowed to choose where to work, and be supported in pursuing their carreer,” she said.

Introducing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights at the training, Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai, lecturer of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, said: “Mark Zuckerburg’s failure to foresee risks to human rights abuses in sharing user’s data is type of situation the UN Guiding Principles are trying to prevent”.

More than 30 representatives from Government ministries and academia participated in the training and explored measures Viet Nam can take to match recent positive steps in ASEAN, taken by Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, to ensure greater protection for human rights from irresposnble business behavior. Participants also discussed to identify new ways for building a business environment in Viet Nam that creates a healthy race to the top, where the incentives to protect human rights help business to grow./.

 

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