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Human Rights Day

December 10, 2011

By Mercy Investment Services Social Responsibility Team

On December 10, the United Nations observes Human Rights Day to mark the anniversary of the signing of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The focus this year is to pay tribute to all human rights defenders and ask all to be involved in the global human rights movement.

Mercy Investment Services addresses human rights on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy through its shareholder advocacy with companies across major industry sectors including hospitality (e.g., hotel chains, airlines) with a focus on trafficking of women and children, Department of Defense (DOD) contractors with a focus on human rights policy, and extractive (e.g. mining and mineral companies, with a focus on community impact in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Peru). 

In the hospitality sector, we’ve succeeded in having Delta and Wyndham Hotels sign the ECPAT Code protecting children from human trafficking. In fall 2010, Mercy Investment Services began a new approach to its engagement with DOD contractors. Mercy Investment Services and Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) colleagues requested that DOD contractors review company policies related to human rights to assess areas where improvements were called for under international human rights standards. Many investors have been learning about the DOD contractors and continue to challenge them to enhance their human rights policies.

As a result of the recognition of the significant ways that companies can impact human rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a set of principles for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impact on human rights linked to business activity. Named after their author, UN Special Representative John Ruggie, they consist of three core principles:

  • The duty of States to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business enterprises;
  • The corporate responsibility to respect human rights including avoidance of infringement on the rights of others and addressing adverse impacts when they happen; and
  • The need for greater access by victims to effective judicial and non-judicial remedies.

Companies must have policies in place that protect and respect human rights and procedures for remediation should violations occur. Using the new tools found in the Ruggie framework, Mercy Investment Services will continue to engage companies to assure that they are respecting human rights across industry sectors.

Learn more about Human Rights Day on the UN website.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 1, 2012 9:34 am

    If the UN tells states that they need to protect women and children as they are extremely vulnerable and the international community ought to be careful with what is published in the Economist and Newsweek about nation states, who may not have the capacity or know how to handle the situation. In most cases, these women and children are lured, tricked or taken on as domestics and innocently one thing leads to another….
    I was appalled by a report published in the 7th April, 2012 of the Economist where the Courts in Brazil after one act of sexual activity deems a young girl a prostitute–the question then is ” how can a prostitute be raped?” Why do some states legalise prostitution but yet in other nation states it is deemed human trafficking? We are taught as lawyers, that there ought to be consistency in regularisation.
    I would think that empowerment is a much better option and the fact remains that it is religion that keeps us cognisant of our responsibility as human beings not only to fellow man but to keep our heads when it comes to distinguish between right and wrong!

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