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Human rights dilemmas

Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum

Multi-national companies (MNCs) with operations or extensive supply chains in emerging economies are often faced with a multiplicity of challenges in their efforts to respect and support human rights. Identifying, exploring and resolving dilemmas in the most responsible way is an important part of the human rights due diligence increasingly expected of responsible business. In many cases however, these situations have no short term or straightforward solutions that will satisfy all stakeholders.

The Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum is an online, multi-stakeholder platform, developed by Maplecroft and the UN Global Compact for MNCs with operations or supply chains in areas that present high levels of risk to human rights protection. The Forum is designed to help business understand and share experiences of real-world dilemmas, and to provide a platform for NGOs and other stakeholders to contribute and comment on suggestions. It also provides an extensive collection of resources for responsible organisations wanting to respect and support human rights - even where the means of doing so is not immediately obvious.

Launched with 25 dilemma topics, the website will enhance the collective understanding of human rights dilemmas for business. It offers users the opportunity to share, explore and discuss a wide range of dilemmas and good practice in an online forum. The Forum also provides a series of case studies from MNCs or multi-stakeholder projects involving MNCs, as well as links to resources and suggestions from international expert bodies working in the area of human rights and business.

Dilemmas for business

By undertaking analysis of human rights risks relevant to business in the fastest growing emerging economies including the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), the Next 11 (which include Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, Viet Nam) and those countries where their capital is most integrated (for example, natural resource producing countries in Africa) , we have identified a range of real-world dilemmas and analysed an array of approaches taken by companies across different sectors.

Current dilemma themes include:
Access to water Child labour
Community relocation Conflict minerals
Corruption Doing business in conflict-affected countries
Ethnic minorities Forced labour
Freedom of association Freedom of Religion
Freedom of speech Gender equality
Health and safety HIV/AIDS
Housing Human trafficking
Indigenous peoples Living wage
Migrant workers Privacy
Product misuse Security forces
Stabilisation clauses Working hours
Working with state-owned enterprises

Online discussion

We invite you to discuss dilemmas, share insight and suggest good practice. The Forum respects the fact that different stakeholders will have different viewpoints about how to address some of the dilemmas we identify, including whether they are even dilemmas in the first place. However, the spirit of this endeavour is to stimulate constructive discussion about the options available for responsible business.

The UN Global Compact and Maplecroft have presented initial suggestions that are designed to stimulate commentary and further insight. They are not final statements on the subject, nor are they prescriptive. We invite you to comment through the Forum and provide a deeper exploration of the dilemmas and issues at stake - including your own experiences.

Case studies

Each dilemma is supported and illustrated by good practice case studies. Case studies have been developed in close collaboration with a range of MNCs and relevant government, inter-governmental and civil society stakeholders. Featured organizations include but not limited to:

  • The Responsible Cotton Network
  • HP
  • Chiquita
  • Adidas-Salomon
  • The Open Net Initiative
  • Timberland
  • Standard Chartered
  • Cisco Systems
  • The Nike Foundation
  • De Beers
  • Gap
  • The International Cocoa Initiative
  • Manpower
  • Talisman Energy

The case studies explore the specific dilemmas and challenges faced by each organisation, good practice actions they have taken to resolve them and the results of such action. We reference challenges as well as achievements and invite you to submit commentary and suggestions, to either deepen the analysis, share disagreements or alternatives and to provide other dilemma examples that you would like to see explored.

The Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum is produced jointly by the United Nations Global Compact and Maplecroft, and is funded by the GE Foundation. Unless otherwise indicated, the content of the Forum or any materials posed within the Forum are not intended to reflect the official positions, views or opinions of the UN.