Rising to the challenge on human rights

Rising to the challenge on human rights

This article was published in The Jakarta Post paper edition, Mar 4th 2017, written by our Founders, Marzuki Darusman and Makarim Wibisono.

The government of France, Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, and Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil may appear to have little in common, but today we salute them all for having risen to the challenge, each in their own way having struck a blow in championing human rights.

As founders of the Association For International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST) AISBL we are only too well aware of the difficulties encountered by those trying to ensure that human rights really are respected.

Too often, it seems, financial goals or political ideals take precedence and it takes courage to make a stand and say human rights are not negotiable.

Mayor Ridwan did that in Bandung, working alongside FIHRRST, the Human Rights Association (PAHAM) of the Faculty of Law of Padjajaran University and with the support of the European Union to complete an open, participatory, citizen-driven process that led to the Bandung Charter of a Human Rights City, which he signed on Dec. 10, 2015.

Yet it was not sufficient that Bandung be the world’s first accountable human rights city, the implementation of the Charter being subject to regular third party audit, for the mayor has continued to meet the challenges.

The latest of these, as reported in The Jakarta Post, has seen the launch of the BDGHantam Hoax campaign to counter the spread of misinformation or fake news, a scourge not just in Indonesia but worldwide.

When the Benjina affair burst onto headlines in April 2015, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry had to admit to the unpleasant truth that forced labor and slavery had become part of the fisheries industry in Indonesian waters.

In truth, it’s not unheard of elsewhere in the world, but due to an accumulation of factors the waters of Southeast Asia were rife with vessels of dubious distinction.

Rather than try and place the blame elsewhere, the Ministry has squared up to the task of combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing which is so often tied to cross-border crimes that include human trafficking and slavery among others.

Moreover, Indonesia’s vast maritime area has necessitated a bold and novel approach in the measured steps that have been taken.

Having been among the human rights experts asked to assist the Ministry, FIHRRST has been involved in the formulation of a fair and equitable regulation that will benefit a sustainable fisheries industry and those that work in it.

This was no easy task and while the Regulation on Fisheries Human Rights System and Certification was signed in December 2015, it took until Jan. 23 before the Regulation on Fisheries Human Rights Certification Requirements and Mechanism was ready for signing.

In signing Ministerial Regulation No. 2/2017, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti declared that it “creates a certification mechanism to ensure the fishing industry here is free from human rights violations.”

The legislation provides a mandatory requirement for those involved in the fisheries industry to submit the report of a detailed human rights audit in order to obtain their license to operate in Indonesia.

Supported by the Belgian government, this innovative approach is not just a world first for the fisheries industry but has also attracted the keen attention of the United Nations Working Group on Human Rights.

To those who object to mandatory legislation, one could point out that June will mark the sixth anniversary of the unanimous endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and yet their implementation in the meantime has been patchy at best.

Thus, it is not hard to argue that voluntary approaches to corporate responsibility and accountability have proven largely ineffective.

To rely on the conscience of the human psyche and assume that all will wish to comply is an obvious misconception in any human endeavor.

This was obviously in the minds of the French Parliament, which on Feb. 21 adopted a much-awaited law on the duty of care obligation.

Companies covered by the new law are required to assess and address adverse impacts on people and the planet under annual public vigilance plans.

These include the impacts linked to their own activities, those of companies under their control, as well as those of subcontractors and suppliers with whom they have a commercial relationship.

Critics may point to the fact that only a few of the largest French companies will initially be so tasked, or that the onus for bringing company default to the notice of the courts lies with the victims or other concerned parties.

Yet looking at the fuller side of the glass, France is the first country to adopt binding legislation covering all human rights abuses and creating binding obligations for parent and subcontracting companies across the whole supply chain.

This is a triumph for French civil society that has battled entrenched vested interests to take this first step.

Similar legislation is currently under consideration in Switzerland, while the Dutch Parliament has adopted the Child Labor Due Diligence Bill, and the United Kingdom has the Transparency in the Supply Chain Clause of the Modern Slavery Act.

A groundswell of support for such measures to be adopted right across the European Union is thus rising, while globally there is also the UN Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights.

These efforts have all been spurred by concerned citizens who are aware human rights are not something to be turned on and off but a vital part of one’s daily life.

As such they have been prepared to take a stand and rise to the challenge.

Thus today, and in conjunction with all the other founders of FIHRRST, we feel proud to acknowledge the resilience and determination of such world leaders in their fields as the city of Bandung and its Mayor Ridwan Kamil, Minister Susi Pudjiastuti and her team at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, and the members of the French Parliament who have so ably represented their constituents.


Marzuki Darusman is a former Indonesian attorney general and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea.

Makarim Wibisono is the former Indonesian ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in New York and Geneva.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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