How rights can lead to concrete and positive impacts for vulnerable people
a guest blog from the World Economic Forum in East Asia in June, originally posted at
By: Dan Viederman Executive Director of Verite*; Schwab Social Entrepreneur
Sometimes it feels like we in the human rights field have a branding problem. We don't have a color, like the universally admired 'green' of the environmentalists. Corporations embrace green initiatives, but stand at a public distance from rights. We are often assumed to be 'anti-progress' by standing in the way of the commerce that is needed to build wealth. We are perceived as activist and oppositional rather than supportive of governments and corporations.
Not surprisingly I have a different view. Verite focuses on implementing rights in global supply chains. Our experience demonstrates that respect for rights when practiced by corporations leads to greater income, stability and opportunity for poor people. I eagerly anticipate the East Asia Forum for the chance to connect with like-minded people to amplify this message--and to test my assumptions too.
For example, Verite has worked to address rights violations in labor migration, primarily in Asia, for over a decade. This is a problem caused by the imbalance between rich and poor in this region. It takes the form of debt-bondage, enmeshing desperate migrants with unscrupulous labor brokers. In many ways this is an ancient problem: we American grade school students learned about indentured servants from colonial times. But the modern manifestation too often sends labor migrants home no better off than when they embarked, and sometimes even poorer.
There is a small but growing collection of companies that are taking steps to eliminate the problem within their supply chains. Verite is providing them with information about their risks, and tools to solve problems. When global brands and their suppliers come together to ensure that migrants are treated ethically, the result can mean thousands of dollars additional per migrant. This implementation of rights leads to financial benefit for the worker, more remittances to the home country, and a more stable workforce for the employer.
I'm looking forward to talking about how rights -- this sometimes intangible concept-- can lead to concrete impacts for poor people and the companies for whom they labor.
*Dan Viederman has attended the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Jakarta 12-13 June 2011 and is guest blogging for the Forum
- About Us
- Get Involved