Why We Renamed the Human Rights & Business Roundtable

Published January 14, 2014
By J. J. Messner
Fund for Peace - Global Square Blog
View comments
When The Fund for Peace’s Human Rights & Business Roundtable was founded in 1996, the relationship between business and human rights was a hot topic, and one that called for much debate. Nearly two decades later, though human rights remains a core theme, the Roundtable has broadened its scope of issues, particularly around implementation and good practices. The Roundtable now examines issues as diverse as sustainable livelihoods and foreign direct investment – though these issues can certainly have a human rights angle, such topics are unarguably much broader than that.

Thus, 2014 will mark the change of the Human Rights & Business Roundtable to become the Security, Rights & Development Roundtable to better represent the nature of the issues that we discuss, and to also be more reflective of where modern discourse on corporate practice has moved. We have phased the word “business” out of the name, not because business has ceased to be a key stakeholder in human rights issues, but instead because we recognize that a multitude of stakeholders have immense responsibility and potential for positive change on the issues we examine: business is simply one (albeit important) stakeholder.

Name change aside, the ultimate mission of the Roundtable will remain unchanged: to promote the rule of law and open societies. The Roundtable was the first forum designed for multinational businesses and mainstream human rights organizations to discuss issues of common concern in an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust, and confidentiality.

Recently, the Roundtable has tended to focus exclusively on the extractive industry, although the lessons learned and case studies of the Roundtable provide value to all sectors. Though we will continue to give special attention to the oil and mining sectors, we will double our efforts to include other industries in order to learn from the lessons those other sectors have to offer, and to allow those other sectors to benefit from our dialogue. In 2013, we welcomed participation from business sectors as diverse as manufacturing and finance. The Roundtable will thus continue to be an invaluable resource for corporations, civil society, government, and international organizations to work together to promote sustainable development.

By drawing upon the knowledge of subject-matter experts and the experiences of case studies provided by professionals in the field, the Roundtable will carry on providing the international business and NGO communities with the practical tools to navigate today's security, human rights, and development challenges.