Experts say human rights and business do mix
Pacific businesses have been told to make human rights a key part of their business plans.
Pacific business stakeholders have been told at a conference in Auckland that human rights should be a key part of their business plans.
The Pacific Business Breakfast Meeting, organised by Massey University, was not without controversy, with one woman walking out as sensitive topics like HIV and family violence were raised.
While disasters are a fact of life that need to be better managed, violence and attitudes towards taboos like HIV might also be changed with a little help from big and small business.
Alex Perrottet went along.
The United Nations says the private sector can and should be able to provide expert help during a natural disaster, but its subregional coordinator of the Disaster Risk Reduction Office, Timothy Wilcox, told the conference it doesn't get a share of the big donations that come in after the storm, and so many of them fail. He says after the Nadi floods in 2012, 94 percent of the $123 million US-dollar loss was suffered by businesses, but if they are supported, they can play a key role in relief.
TIMOTHY WILCOX: The government has to get these supplies from somewhere, water, tents, tarpaulins, food, rope, emergency equipment, first aid kits, and unless they've got them stockpiled, they've got to get them from the private sector and if the private sector is shut down, where do they get it from? Then they've got to get it from overseas. But how do they get it in from overseas? The private sector.
But Timothy Wilcox says businesses also should do what they can, and having disaster plans and relief for staff will return dividends even to the business.
TIMOTHY WILCOX: Evidence clearly shows that when businesses look after their staff during a disaster, the staff are more inclined to stay at work and that has a benefit, everyone wins.
The UN released a new report, saying trade agreements must take human rights into account. A co-author of the report and a Pacific Policy Adviser with Oxfam, Wesley Morgan, says an example of trade impacting human rights was when the United States pressured Samoa to reverse its ban on unhealthy turkey tail imports from the US when Samoa was seeking World Trade Organisation membership.
WESLEY MORGAN: The United States trade representative really pushed for Samoa to remove the ban as part of the WTO accession package. I think it is one of the areas where people need to think hard about the costs and benefits of signing on to trade agreements. And so, for Samoa, was it worth it? That's something that needs to be investigated more fully.
But speakers said the private sector must also play its role. And it can do this in creative ways. A Country Director with the British Council New Zealand, Ingrid Leary, says issues such as gender-based violence and HIV can be taboo topics in some communities, but they can be broached through the arts and entertainment industries.
INGRID LEARY: It's touching people's hearts that changes behaviour, it's not necessarily giving them more information. So we know that photo exhibitions, documentaries, theatre, dance, music, things that move and inspire people are more likely to lead to them changing behaviour in the long term than simple awareness-raising.
Ingrid Leary's speech was interrupted by an audience member who said talking the way she did was offensive, but Ms Leary responded that all parties need to be candid - in particular some churches who could show better leadership. She also said donors should consider thinking beyong the funding of short-term projects, and pay volunteer workers a wage, so they can get on with the long-term job of changing some attitudes.
INGRID LEARY: Some of the best work in the Pacific is being done by very committed and very capable individuals who are working in a volunteer capacity because of their passion and their commitment. Those people need wages so that systems can be created to support their commitment.
Ingrid Leary said many Pacific communities have workshop fatigue and don't need to be told what to do - they need better role models and more inspiring leaders.
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