Who Are We?
The members of the Human Rights Partnership Program, i.e. Rhodes University, Korngold Consulting, Nyenrode Business University, New York Law School and the Netherlands School of Human Rights, welcome investment by businesses in human rights as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The directors of the Human Rights Partnership Program are listed as follows:
What Do We Do?
Companies exercise a great amount of power and play a key role in society through their economic and social strategies. Because most businesses enjoy economic success and people look up to them, businesses have the opportunity lead by example. Some companies are aware of the importance of recognising and respecting the rights of others when they engage in their business activities. All companies draw resources from the community of which they are a part; yet, only a few companies understand how vital it is that they contribute to the community in return. During the past year, the founders of the Human Rights Partnership Program have been considering a CSR-concept which will stimulate more companies to invest in human rights more meaningfully and sustainably. The result is the Human Rights Partnership Program, which is currently being set up by the participating institutions. The core principles of the Human Rights Partnership Program are commitment, partnership between companies and NGOs, and proactivity. The Program is aimed at Western companies, which intend to set up business in non-Western countries, by establishing branches or affiliates or engaging in joint ventures with local enterprises.
Our primary mission is to directly promote and protect human rights in South Africa by using the capacity, knowledge and experience of members of our organization to develop solid partnerships in the area of business and human rights. Our goal is to create an environment in the rural communities of South Africa that will lead to greater investment and sustainability, while promoting and respecting human rights and local cultures and traditions.
ü Promote positive change in policies or actions of government or relevant non-state actors in the area of human rights
ü Educate and/or train human rights victims, workers or defenders
ü Promote observance and implementation of human rights standards
ü Promote and strengthen national or regional human rights institutions or mechanisms
The South Africa project is divided into two parts: research and the pilot. Both are explained below.
Since CSR in developing countries is profoundly under-researched, this study represents a tremendous opportunity for improving our knowledge and understanding about CSR (Visser, 2008). Prior to 1994, CSR was purely philanthropic in nature. In 1994, a new constitutional framework was implemented and democracy was introduced in South Africa. The government has not passed a specific piece of legislation making CSR compulsory, but has chosen to enact several other pieces of legislation to encourage companies to engage with elements of CSR. It remains to be seen whether these pieces of legislation will produce the desired outcome in the area of socio-economic and human rights development. The outcomes of this project will be considered against such legislation.
This research is aimed at understanding the advantages and disadvantages of two models, and how to achieve the most benefits from these models from a social point of view. The models are based on two ideal types: the compulsory rule-based approach and the voluntary, cooperative partnership model.
The compulsory rule-based model assumes that a legislative and regulatory environment is needed in order to encourage CSR and ensure that companies understand their links to social concerns. Incorporated entities or directors are under a legislative duty to have regard for the interests of stakeholders other than shareholders. The legislation requires the companies to report on their progress in this area. In this way they can be held accountable by the state and the public at large. If companies fail to meet their obligations, they may be subjected to sanctions or become involved in litigation in the future.
The alternative model is voluntary and is aimed at fostering meaningful community relations through mutual learning experiences, pro-activeness, and cooperation. By working with NGOs who are familiar with the local cultures and practices, assurance can be given that the companies do not impose Western ideas of ethics on the local communities. Furthermore, this direct partnership will ensure that the relationship is not completely asymmetrical.
Using the two opposing models as a point of departure, this project will provide a clear and unbiased framework within which the post-apartheid CSR debate can be critically reviewed.
The aforementioned “voluntary model” which we are researching has never been tested; thus, its effectiveness is unknown. In order to acquire more practical knowledge on the “voluntary model”, a pilot will be set up which will match two affiliates of Northern companies operating within South Africa, with two local NGOs. Thus far, suitable candidates for the pilot project have been identified as groups of women in local communities who are attempting to start small-scale businesses of their own, and NGOs that have as their main objective poverty reduction and sustainable community development. The pilot will rely on the model developed by Alice Korngold, which has an impressive track record in matching for- and non-profit companies in the United States. Korngold Consulting will also contribute to the project. The project will be monitored through participatory observation and interviews with the main stakeholders, including company management, members of the workforce, representatives of NGOs, and members of the business community.
Benchmarks will be incorporated in relation to which the effectiveness of either model can be appraised. These benchmarks will incorporate various aspects which the two models are designed to have an impact on, such as the extent of human rights adherence by the companies, the improvement of community relations and improved management within NGO’s. Both quantified and qualitative benchmarks will be used in the project. The benchmarks will guide the review of literature on the compulsory rule-based model and the pilot regarding the voluntary, cooperative partner model.
We are currently sourcing funding to support both the resource component and the pilot project, including The South Africa Netherlands research programme on Alternatives in Development, aka SANPAD.