Business and human rights in international development

Australia’s new approach to development assistance focuses on private sector development and pays insufficient attention to the human rights goals and obligations that should be central to our aid program. The impact is likely to be felt by some of the world’s most vulnerable people, including Indigenous communities, women and people living in extreme poverty.

In a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s inquiry into the role of the private sector in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty in the Indo-Pacific region, the Human Rights Law Centre has called for the Government to ensure that aid projects that involve partnering with the private sector do not result in human rights violations.    

“Aid effectiveness principles and Australia’s international human rights obligations require that aid and development initiatives that support companies must incorporate effective safeguards to protect human rights,” said Rachel Ball, the HRLC’s Director of Advocacy and Campaigns.     

“While the private sector has the capacity to contribute to economic growth, poverty alleviation and human development, businesses also have a track record of violating human rights,” said Ms Ball. “Programs that seek to harness the private sector, such as the Australian Government’s Mining for Development Initiative, expose the Government to the risk of supporting or being complicit in corporate human rights abuses.” 

A copy of the submission that has been redacted by the Committee can be found here.