2023 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which sought to serve as a common language for our shared humanity. This document advocated for the idea that rights cannot be given, instead belonging to every person around the world. It was a simple yet revolutionary idea, one that has had a profound impact since it was first declared back in 1948. For example, CIRIGHTS recently reported several positive human rights trends that have emerged in the 21st century, including improvements toward the right to a minimum wage, the right to a fair trial, protection from human trafficking, women’s political rights, and freedom of domestic and foreign movement
However, 2022 has seen a dramatic violations of human rights at a global scale: the war crimes committed in Ukraine, the curtailing of women’s rights in Afghanistan, abuses against LGBTQIA people in Qatar, and the rollback of abortion rights in the United States make up just some of the biggest examples. Additionally, many of the negative trends that were prominent last year are only expected to get worse as we move into 2023, from the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, China, and Afghanistan to the persistent spread of political disinformation and anti-ESG rhetoric.
Thankfully, experts have suggested that there is still reason for optimism, with ample new opportunities available to strengthen protections against violations. To assist these efforts, businesses should engage. Global citizens are increasingly turning to corporations to drive human rights efforts as recent data suggests that businesses and nonprofits are often trusted more than the government. As Edelman CEO, Richard Edelman, recently claimed, “societal leadership is now a core function of business.”
It’s already been well established how human rights violations can negatively impact a business: not only can it badly damage a brand’s reputation, but it can also hinder their ability to do business and disrupt access to key markets by scaring away investors, suppliers, or customers. There has also been a major regulatory shift towards curbing human rights violations and promoting sustainability, including expanded requirements surrounding supply chain visibility and ESG reporting and increased scrutiny regarding human trafficking and forced labor. So, whether due to a sense of moral obligation, regulatory pressure, or the fear of lost business, companies cannot afford to avoid getting involved.
There are no shortage of issues to tackle. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023, many see the path to 2025 as being dominated by social and environmental risks, including the cost-of-living crisis, natural disasters, extreme weather events, the potential failure of mitigating climate change, and growing societal polarization. The need for support and education surrounding these issues becomes more pressing every day.
As we move forward into 2023 and beyond, we must embrace the fight to protect basic human rights, adopting an inclusive approach that ensures all individuals have an equal opportunity to have their rights respected. An inclusive approach to human rights challenges, acknowledges, and values diversity, leading to more comprehensive solutions. It promotes respect and dignity for all, allows for the participation and empowerment of marginalized groups, and addresses structural inequalities that prevent certain individuals from enjoying their rights. Only by taking this proactive approach can we navigate the challenges of the years to come and lay the foundation for a better future.