Working on human rights legislation pertaining to the private sector is essential to protect individuals and communities from injustices or damage caused by businesses. Jordan is among the first Arab countries to sign the International Labor Organization conventions. However, Jordan’s legislation regulating labor and human rights needs to be further addressed. Moreover, there is a need to address the absence of civil society organizations and local communities representatives in accountability and sustainable development projects.
In a bid to tackle these issues, ARDD held a roundtable titled “Strategic Development of Business and Human Rights Framework in Jordan” on October 26, 2022. The meeting was hosted by the Jordanian Businessmen Association (JBA); taking part in the meeting were the Professor of Human Rights and Business at Sciences Po University Paris, Research Director of the Observatory on Human Rights and Business in the Mediterranean, Felipe Daza Sierra, JBA board member and former member of the Jordanian Senate, Michael Nazzal, Lawyer at the International Criminal Court, International Mediator Expert, Jordi-Palou Loverdos, and Jordanian senator and JBA Secretary General Abed Al Rahim Boucai,
Economist Raad Tal moderated the meeting, which he said, establish strategic work on the human rights and business agenda toward economic growth through collaboration.
ARDD Chief Executive Director Samar Muhareb said the fact that JBA hosts the meeting indicates the openness and flexibility of the private sector, as well as of the importance attached to human rights, in this case in the field of business, which needs a legal framework in order to protect the private sector and the communities it serves. This should not be difficult since international legislation dealing with this issue exists, “and we ought to learn about it and use it for the development of our private sector”, she said, adding that civil society aims at acting as a mediator between the private and public sectors in their effort to ensure respect for human rights and economic growth.
Daza Sierra said the pandemic caused political and economic stagnation, made many families lose their incomes and many sectors to struggle. The war on Ukraine that followed brought even more economic challenges, including inflation. “These successive crises are the reason for our presence here today, to take a look at these challenges we are facing collectively and acknowledge the role of civil society in helping communities survive in these challenging times,” he said. Daza Sierra added that one of the state’s most important responsibilities is to ensure the protection of human rights of individuals working in the private sector, especially since “there have been increasing violations of human rights, particularly by multinational businesses, and it is important to make them abide by the UN principles guiding businesses approach to human rights. He stressed that “Jordan has a huge opportunity to adopt and follow political and legal tools and arguments to progress toward sustainable economic and political development”.
According to Nazzal, Jordan was one of the first Arab countries to introduce strict labor and human rights laws and establish specialized courts. He highlighted the effectiveness of the Kingdom’s defense law that prohibits employers from terminating contracts, unlike wealthy countries where there is no such protection. “We have respected human rights since the beginning of time, and we refuse exploitation of labor. We want to build countries able to compete with the West, and ensure decent lives for the youth and workers, rather than just applying minimum wages” he added
Loverdos said the UN is responsible for ensuring respect for human rights globally, “but currently it has become the responsibility of the state to protect communities and businesses, and to develop various tools to ensure it”. He added that the Sustainable Development Goals advocate a common international framework for the development of businesses.
Boucai reiterated that labor rights are protected in Jordan and that unions are ensuring it. He also said that implementing international instruments could conflict with national laws and that imposing strict laws on businessmen will backfire on the job market and increase unemployment. The solution, he said, lies in the creation of a safe work environment for all. He added that the private sector is not against modernization and the protection of labor rights, but seeks balance and solutions that consider the interests of both parties.
Participants recommended collaboration among the private and public sectors and civil society to develop the human rights and business agenda, and monitor compliance, and transparency in all dealings to enable civil society to learn about challenges and try to help. They also stressed the need to research the social and legal aspects of labor rights to make them work in the best interest of workers and business owners and create a welcoming investment environment.
This series of dialogue sessions are part of the Design and Determine Project implemented by ARDD with funding from the European Regional Development and Protection Program (RDPP II) for Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, which is supported by the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland, and Switzerland.