On July 25 I had the opportunity to meet with the former commissioner Markus Loening, it was the German government’s Commissioner for Human Rights, and actually is the Vice President of the ALDE party in Europe and an advocate for responsible business.
The interview was made in one of the most popular monuments in Europe and worldwide, The Reichstag building.
The Reichstag building, is a historical edifice in Berlin, Germany. Markus Löning with me there on a private visit to the German parliament Bundestag. The building is has many stories, and you can still see the walls of the old building preserved the past and the modern. We were in the lounge of the parties, where the CDU party is the most popular.
Within the parliament there is also a religious services room, but it does not have holy or religious statues, only a cross. I noticed paintings by local painters and a kind pieces in exhibition, if a church is modern and has not religion. (See more on the video).
The Dome is large and impressive, and looks like a hurricane.
The large glass dome at the very top of the has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The main hall (debating chamber) of the parliament below can also be seen from inside the dome, and natural light from above radiates down to the parliament floor.
A large sun shield tracks the movement of the sun electronically and blocks direct sunlight which would not only cause large sunspot, but dazzle those below.
My first question,
1. What, exactly, is your job and how do you do it?
During my mandate as the Federal Commissioner for Human Rights of the German Government companies came up to me saying they wanted to implement the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights into their operations but didn’t quite know how to achieve that. There was a lack of knowledge about what respecting human rights actually means when you’re a big corporation. Where actually are the risks if you’re working with a global suply chain and how can you tackle them? Companies operating worldwide obviously have a big impact. They provide jobs in emerging markets, they can contribute to economic growth but they need to be aware of the socio-economic context and make sure they do no harm.
My work is to advise companies on possible human rights risks in their supply chain and develop strategies to identify and contain these risks. We have developed a five-step-toolkit that creates transparency, reduces risks and develops the opportunities that lie in a responsible supply chain.
2. What kind of companies exploit their workers and are there general trends and patterns?
Abuses happen across countries and industries. Slave labour for example is an issue even in the EU and the US. Generally speaking more abuses will take place in countries where institutions are too weak or not willing to meet their duty to protect human rights. Managing your suppliers well and making your supply chain more transparent will always reduce risks. Companies assessing their risks should make sure they have an outside view, someone that tells the the uncomfortable truth if necessary. Secondly they should establish a dialogue with different groups of stakeholders to make sure they will get the news if and when new risks or abuses occur.
3. How do you get companies to change their practices? Do you sue them or is there some other means to work with the government in the country to affect change?
Companies will only change if the leadership makes a clear commitment to respect human rights. This is the starting point. Next steps beyond analysing supply chains is the work on policies and attitudes. Staff will need to be trained to understand the concept of human rights and its implications for a company’s daily operations. Most people are very happy to make sure their work has no negative impact on other people’s life but usually they don’t know how to go about it. Giving your staff the right guidance and the tools will change your company fundamentally to the better.
Thank you Markus Löning.
We talked about many things: your collaborations around the world, the death penalty and the broken system of prisons in some countries of first world, the rights to the freedom of expression in both writing and speaking. I learned a lot and I am happy to have the opportunity to meet people who inspire me and to work to make this world better. Thanks Markus for the honor.
Markus Löning (born July 2, 1960 in Meppen) is a German politician (FDP). He was from 2010 to 2014 Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid. He previously from 2002 to 2009 Member of the German Bundestag and from 2004 to 2009 regional chairman of the FDP in Berlin.
Article by Angelica Ferrer
All the best
https://youtu.be/pXFEqbQgL-Y video from Snapshat