Sofia’s perspective on this blog

The role of international, as well as local companies in environmental degradation in Armenia has been in the center of my attention for some time. Campaigning with other concerned people, as well as writing articles on this issue allowed me to dig deeper into the subject and find out that Armenia is only one of many countries where foreign/local private investments not only bring something positive, like employment, but also something negative, like environmental degradation. Studying at the University of Essex was beneficial in many senses, including for meeting students and professors concerned about the private sector’s role in degradation of environment, labour conditions, property rights.

It has now been a while since I started studying, working and researching in the field of business and human rights, an area concentrating on the responsibilities of the private sector in relation to human rights. This engagement in the area has allowed me to spot two gaps, however, which might create obstacles in making the private sector human rights conscious.  One is the not-yet-fully established cooperation of various groups, i.e. non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, international organizations, which work to make the private sector more responsible.  On the one hand, such a gap is due to the huge number of these actors, as well as the geographical distance among them. On the other hand, the relative novelty of the field keeps these groups concentrated mainly on researching and exposing the problems in this area.  Some of them also consult the public and private sector.  Still very few actively campaign for involving the wider layers of the society, which are directly exposed to negative outcomes of the private sector’s activities, in the process of making the private sector more responsible.

And here comes the second gap – the lack of engagement of the society in learning and acting on the role of the private sector in human rights protection.  Apart from the abovementioned reason – lack of attention of various organizations for educating and involving the society in this area, this gap is also due to the usage of corporate and legal complex language in this field, which is able to confuse the corporate-legal persons themselves, let alone the people with different professional backgrounds.

And that is one of the reasons why I would like to start this blog.  The blog will thus be aimed at translating the perplexed business and human rights language into common English for inviting everyone to learn and raise their concerns on the issue.  Additionally the blog will serve as a platform for educating the newcomers, exchanging experiences/opinions, and of course highlighting solutions.  The vision is to eventually cover the first gap (i.e. lack of cooperation) through creating strong networks and collaborations between all groups of the society for making human rights a respected domain for public and private sector.

The impacts of the private sector is experienced anywhere, from long working hours in a company without extra pay to demolition/restructuring of a historical architectural piece for serving the business interests.  These are only few of the issues we look forward to write about, as well as learn from our readers. We will try to analyse the violations, as well as create seeds for taking action.  The blog will serve its purpose, if it becomes a learning platform for everyone, including the private and public sectors. Thus we look forward to having an intensive interaction with the readers of this blog, as well as receiving comments aimed at improving our articles, videos and the overall content of the blog.  Let this blog be a source of inspiration and cooperation for all of its visitors.

Sofia Manukyan

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