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11 Dec 2019
Two Human Rights Watch female staff members in front of Parliament House in Canberra holding their recently launched report entitled ‘Fading Way’

Standing up for Human Rights

On 10 December each year the world celebrates International Human Rights Day, which commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights by all UN member states in 1948, setting out for the first time a global and common understanding of the fundamental rights of all human beings. 

To mark the occasion, we sat down with Elaine Pearson, Australia Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s leading human rights organisations that Konica Minolta is proud to support as one of our community partners. 

We spoke about the significance of human rights today, and what the role of businesses and each of us as individuals can be in protecting and supporting human rights. 

Human Rights Watch is an international nongovernmental organisation that investigates and documents human rights violations and advocates for policies to prevent such abuses. 

“It’s important to reflect on how far we’ve come. Human rights are more relevant now than ever, this isn’t a time for complacency as we’ve seen that those very standards set out in the Universal Declaration are now under attack all around the world” said Elaine.

Globally some of the issues HRW focuses on include the protection of human rights in our region of the world covering current issues in China, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines, to name a few. Closer to home, HRW recently launched a report on the rights of older people in aged care homes and the use of chemical restraints, and have also worked to expose concerns around people with disabilities held in solitary confinement. These reports are made publicly available and contain a series of recommendations for governments and those concerned to implement change. 

What are the big issues for business when thinking about Human Rights? 

It’s important for businesses to protect human rights within their own organisations and we know that here in Australia there are many businesses trying to do the right thing, but it’s really important for business to take a long, close, hard look, and really think about what their potential human rights impacts might be. For instance, we’ve seen social media companies getting themselves into trouble recently. At a basic level, it’s about really making sure that labour standards are followed,that people are being paid correctly and treated properly. 

What has Konica Minolta’s in-kind printing support meant for Human Rights Watch?

Konica Minolta began providing support for Human Rights Watch here in Australia 3 years. The annual “Voices for Justice” dinner in both Melbourne and Sydney are their main fundraising events for the year. As part of Konica Minolta’s support we provide in-kind printing of the evenings’ event programmes for the dinners. The cost to source this printing commercially would be around $3000.00. This would be a cost taken directly out of the funds raised from these dinners. As a market leader in the digital print industry we can leverage our own equipment and expertise to provide services such as this at a significantly less cost. This allows HRW to keep more of their fundraising to direct towards their efforts in investigating and documenting human rights abuses here in Australia and around world. 

“We are very grateful to Konica Minolta for printing our brochures. It means we can use the funds that we raise to directly support the work that we do to investigate, report and shine a light on human rights abuses.”

One of our long-time employees, Darrell John, shared with us what our in-kind support for human rights looks like in practice and what it means to him to work for an organisation that supports the community in this way.

I really appreciate the opportunity Konica Minolta allows employees to be involved with not just our four company sponsored community partners but we have developed a second layer of community partners such as HRW. For me personally I recognise I come from a privileged background when compared to most people around the world. In return for offering my work skills to these community partners I am exposed to the work they provide to so many less fortunate people. 

What can people or organisations do to support HRW’s work and human rights more generally? ?

“It’s very important that businesses support human rights and it can be extremely powerful when business leaders stand up for human rights. More and more there are efforts to shut down the voices of human rights defenders and businesses can do work to support and show solidarity with human rights activists.”

“One of our biggest challenges is funding. We don’t take any government funding to maintain our independence, so taking a table at our annual fundraiser is a major help.”

Finally, as an organisation that seeks to shine a light on serious human rights violations and drive change, what insights or reflections can you share with us about having impact and driving change?

“Change doesn’t come overnight. It’s about persistence, being in it for the long term, recognising that sometimes more endemic structural changes can sometimes take years, but it’s about sticking with it. We know our reports have been used in international criminal cases in the Hague and all around the world and have contributed to stopping the torture and killing of people in conflict zones.”
 

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