The Conference "Climate Change and the post-COP21 dynamics"
on Thursday 9 February 2017 at 18:15
at Auditorium Louis-Jeantet, Rte de Florissant 77, 1206 Genève
with Prof. Martin Beniston, IPCC, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, Professor of Climate Science and Head of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Geneva.
and Prof. Salvatore Di Falco, Professor of Environmental Economics and Director of the Institute of Economics and Econometrics at the University of Geneva.
Thank you Prof. Beniston and Prof. Di Falco.
We will examine the latest updates on climatic change and its impacts, based on a number of concrete case-studies. This will involve for example water resources, use, and allocation. Furthermore, while we acknowledge that the COP21 agreement which was negotiated in December 2015 and ratified in November 2016 by sufficient nations in order to enter into force is an encouraging signal, there are still significant obstacles along the way. In particular, the post-Obama US administration, with a president and Congress hostile to the very concept of change, may or may not decide to pull out of the Paris accord. In addition, the fact that current commitments do not enable to reach the “1.5°C target”, nor do the economics of fossil fuels that are still too cheap to encourage a sustained transition to non-fossil energies, suggest that there are major challenges ahead. We shall therefore take a look at some of these obstacles and assess whether there is still room for optimism in the medium-to-long term future.
The Conference on Wednesday 16 November 2016 at Forum Genève.
"MEASURING HUMAN RIGHTS PERFORMANCE, METRICS THAT DRIVE CHANGE."
by Prof. Michael H. Posner
Thank you Professor Michael Posner for a wonderfully thought-provoking talk !
Introduction and Welcome message by Stephane Graber
Dear Prof. Posner, Dear Ladies and Gentleman,
In the name of the Swiss Research Institute of Commodities I would like to warmly welcome Prof. Michael Posner tonight. I would also like to thank for their esteemed presence, Prof. Victoria-Feser, Dean of the GSEM, Mr. Chenais, representative of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Loeffler, Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Security and Economy, Republic and Canton of Geneva
Prof. Michael Posner is the Jerome Kohlberg Professor of Ethics and Finance and a Professor of Business and Society at NYU’s Stern School of Business. He is a leading scholar and expert in human rights and business in various areas, amongst which the extractive industry. Between 2009 and 2013 he served in the Obama Administration as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department.
In the US you are usually advised not to speak about politics with your friends, if you want to keep them, however we will certainly not restrain the desire to ask Prof. Posner his feelings on the election of Donald Trump and the implication he sees for the future of Human Rights and social peace in the US.
But coming back to tonight’s theme, we can observe that in the last decade, a huge number of initiatives and standards have emerged to address the social and Human Rights responsibility of companies, helping them to develop a more sustainable business model.
Confronted with this multitude of available tools to run and report on the corporate social responsibility of companies, the critical question has become the measurement of the performance of such approaches, their assessment and their real outcomes.
These issues are central to the commodity trading sector. This is particular true in Switzerland where the industry represents 4% of the Swiss GDP, which is equivalent to 200 billion revenue creation, and in Geneva where the sector’s fiscal contribution represents 22% of Geneva’s budget. Geneva also plays a special role as host of the European Headquarter of the UN and the activities of the Human Rights Commission. It was therefore to be expected that these two worlds would one day find some reciprocal interest in sharing their concerns and expertise.
The sector is ongoing a fundamental evolution and is under increased scrutiny by politics, civil society, and scholars requiring greater transparency and a push towards more regulation. However, all actors engaged in the debate agree that there is lack of data on the sector, leading to misunderstandings and misconceptions, and affecting the quality of the debate and the search for and the development of solutions that are adapted to the commodity sector.
One of the objectives of the SRIC is to fill this gap, by developing cutting edge research on commodity trading, providing reliable and valid data about the sector in Switzerland to further the understanding of the sector and its activities and its crucial role in relation to food, energy and our everyday lives.
The topic addressed by Prof. Michael Posner is fundamental and food for thought for the challenges that the sector is currently facing. In particular in terms of CSR, as the sector is currently working on a unique initiative by proactively developing voluntary standards through a multi-stakeholder approach, more precisely the development of a Guidance for the whole sector for the Implementation of the UN Principles on Human Rights and Business.Now I am honored to give the floor to Professor Posner and I thank you for your attention.
In his talk, Michael Posner addressed the challenges companies are facing in these turbulent times. In the context of globalization and mounting anxiety over the trade system, expectations for companies’ accountability are growing. This demonstrates a fundamental change from the traditional approach based on the UN Declaration for Human Rights, whereby human rights protection was the responsibility of states.
With some states failing to protect their own populations, the expectations for global companies to correct these failures has increased. In this context, the UN set up a broad framework with the UN Global Compact Network and later developed the Ruggie principles to “protect, respect, and remedy”. Michael Posner underlined the important role of this initiative, opening the debate and emphasizing the importance of moving a step further to think about these questions in a practical way. Concrete measurement of the performance of companies in human rights. To do so, indicators of human rights performance need to be defined. This process has to take place within each industry.
Discussions within industries need to include stakeholders (investors, the public, authorities), and should define what is central to the business and what the standards within the industry are. In other words, it is now time to move from a mere process to measuring and evaluating performance in terms of human rights.
Finally, he addressed the role of SMEs in the process. While they do not have the same resources as larger companies to implement and define indicators measuring human rights performance, they can follow example on the latter and focus their attention on strategies related to KYC procedures.As mentioned by Stéphane Graber in his introduction, the topic addressed by Michael Posner is fundamental and food for thought for the challenges that the sector is currently facing. This is particularly so in the domain of CSR, as the sector is currently working on a unique initiative by proactively developing voluntary standards through a multi-stakeholder approach, more precisely the development of a Guidance for the whole sector for the Implementation of the UN Principles on Human Rights and Business.
Michael H. Posner is the Jerome Kohlberg Professor of Ethics and Finance and a Professor of Business and Society at NYU's Stern School of Business, where he is working to launch the first-ever center on business and human rights at a business school. Prior to joining NYU Stern, Posner served from 2009 to 2013 in the Obama Administration as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department. From 1978 to 2009, he led Human Rights First, a New York-based human rights advocacy organization.
Posner is recognized as a leader and expert in advancing a rights-based approach to national security, challenging the practice of torture, combating discrimination, and refugee protection. He is a frequent public commentator on these issues, and has testified dozens of times before the U.S. Congress.
As Assistant Secretary, Posner traveled extensively, representing the U.S. Government to foreign officials and representatives of civil society in countries of strategic importance to the United States, including China, Russia, Egypt, Burma, Bahrain, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, among many others.
Throughout his career, Posner has been a prominent voice in support of human rights protections in global business operations in the manufacturing supply chain, the extractives industry, and the information and communications technology sector. As a member of the White House Apparel Industry Partnership Task Force in the mid-'90s, he helped found the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an organization that brings together corporations, local leaders, universities, and NGOs to promote corporate accountability for working conditions in the apparel industry. He was a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at promoting free expression and privacy rights on the Internet, and has spoken widely on the issue of Internet freedom. Posner spearheaded the U.S. Government's efforts to enhance the effectiveness of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which works to improve human rights around oil, gas, and mining operations.
Posner played a key role in proposing and campaigning for the first U.S. law providing for political asylum, which became part of the Refugee Act of 1980, as well as the Torture Victim Protection Act, which was adopted in 1992. In 1998, he led the Human Rights First delegation to the Rome conference at which the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted.
Before joining Human Rights First, Posner was a lawyer with Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. He lectured at Yale Law School from 1981 to 1984, and again in 2009, when he taught with former Dean Harold Koh. He was a visiting lecturer at Columbia University Law School from 1984 to 2008. A member of the California Bar and the Illinois Bar, he received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall) in 1975, and a B.A. with distinction and honors in History from the University of Michigan in 1972. more