ASTANA – Kazakhstan has been implementing the Business and Human Rights project by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), designed to strengthen the mechanisms for protecting the rights of citizens by adhering to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
A National Baseline Assessment on Business and Human Rights has been conducted, paving the way for formulating a subsequent National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
In an interview for this story, Tatyana Zinovich, the acting director at the Legal Policy Research Centre Public Foundation and a member of the expert group, spoke about the legal protection of Kazakh citizens in the field of entrepreneurial activity.
What human and citizen rights are most and least protected in business?
The protection of human and citizen rights in the context of business operations in Kazakhstan is a multifaceted issue. Every human right can potentially be impacted by entrepreneurial activities in the country. Specifically, there are two primary challenges we grapple with.
Firstly, the legislation in this field does not always meet international standards, as evidenced by numerous recommendations under the Universal Periodic Review and reporting procedures to the UN.
Secondly, there is a discrepancy between the legislation and its actual application in practice, which leads to legal uncertainty and erodes citizens’ trust in the legal system. That is why, to ensure the stability of the legal order, it is important to constantly refine and enhance the legislation and ensure its effective enforcement in real-world scenarios.
It is important to note that these issues are relevant for all groups of rights affected by entrepreneurial activity, whether labor rights, environmental rights, children’s rights, the right to non-discrimination, the right to association and peaceful assembly, or others.
Kazakhstan has ratified several Conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on labor relations. To what extent are the provisions of these conventions applied in practice?
Currently, Kazakhstan has ratified 24 Conventions of the ILO.
However, it is evident that only some conventions seamlessly integrate with our existing legislative and law enforcement practices. To bolster the practical application of ILO conventions in Kazakhstan, several initiatives can be considered.
There is a need to align, adapt, and assimilate the provisions of these conventions within our national laws to guarantee their practical enforcement.
Educating and updating officials, judges, workers, entrepreneurs, and union representatives about the nuances of the ILO conventions is pivotal. Such training ensures they can interpret and implement these provisions adeptly.
Strengthening the oversight and monitoring systems related to the conventions’ norms is essential, ensuring swift identification and redressal of any breaches.
Effective collaboration with employers and union representatives is vital for cultivating more consistent and fair regulation of labor relations.
What is the purpose of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights?
The National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights is a strategic document developed by the government or relevant authorities with the participation of all stakeholders, including the state, the business community, and civil society. It performs important functions related to ensuring sustainable and responsible business practices, protecting human rights, maintaining fairness, and creating a favorable business environment.
The primary purpose of this document is to guarantee that human rights are respected and protected in business. It includes the rights of workers and the local population and society. The plan encourages companies and entrepreneurs to implement responsible business standards, carry out human rights due diligence and other mechanisms that promote ethical business behavior, and consider the impact of their activities on human rights and the environment. The plan also encourages business development that takes into consideration social and environmental factors and contributes to sustainable development and job creation while also supporting the local community.
How do you see its implementation in Kazakhstan? Which government agencies should be involved?
It is a multifaceted issue, warranting insights from a consortium of stakeholders. It requires basic research and shared experience to develop a plan that aligns with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This alignment should envelop the following foundational components – state obligations to protect human rights, corporate responsibility of business to respect human rights and legal remedies.
All key ministries and departments should take part in developing a national action plan.
Which institutions and civil society organizations should be involved in developing and implementing the action plan?
When developing and implementing this plan, it is essential to ensure broad participation and involvement of civil society institutions and organizations. This contributes to a balanced and objective strategic document. It takes into consideration the diverse interests and needs of all stakeholders.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are focused on human rights should be involved in the discussion and development. These organizations play a key role in protecting and promoting human rights. They can provide expertise and information on the human rights situation in the country and suggest measures to incorporate human rights in business practice.
Involvement of unions is imperative as they represent the interests of workers and play a key role in ensuring fair working conditions, protecting labor rights and promoting the social responsibility of business.
Representatives of business associations can provide expert knowledge on business practices and express the interests of the business community. This helps to create a more practical and realistic plan that considers the needs and abilities of businesses.
Human rights and business researchers, as well as experts, can contribute by providing up-to-date data and analysis on which to build the plan.
In your opinion, which recommendations of the experts are essential to develop the plan?
Undoubtedly, the foremost priority is ensuring the broad participation of all relevant stakeholders.
In addition, it is recommended that the plan follows international standards, such as the requirements of the International Labor Organization and other international agreements that Kazakhstan must comply with.
It is important to envisage a system for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the national plan to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness.
It is recommended to provide transparency in the development process, including access to information and public participation, which increases the legitimacy and credibility of the plan.
Dialogue and cooperation with employers, union representatives, and other social partners must be established to create coordinated solutions in labor relations and the social responsibility of business.
Lastly, the national action plan should be tailored to suit local circumstances, ensuring its feasibility and maximum impact.