Liberal governments and companies should work hand-in-hand to uphold human rights, renowned lawyer Amal Clooney said at the APEC CEO Summit on Thursday, calling businesses "absolutely essential" to advancing rights.
Speaking at the virtual forum in a Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting hosted by New Zealand, Clooney called for a multi-stakeholder response to preserve human rights and highlighted the increasingly intertwined role countries and businesses play in safeguarding them.
"Businesses are not only incidental, but often absolutely essential to advance human rights in our interconnected world," Clooney added.
Her comments came as political and business leaders from across the APEC region stressed on the importance of keeping human rights front and centre of decision making, at a time when socio-economic disparity has been widened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I believe we can make progress on human rights in the world if liberal democracies use the tools they have to pressure illiberal autocracies and if companies do what they can to move the needle in the right direction," Clooney said.
"If you can't rely on liberal governments to solve global issues, you have to try and inspire the private sector to step in. It's sometimes the only option given that so many of the global challenges that we face call for a multi-stakeholder response."
She cited the case of Nobel Peace Prize winning journalist Maria Ressa, who has faced legal challenges in her native Philippines due to investigative reporting of President Rodrigo Duterte's government, and who Clooney said had been attacked on social media to dent her reputation.
"Maria's case is emblematic of how human rights abuses by governments can involve companies and how online and offline assaults can intersect... Just as human rights abuses may be the result of public and private actions, so to are the possible responses to such abuse," she said.