Professor Surya Deva

Professor, Macquarie Law School
Australia, Hong Kong
The DTP team and its trainers are pretty good. They are committed people; these trainers work pro-bono, so they have a passion to promote human rights, and it has been a pleasure to work as part of the team.

Surya Deva is a professor at the Macquarie Law School in Sydney. From May 2016 to April 2022, he has been a member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to provide advice to UN agencies, governments, national human rights institutions, multinational corporations, trade unions, and civil society organisations in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

For several years, Surya has been one of DTP’s key trainers on Business and Human Rights – in programs in Malaysia, Thailand, Fiji and PNG – and across the Pacific. Building knowledge on Business and Human Rights is critical to DTP’s work on the rights of migrant workers, the rights of Indigenous peoples, sustainable development and climate change.

Surya sees DTP’s training as vital to bridging the power imbalance between corporations and the state on one side and the rights holder and communities on the other. He believes DTP’s training has two key strengths.

First of all, DTP’s training is “bottom-up”, very much grounded in the needs of human rights advocates and designed to enable them to have greater impact. It is not driven by the goals or strategies of donors.

“That is crucial because DTP is responding to the needs, aspirations and expectations of human rights advocates and civil society organizations on the ground.”

“The DTP team and its trainers are pretty good. They are committed people; these trainers work pro-bono, so they have a passion to promote human rights, and it has been a pleasure to work as part of the team.”

Surya believes that the significance of DTP’s training has never been more critical than now. All over the world, civic spaces are shrinking. Human rights defenders (HRDs) are being targeted for their work. They are being sued, locked up, tortured and murdered.

In this context, DTP’s training offers practical help. It builds knowledge of the remediation mechanisms that exist, and how they can be utilised to seek redress. The training helps HRDs understand the value of articulating their expectations and claims in terms of legal rights, so they can use these mechanisms effectively.

DTP helps in sharing information and good practices, facilitating peer learning, building networks, amplifying the voices on the ground, and connecting these advocates to the UN human rights special procedures. DTP offers essential tools to HRDs and works with them to use these tools.

Surya also finds the experience of interacting with HRDs in DTP’s training very moving and inspiring.

“I enjoy engaging with civil society actors and rights advocates. I don’t see training in DTP’s courses as one-way traffic where I am just training human rights defenders; their stories, their experiences inspire my thinking too. This is a great opportunity for me to learn from them. And I feel that I have some expertise to share that could assist them in their efforts and that experience is very satisfying to me.”

Surya also sees his contribution to DTP in the context of his wider contributions in the field of business and human rights. “My research, and whatever work I have done in the business and human rights field, both in the capacity of the UN mandate and as an academic, revolves around  rights and rights holders. The interactions with rights holders and human rights defenders during DTP’s courses are important for me.”

From each DTP course, at least one or two participants have contacted him to seek advice or provide an update, sometimes emailing him, thanking him, or inviting him to join some of their initiatives. Surya looks forward to continuing to work with DTP and with human rights movements and civil society in Asia and the Pacific to advance human rights and promote accountability of business.

April 2022

Programs and Events