Oliver Johnson

Oliver Johnson's profile picture

Hello! My name is Oliver Johnson, I am a final year student at the University of Brighton studying Law with Business.

I'm studying Human Rights and Business this year, and being from the UK it has allowed me to develop my knowledge and insight into countries that are less fortunate than us, where big corporations take advantage and sacrifice people's human rights for profit. 

 

Journal Entries

How multinational companies keep avoiding the threat of regulation

in Journal

Article: How multinational companies keep avoiding the threat of regulation

17th March 2015

By Flor Gonzalez Correa

This article stuck out to me as it addresses the key issue of corporation accountability. The author addresses the issue on companies avoiding the threat of regulation giving cases that provide evidence for her findings. She also discusses ways of litigation to solve the “governance gap”.

Content

Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, South Africa and Venezuela proposed a treaty to regulate transnational corporations last year. It’s been a long and complicated road to control dominating global corporations that’s been on the UN’s agenda for around 40 years.

The Draft Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations and the draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights were never finalised due to disagreement between developing and developed countries. When the norms were presented for approval in 2004, they received a fatal blow: the Human Rights Council said that it had never requested such a document and that the norms had “no legal standing”.

In 2011 John Ruggie wrote a replacement for the norms: the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework for Business and Human Rights and the Guiding Principles. These required business to respect human rights and hand states the responsibility of protecting them and providing access to effective remedy when they are violated. The Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed both documents however, some prominent human rights organisations were less optimistic and continued to push for the creation of a binding treaty.

According to the guiding principles, the state has the responsibility to create and enforce national regulations to protect the human rights of its citizens against corporate abuses; however states are not always willing or able to create and enforce such regulations. Ruggie’s documents were intended to be an interpretation of existing international human rights instruments, and they were not aimed at creating new regulations or filling any legal gaps. That is why a treaty could be useful: to create new regulations to cope with current challenges.

To be of any use, a treaty on transnational corporations will need the support of most states, so far, most of them have refused to even entertain the idea of a treaty. Fourteen countries, including France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US voted against Ecuador’s resolution and another 20 abstained. Many states insist on building upon the guiding principles, which you suspect they are aware can only take us so far.

In truth, what we are likely to see in the near future is the same story we have witnessed for 40 years. Business keeps opposing any prospect of binding international rules, however necessary. We cannot expect a credible commitment to better rules if the governments who are supposed to create and enforce them have such a close relationship with the business sector. As long as countries place the economic interests of their companies well before human rights, then efforts like that proposed by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, South Africa and Venezuela will continue to be overshadowed.

Thoughts

The principles have political and diplomatic merit. The principles certainly have political and diplomatic merit. They made explicit the human rights responsibilities of corporations and by securing the approval of the business community, making it more difficult to claim ignorance when human rights are violated. They also serve as a tool for NGO’s to pursue corporate accountability. However, the fact that the principles are non-legally binding creates an ever present risk that signatories could back off with few consequences beyond a bruised public image.

A treaty, if supported by most states, could force companies and states to put human rights considerations above monetary profits and would allow big corporations to be held accountable for their human rights violations.

 

https://theconversation.com/how-multinational-companies-keep-avoiding-the-threat-of-regulation-38795

Oil for lives? When governments help bad corporations

in Journal

Article: Oil for lives? When governments help bad corporations

24th June 2012

By Rosaria Burchielli & Annie Delaney

Content

Big corporations have been publicly named and shamed for their participation in violating human rights, and they are not always held to account. John Ruggie’s 2009 report on business and human rights noted governance gaps have appeared which create a “permissive environment” allowing corporations to act with impunity.

During the Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum case, three Western governments (UK, Germany and the Netherlands) supported Shell in the US Supreme Court, in its attempt to fight off accusations of human rights violations.

Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum is a human rights case that is currently before the US Supreme Court. Shell Oil is accused of being complicit with the Nigerian government in committing war crimes against the Ogoni tribe who were opposing oil extraction in their territory in the 1990s. The case is being heard under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) which allows foreign plaintiffs to seek justice for acts in breach of international law.

The UK, German and Dutch governments filed amici curiae briefs with the US Supreme Court, supporting Shell Oil and urging the rejection of this human rights case. The term amici curiae, literally means a “friend of the court”, providing unsolicited evidence to assist in the hearing of a specific case.

We all know that corporations provide jobs; we all understand that governments have to encourage business and economic activity; we are all clear on the fact that governments want to be re-elected, and they, therefore, do not want to annoy powerful stakeholders. But we expect democratic governments to honour their duty to represent the complexity and diversity of voices. So, when governments provide unsolicited support that promotes corporate interests at the expense of human rights accountability, it is clear that these governments are making a mistake-one which befriends the powerful corporations at the expense of anyone else.

Thoughts

Ruggie’s 2009 report gives a clear and accurate description of today’s “governance gap” which allows corporations to act with impunity. The situation worsens as well when amici curiae briefs are being used in cases in order for corporation to misinform the US Supreme Court’s considerations and avoid liability. This is an error against human rights principles by the governments and they’re breaching their duty to protect human rights. Governments that have endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights must behave in ways that are compatible with human rights protection and national foreign policy. If not, they contradict their fundamental obligations and support those who are seeking profit above the lives of human beings.

If powerful corporations and governments cooperate with one-another to avoid accountability for human rights violations, then the “governance gap” is not only going to stick around, it’s actually going to get bigger. 

 

https://theconversation.com/oil-for-lives-when-governments-help-bad-corporations-7634

Multinational corporations and human rights violations: Call for rebuilding the laws of twenty-first century (2013)

in Journal

Multinational corporations and human rights violations: Call for rebuilding the laws of twenty-first century (2013) Journal of Financial Crime 20(4)

1st November 2013

By Barcelona Panda

I chose to analyse this article because the author addresses the issue of corporations being held responsible in a court of law for their human rights violations. Barcelona states the present legal position of India concerning human rights and how to address the issue on a global scale.

Content

Multinational corporations (MNCs) have always argued that their only responsibility is to make profits for their shareholders and that they do not have any positive duty to observe human rights. However, increased power has passed into the hands of the MNCs, the boundary between the public and the private spheres has become blurred. MNCs can now affect the economic welfare of the communities in which they operate and due to indivisibility of human rights, they have a direct impact on the human rights enjoyed by such communities

India is special in that several provisions of the constitution are horizontally applicable against companies. They also have several other laws that deal with the criminal liability of companies, such as the Indian Companies Act 1965 and Indian Penal Code

To date, tort law has proven all over the world to be the strongest basis for suits against companies for a range of human rights violations. India is no exception, as tort principles have been employed to hold companies accountable for their wrongdoings. India also established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) under the Protection of Human Rights Act in 1993. Although the NHRC may not be expressly entrusted with the task of dealing with corporate human rights, in actual practice, the NHRC has intervened in some business and human rights matters.

Since early 1999 there have been numerous domestic and international accountability mechanisms, in the nature and extent to which corporations are, or ought to be, made responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights. There is no international treaty, court or ombudsman that holds corporations directly responsible for human rights violations.

The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls on “every individual and every organ of society” to promote and respect human rights. International standards referring explicitly to the responsibility of business to respect human rights include the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (1976) and the ILO tripartite declaration of principles 1977. The UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, adopted by the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights in 2003, set out with some degree of specificity the human rights responsibilities of companies. Professor John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, has been mandated by the UN to “identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability for transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights”.

The UN Global Compact, which as of December 2005 has over 2,300 participating companies, recognises that companies should respect international human rights standards. Its first two principles are:

1)      Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and

2)      Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses

In international law, there are multiple potential avenues for enforcing duties on MNCs. An international court to address MNC abuses would be possible, where bodies like the UN could develop a practice of investigating and develop mechanisms within international bodies to enforce human rights obligations on corporations. There is clearly a need for the UN to adopt a set of international principles, based on existing internationally agreed standards, spelling out the minimum human rights floor that no company should fall below.

Since the MNCs have the potential to directly affect the social, cultural and economic rights of the people of the host country, they cannot escape from such a responsibility. There are a number of factors that impair the justice of human rights violations involving companies in India. Some of these factors are:

  • Lack of laws and lax enforcement. Even if the need for a new law is recognised, the process of enacting laws may take several years.
  • Absence of robust institutional mechanisms. The efficacy and independence of Indian courts is seriously undermined by two factors: corruption and huge backlogs of cases.
  • Corruption implicated by economic and political power or a lack of confidence in the India legal system
  • A delay in judicial process
  • Ignorance of one's rights and indifference to rights of “others”. 
  • Litigation is expensive and there is limited legal aid
  • The difficulties in criminal prosecution of companies.

Human rights violations by companies may form part of their annual reports as the ministry of corporate affairs is set to introduce norms that will require India Inc. to formally recognise and comply with such rights towards all its stakeholders. A new set of guidelines being worked by the ministry of corporate affairs will require companies to put in writing before the government their respect for human rights and also report on measures that they have taken in support of that cause. A proposal to this effect forms part of the business responsibility guidelines being prepared by the corporate affairs ministry. Companies will have to explain reasons for their non-compliance, hence creating an indirect sanction. The government has adopted the strategy of “apply or explain”, which effectively means any nonconformity with the norms will have to be reported with reasons. These details will form part of the business responsibility statement, accompanying the company's annual report.

Thoughts

MNCs have an increased power in today’s society that can affect the economic welfare of the communities, having a direct impact on their human rights. MNCs cannot escape their responsibilities with today’s power, so litigation must be established to allow companies to be held liable for their violations. This article shows examples of law in India addressing this issue, however the issue with most international law is that it’s soft law and is not legally binding. The article makes it clear that its possible for an international court to address MNC abuses where human rights could be enforced on corporations. This would create a worldwide ‘standard’ for the protection and promotion of human rights concerning MNCs. The Indian government’s adoption of the “apply or explain” strategy seems very effective, therefore means any nonconformity with the norms will have to be reported in the company’s annual report with reasons.

This article has developed my thinking because it builds upon the key points that not only should human rights be respected for the sake of the individual, but human rights and the rule of law require attention and should be embraced, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it is good for business.

“Human Rights”, Foreign Policy (Mar/Apr 2004) Issue 141

in Journal

“Human Rights”, Foreign Policy Issue 141

March/April 2004

By Richard Falk

I found this article very interesting because it’s different to everything I have looked at previously. It builds upon the toipic of promoting human rights worldwide, but it discusses the most effective ways of promotion, if human rights violations have worsened in recent years and if human rights are achievable in today’s society

Content

“All persons and peoples aspire to the same human rights” is incorrect. Different people have different aspirations of human rights. After the terror attacks on 11/9/2001 the prominent U.S. legal scholar Alan Dershowitz argued in favour of legalized torture as a counter-terror measure.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) does not adequately balance rights and responsibilities which led to the emergence of “Asian Values” or “Islamic Values”. The assertion of value-based and cultural variations also represents a regional backlash against the unwanted aspects of globalization, including the fear of U.S. dominance and the loss of tradition. The strong difference between indigenous peoples’ rights has led to the development of their own framework, known as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Even unity on human rights within the West is overrated. There has been an ongoing friction between the United States and Europe on such issues as capital punishment.

“Human rights are violated more today than ever before”. Wrong! Today there is the ability to identify human rights violations more accurately and treat them more effectively; this has created the illusion that violations are more prevalent. There is more world-wide participation within human rights, as seen in the over the past six decades the UN has created a significant human rights architecture protecting many topics. Much of the credit for this upgrading of human rights should be given to nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), which took the promise of minimum standards seriously several decades ago when governments regarded such matters as either harmless pieties or as purely voluntary directives.

The war on global terrorism has challenged the protection of human rights. The war against global terrorism is far more a political and moral conflict than it is a military one. Since 9/11 the US has been reluctant to challenge the exercise of government power that has weakened human rights without strengthening national security.

Human rights violations have worsened after the attacks of 9/11. Anti-terror laws in the US have raised concerns about restrictions on human rights, and two of the worst governments in the world from the human rights perspective were responses to terrorism (al Qaeda) that changed regimes.

Multinational corporations are essentially profit-making actors without established moral obligations beyond their duties to uphold the interests of their shareholders. There are virtually no legal obligations are effective outside the protection of property rights such as trademarks and copyrights in international business activity, almost all regulation is based on national laws and their implementation. US courts have stuck down economic sanctions in response to sever human rights abuses as an interference with the foreign affairs powers. Even though economic sanctions rarely improve human rights, the underlying motivation for economic sanctions is political: why restrict business to Cuba for ‘severe human rights violations’ and not to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? A framework of international legal obligations would doubtless help protect human rights, especially in countries with minimal or nonexistent human rights regulation. But to ensure that multinational corporations from some countries would not benefit from a competitive advantage, such a framework would require widely endorsed regional and global treaty regimes.

Human rights abuses in once country can justify military intervention by others; a key example is the Yugoslavian civil war and the Rwandan Genocide which saw major intervention in order prevent further human rights violations. The intervention may have been illegal, but it was politically and morally legitimate. This gap is not desirable, but it is better than ignoring principles altogether or adopting a rigid posture of unconditional non-intervention.

Thoughts

This article is very interesting as it looks at human rights as a whole. It highlights many key points that are essential in dealing with this topic. Human rights range across a selection of people: different people have different human rights. This is a key point, however even though indigenous representatives have been used, I believe that human rights will always struggle to progress and move forward when indigenous people are so different. It will be a struggle to balance the rights and responsibilities to please the groups of people. Human rights litigation is improving with the help of NGO’s and human rights architecture constructed by the UN to bring about justice for discrimination against women, racism, children, and religious beliefs, as well as many more. The attack of 9/11 has caused a big divide, especially in the West, among people with differences. Governments such as Russia, Israel, Egypt and Pakistan have felt the opposition from the US has intensified since the attacks. The war on terrorism has become more of a priority to Western governments than human rights, and this has led to the war on terrorism weakening human rights. This article’s discussion on corporations I felt was very accurate. A corporation’s main goal is to produce as much profit as possible, casting aside moral obligations. Even when human rights violations are committed by multi-national corporations, many of the corporations get away with it for the fact that governments pick and choose who they economically sanction all based on politics.

I believe this article has been one of the most significant articles I have analysed that has developed my thinking. It has bettered my understanding of human rights as a whole, and has allowed me to look at a bigger picture, rather than just considering the relationship between human rights and multi-national corporations. 

Corporate accountability and gutting the US Alien Tort Statute

in Journal

Article: Corporate accountability and gutting the US Alien Tort Statute

 

26th April 2013

By Jonathan Kolieb

I came across the article and found it very interesting as it builds upon my thoughts concerning corporate accountability. Similar articles and views have been discussed previously in “Settlement Involving Niger Delta Fishermen Leaves Shell More Exposed Than Ever” and “Doors closing on judicial remedies for corporate human rights abuses”.

Content

  • US Supreme Court has made a landmark decision that will draw sighs of relief from corporate boardrooms across the world
  • The case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (2013) where Nigerian citizens accused RDP, Shell and their local subsidiary aided and abetted the Nigerian govt to commit serious HR abuses against the Ogoni people of the oil-rich Niger Delta in the 1990’s
  • The case was brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) whcih states that US courts: “have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States”.
  • The court has decided that you cannot employ the ATS to sue foreign companies for conduct in foreign lands in US courts any longer. A key point in the court’s reasoning was its wariness to entangle US courts in matters with “direct foreign policy consequences” for the US government
  • In the past two decades, HR activists have employed ATS as a means to hold large multi-national corporations accountable for human rights abuses committed in far-flung countries.
  • Another high profile case is Sarei v. Rio Tinto (2000) where allegations against a Australian mining company, Rio Tinto, for environmental destruction of Bougainville’s environment and complicity in serious human rights abuses committed by the Papua New Guinean government when it used military force to quell an island uprising. However the Kiobel decision has limited the ATS and it seems unlikely that Rio Tinto will ever need to plead their case.
  • As human rights activists and victims of atrocities come to grips with the shutting down of one promising legal avenue in which to pursue justice, they will necessarily be searching for another forum in which to do so. Australian courts are a potentially fertile, but largely untested, ground for pursuing human rights litigation for corporate accountability.
  • Australia is a signatory to the Rome Statute which has incorporated international law into domestic law. Australian courts have the authority to prosecute companies and hold them accountable for complicity in any such crimes committed by governments or militaries of countries where they operate.
  • Many of the judicial hurdles to succeed in an ATS claim are not applicable to the Australian legal scene. Australian has a looser notion off "forum non conveniens", a principle that requires a claim to be brought in the most appropriate forum, which makes it more amenable to cases involving misconduct in foreign countries. Existing case law suggests there can be a strong presumption for the prosecution of grave international crimes.
  • Therefore, it is possible that foreign-based multinational companies such as Shell and Royal Dutch Petroleum, as well as Australian-based companies such as Rio Tinto, could face the prospect of legal action against them in Australia for the very same sorts of alleged misconduct that they have had to defend in US courts. Australia has not experienced waves of human rights litigation against corporations to date.

Thoughts

My thoughts on Kolieb’s article are mixed. Overall the article illustrates that there has not been justice served to corporations for their human rights violations. Human rights litigation has also had a step back with the US Supreme court narrowing the scope of the ATS to be employed as an effective means of legal redress for victims of corporate human rights violations. Its unlikely Rio Tinto will ever need to plead their case before the US Supreme court; therefore corporations are getting away with human rights violations and no justice is being served.

However, positives can be taken away from this article as there is renewed motivation for human rights activists and victims seeking justice. Australian courts have the authority and the suitiable legal system to pursue and accommodate for multi-national corporations being held accountable for their human rights violations.

This article has developed my thinking concerning the approach to human rights. This article is strong evidence that reflects the world-wide approach to human rights violations concerning multi-national corporations. The US have limited the ATS so they’ll only accommodate human rights claims that involve the US which is a great example of the world’s approach: the home-state doesn't want any part in a human rights claim unless the home-state is actually involved. These thoughts have been developed from the previous article “Doors closing on judicial remedies for corporate human rights abuses”. 

 

https://theconversation.com/corporate-accountability-and-gutting-the-us-alien-tort-statute-13752

Myanmar garment industry gets ‘Code of Conduct’

in Journal

Article: Myanmar (Burma) garment industry gets ‘Code of Conduct’

5th February 2015

By Mizzima (Myanmar)

Content

  • Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) has published the country’s first ever Code of Conduct in a move that aims to set out responsible and ethical business practice. 
  • MGMA released the code after the EU-funded SMART Myanmar Programme following a comprehensive series of workshops and meetings with international bands and partners.
  • Myanmar’s garment sector and industry is growing; workers rights activists and factory workers have often complained about working environment and low wage levels.
  • EU’s SMART (Environmental, Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency) Programme aims to support sustainable production and strive to increase the international competitiveness of small and medium enterprises. 
  • SMART Myanmar says it plays an important role in improving the factories and policies allowing the industry to grow

Thoughts

EU’s SMART Programme is setting an example and showing how growth in industries can be achieved with the enactment of responsible and ethical business practice. Myanmar is an example of country using SMART as a showcase, and improving their business practice with actions like the Code of Conduct. Myanmar is only one example of the SMART Programme’s success, and this will continue to grow with smaller undeveloped countries allowing their industries and business practice to evolve and improve

http://business-humanrights.org/en/myanmar-garment-manufacturers%E2%80%99-association-publishes-first-ever-code-of-conduct#c116717

Doors closing on judicial remedies for corporate human rights abuses

in Journal

Article: Doors closing on judicial remedies for corporate human rights abuses

26th January 2015

By Sif Thorgeirsson

This article discusses the increasing lack of judicial remedies available for victims of human rights violations. The author discusses the trends and factors affecting this growing lack of remedies. 

Content

  • If companies abuse human rights, those impacted should have the right to remedy and seek legal redress
  • The right of ‘Access to Remedy’ is one of three key pillars of the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • However, the review of lawsuits against companies within the last decade shows little improvement for victims hoping to access justice, and it’s continuing to get worse.
  • The two key trends are:

-        The venues where human rights claims take place are closing and multinational companies move away to new venues. The home state doesn’t provide sufficient access to judicial remedy for their companies’ abuses abroad, as a result there is no justice

-        Legal harassment is increased of those working to hold businesses accountable for human rights abuses

  • Many victims of corporate abuse have no judicial access to remedy in their own country, so they file lawsuits in the country where the company is headquartered (home state)
  • Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has profiled 108 legal cases of human rights abuse with a vast majority being extraterritorial claims
  • A detrimental turning point against extraterritorial human rights claims was the US Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v Shell [2013], which led to only one out of nineteen extraterritorial human rights claims being heard in US courts. The other eighteen were dismissed because of this presumption against extraterritorial claims
  • Victims seeking legal remedy in UK courts have been challenged by the 2012 new legislation which limits the funding of extraterritorial claims
  • Leigh Day, a leading law firm taking on transnational corporate human rights cases in English courts, says the number of cases being heard are near zero, however there has been some out of court settlements, like Shell’s payout to the Bodo community over oil spills (as discussed in the previous journal)
  • Even though the scope for remedy from US and English courts has been narrowed, there has been an increased in the number of cases filed in Canada, France, Switzerland and Germany
  • The second trend is the legal harassment of human rights defender. They are increasingly subject to legal attacks in an effort to impede their work, for example Andy Hall, a British human rights and migrant worker rights advocate based in Southeast Asia, who documented violence against workers, child labour and other abuses at a Thai pineapple processing factory. The company filed criminal and civil charges against him that carried an eight-year prison sentence and fines of over $10 million.
  • The law is a tool that has been sharpened for business, but dulled for human rights defenders.

Thoughts

There are far fewer lawsuits than the number of cases of human rights abuse, this shows that there are very few victims that are able to access judicial remedies in the company’s homes state. Homes states must do more to ensure that victims of abuses have access to legal remedies. Without legal remedy to enforce human rights obligations, companies are able to operate with impunity and too many do. Meanwhile victims of abuse and advocate on their behalf are left vulnerable to legal harassment and without justice.

Building on the thoughts from last week, this shows the big picture of how little justice there is in concern to human rights abuses by multinational corporations. Companies can act with no consequences in all corners round the world, and the majority of the time get away with it.

 

https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrightsopenpage/sif-thorgeirsson/doors-closing-on-judicial-remedies-for-corporate-human-rig

Settlement Involving Niger Delta Fishermen Leaves Shell More Exposed Than Ever

in Journal

Article: Settlement Involving Niger Delta Fishermen Leaves Shell More Exposed Than Ever

12th January 2015

By Peter Frankental

Content

  • Shall has exposed hundreds of thousands of people to oil pollution in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta. The impacts of the oil pollution has caused serious health risks from the oil itself, drinking water, fisheries and contaminated air.
  • The court action taken by the Niger Delta fishermen has had a greater consequence than a  UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) report in 2011
  • UNEP were very clear in blaming Shell and the Nigerian Government. The report’s main recommendations were for Shell to overhaul procedures for the oil spill cleanup and remediation, as well as improving on their contracting and supervision.
  • Evidence given in the court case shows how Shell has ignored the UNEP recommendations, and made false claims about the impact and size of the oil spills.
  • This case has revealed Shell’s attempts to defend itself from culpability from oil spills in the Delta that has affected many other communities.
  • After decades of pipeline neglect, Shall has put itself in a situation where it may have to show in future court cases that it has taken adequate precautions to prevent oil spills.
  • The Bodo case significant in moving us close to the truth and helping bring about accountability in the future for Shell’s actions, and other companies operating in a similar context.
  • The court action against Shell was brought by Amnesty International; a non-governmental organisation focused on human rights. The Bodo case shows why Amnesty International puts such a strong emphasis on access to judiciary remedy for victims of corporate abuses.

Thoughts

This article and case shows that large corporations that violate others’ human rights can and need to be punished in the eyes of a court room. Organisations, like Amnesty International, are the only sought of legal tool that can bring consequences against corporate abuses because international law is either voluntary or non-binding therefore there’s no considerable backbone to the law, and even when corporations have breached international law, like the UN’s Guiding Principles, there are no consequences for the corporations to deal with.

I believe that non-governmental human rights organisations, like Amnesty International, are the only way that large multinational corporations can be brought to justice for their actions, especially with the current relevant international law.

 

http://www.ihrb.org/commentary/niger-delta-fishermen-shell-settlement.html

Businesses have a role promoting peace in conflict zones

in Journal

Article: Businesses have a role promoting peace in conflict zones 

22nd September 2014

By Oliver Balch

This article allows me to broaden my knowledge, especially concerning corporations actively respecting and promoting human rights. You mainly hear about big corporations violating these rights, but this article give me the opportunity to learn about how big corporations are promoting human rights. 

Content

  • Coco-Cola is promoting global peace in its new advert filmed and aimed at the Congo, as well as the rest of the world
  • The advert promotes the celebration of Peace Day on 21st September, which calls for the world to stop fighting for 24 hours and celebrate non-violence. In 2008, this celebration resulted in violence decreasing by 70% in Afghanistan.
  • The event organiser, Peace One Day, has announced that businesses need peace otherwise the company won’t be able to work in the conflicted area
  • Unilever boss Paul Polman heads a ‘corporate coalition’ which states how much businesses must promote peace in order for business to grow
  • Business can model good practice and provide work to struggling communities worldwide
  • Simon Constantine, head of ethical buying at Lush, concedes that businesses too often fail to protect human rights in conflict and post-conflict zones. “It’s time for business to review how it conducts itself and plan for long-term positive solutions, as opposed to short-term destructive ones in these regions”, he argues.

Thoughts

Peace Day is a very good idea because not only does it promote peace on a global scale but it has provided results of decreased violence in conflicted areas. The whole promotion by businesses shows that some companies are actually interested in promoting a good model to undeveloped corners of the world by the large amounts of money invested into projects round the world. It also restores your faith as an individual in humanity, in the terms of very powerful companies are still trying to do some good in the world. These projects allow great employment opportunities for undeveloped areas to engage in positive activities and achieve a better standard of living. A key underlying motivator for this occasion is the opportunity for 1st world countries to teach they approach and mentality to corners of the world that still suffer from ancient problems such as homosexuality. It will shows places like the Congo that non-discrimination to many different groups and many different acts is accepted and normal in developed countries, which in hindsight can promote the respect of human rights.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/sep/22/businesses-role-promoting-peace-conflict-zones-drc-palestine

Kenya: Camac Energy stops oil exploration in forested area after locals protest

in Journal

Article: Kenya: Camac Energy stops oil exploration in forested area after locals protest

24th November 2014

By Daily Nation

Content

An American firm, Camac Energy, exploring for oil and gas on Kenya’s coast has cancelled its seismic study from proceeding in the Arabuko-Sokoke forest following opposition by local community. Camac moved into Kenya in 2012 and maintains it has had the necessary clearance from the government and its agencies, as well as receiving the necessary approvals. Camac’s asset portfolio consists of nine licences across four countries (approx. 10 million acres): Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.

Thoughts

In this week’s journal I looked at the above article on a foreign company exploring oil and gas, similar to Talisman in Sudan. The article was quite brief so I decided to do further research on Camac Energy’s influence in Africa. The main question I wanted answering was how similar is Camac’s presence in Africa to Talisman’s presence in Sudan.

My first thought on the matter was that Camac had respected the opinions and the human rights of the local community, and cancelled their seismic study in the Arabuko-Sokoke forest. This differs from Talisman because throughout their oil exploration there was no evidence of them respecting the local community’s human rights. I wanted to see if Camac presented this respectful image throughout Africa. My further research showed that Camac did maintain this respectful image; both Kenya and Gambia had made on oil exploration blocks on Camac accessing different parts of the countries, and Camac had respected these wishes. This differs from Talisman, because in this scenario it  feels as if the African governments are in charge and Camac is respectively following their wishes, where as in Sudan it felt as if Talisman had a greater power and were not subject to any wishes of the government or any agencies. The Canadian government were the only power that Talisman seemed to respect during their time in Sudan. The only drawback of Camac’s presence was that in April 2014 tensions were rising between Ghana and Nigeria because of disputes over oil ownership. This point shows that whenever individuals have the same proprietary interest in a material, especially oil, this often brings tension. 

This article shows a great advancement of the development of communities' human rights, however when there is converging interest tensions seem to rise which lead to violations. 

 

http://www.nation.co.ke/business/Oil-explorer-shifts-study-from-forest-amid-protests/-/996/2531072/-/qwkn27/-/index.html

Qatar’s response to abuse of migrants on World Cup 2022 is ‘woeful’ says Amnesty International

in Journal

Article: Qatar’s response to abuse of migrants on World Cup 2022 is ‘woeful’ says Amnesty International

14th November 2014

By Ben Rumsby

This article provides evidence of human rights violations committed by not only a multinational corporation, but the government as well.

Content

  • Amnesty International claim that Qatar is guilty of a ‘woefully insufficient’ response to the death and inhumane abuse of migrant workers helping to prepare for the World Cup
  • It’s been suggested that hundreds of workers have died, tens of thousands have been victims of routine abuse, as well as human trafficking and forced labour while building the tournament infrastructure
  • Many workers lived in labour camps that slept up to fifteen in a room, with no electricity, running water or air conditioning, and with sewage leaking from the streets
  • There have been multiple reports of physical abuse and blackmail
  • This report has built in Amnesty International’s report from last year that contained a year’s worth of evidence of human right abuse. A year on from that and their latest report claims there has been little progress

Thoughts

Qatar is luring migrant workers to work within the World Cup under slave labour. Once they have lured the workers in, they are unable to leave because Qatar make it impossible to leave the labour camp without an exit permit that must be signed by the worker’s employer. Qatar knows exactly what they’re doing by violating human rights: they feel as if they can take advantage of migrant workers believing them to have little human rights because they don’t possess national membership. They’re not only exploiting vulnerable individuals that are searching for employment, they’re also inhumanely abusing them within their workplace. 

This developed my thinking on the topic because it opened my eyes up to the fact that not only are corporations violating human rights, but the governments who are supposed to be protecting people's human rights are violating them as well.

 

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/11224538/Qatars-response-to-abuse-of-migrants-working-on-World-Cup-2022-is-woeful-says-Amnesty-International.html

Gold Rush: Striking inequality in rural Tanzania

in Journal

Article: Gold Rush: Striking inequality in rural Tanzania

8th January 2014

By Tony J Spence

This article builds on my knowledge of real life cases concerning human rights and business. It will help develop my thinking illustrated in my portfolio. 

Content

  • Tanzania is one the largest producers of gold in Africa. It is estimated that the production of gold counts for 3% of Tanzania’s GDP. Small-scale mining, called artisan mining, is responsible for a sizeable percentage of all exports, but with a distinct lack of regulation in this sector local communities are exposed.
  • The scale of productivity of this industry paints a positive picture of high and rising revenues and high employment, but what is hidden below the surface is a structure that benefits the rich while the poor stay in a steady state of poverty
  • The origins of the Mining Act 1979 and the Mining Act 1998 aimed to establish stricter regulations and better environmental and safety standards for artisan miners
  • However Tanzania’s artisan towns demonstrate that these policies have been forgotten:

-        Miners are working 24 hour backbreaking days using nothing but hand tools to break their way through solid rock

-        Miners frequently find themselves falling down deep dark pits

-        Drug and alcohol abuse is also rife as the chosen method to ease the gruelling workload and blunt the awareness of danger

-        Disease, illness and serious accidents are a part of the mining process from toxic gases and particles, as well as the lack of safety precautions

  • Life as an artisan miner means working in perilous and unhealthy conditions everyday with no safety equipment or regulation, consequently creating an unsettling atmosphere which nurtures a life of substance abuse
  • The mining land is controlled by a local director and an exterior investor which results in drastically low wages, deception and months on end with no pay
  • The artisan miners’ lack of power results in profound violation of their rights. The level of hierarchy suppresses the voices of the miners and renders them powerless
  • Many local communities are reliant on mining as a source of income-this leaves entire populations dependent on an industry that cannot provide their basic needs or future opportunities
  • The investors of the minors are meant to help the communities according to the Government, but this is extremely rare. Some communities are given zero access to water despite the plentiful supply is pumped by the mine only a few kilometres away
  • Lack of Government regulation has led to the exploitation of artisan minersàthe Mining Act 1998 prioritised medium and large miners to increase gold production and encouraged free trade movement which aimed to increase individual and state welfare, but this has led to an unequal system where the Government is unable/refuses to monitor it
  • An immense amount of capital is generated from the mining industry but an unfair structure established by unchecked power of private owners constitutes an unequal distribution of wealth

Thoughts

Wealth is not going to be distributed fairly if the poor and marginalised people in the mining society keep having their civil rights denied. Not only is the unequal distribution of wealth and the worsening of poverty in mining communities the fault of private owners, but that of the Government’s as well for turning a blind eye to these breaches of human rights and not addressing them before. It is vital that the voices of the artisan miners are heard and that the Tanzanian Government must renew their focus on enforcing policies that regulate and improve the artisan mining industry. 

If Tanzania wants to move forward as a country and an economy, then there needs to be reform throughout many of the Government policies in order to move towards a brighter future that is poverty free

 

http://www.theforeignreport.com/2014/01/08/gold-rush-striking-inequality-rural-tanzania/

BP faces High Court trial for environmental damage in Colombia

in Journal

Article: BP faces High Court trial for environmental damage in Colombia

13th October 2014

By Leigh Day (Human Rights Law Firm)

This first article is my starting point: it allows me to build upon my knowledge and thinking of corporations being held accountable for their human rights violations.

Content

  • Colombian farmers are bringing legal fight against BP to the high court in the UK. This is one of the largest environmental legal cases in UK history.
  • UK courts will be asked to assess whether BP breached agreements with Colombian farmers and were negligent in causing environmental damage to the farmlands due to the construction of the OCENSA oil pipeline across their private properties in the mid 1990s.
  • The 73 farmers, known as ‘campesionos’ will argue that they didn’t understand the initial contracts with BPXC (BP Colombia) and that they did not receive full or fair compensation for environmental damage.
  • This comes one month after that BP were ruled “grossly negligent” in the ‘Gulf of Mexico’ disaster and cold be facing costs of $17.6bn in fines.
  • The OCENSA oil pipeline was project undertaken by BP in mid 1990s in partnership wth the Colombia national oil company and four other multinational companies after BP discovered more crude oil in the Cusiana-Cupiagua oil fields
  • BPXC entered into contracts with the farmers to lay the pipeline through their private land. The farmers claim the construction of the pipeline has caused:

-        Severe soil erosion

-        Sedimentation of lower lying fields and water sourcesàthe sedimentation of wells has left some farmers seeking alternative drinking water sources

-        Reduced vegetation coverage and areas for pasture

-        Blocked up vital water sources

  • The court will hear claims that BPXC played a central role in the design, the implementation, the management of the projects and the construction process, and that if BPXC are liable for the damage to the campesionos’ land.

Thoughts

BPXC have breached their contract and the campesionos human rights by damaging their farmland. This is where commercial and personal interests of land conflict. BPXC sees the land as larger profits, where as the campesionos see the land as their home, a source of food and income, and a place of recreation as stated in the article. It’s good to see that huge companies like BPXC are being held accountable for their actions in breaching human rights, especially when those actions are in the remote corners of the world. 

 

http://www.leighday.co.uk/News/2014/October-2014/BP-Faces-Trial-for-Environmental-Damage-in-Colombi

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Are corporations held accountable for their human rights violations?

"Are corporations held accountable for their human rights violations?" This question has been the foundation for the construction of my portfolio. It has developed my understanding of human rights and business, and has allowed me to finally answer the question.

It seems in today’s society that many human rights violations are brought within the public eye, however no one is held accountable for them. Multinational corporations have a lot of power and often take advantage of less fortunate countries, and seem to believe that they can act without being held accountable for their actions. This question builds on this issue, as it investigates whether corporations are held accountable for their human rights violations or if they avoid accountability and people continue to suffer at their hands with no consequences. 

“1. Yes” argues that corporations are held accountable for their human rights violations, and gives cases where this occurred.

“2. No” disagrees with the first page and argues that corporations are not held accountable for their actions. It discusses the legal structure of human rights litigation concerning multinational corporations and provides cases where corporations avoid accountability.

“3. Joining the Movement” discusses cases where corporations are actually making a positive effort to promote and respect human rights.

“4. Is it time for change?” discusses the litigation that concerning human rights and business. Most multinational corporations who commit human rights violation do not commit the crime in their home-state; therefore this involves international law which is difficult and controversial area. This page is discussing whether changes should be made to the international law, and if so what changes.

“5. Conclusion” concludes the overall question. It gives the arguments from both sides and any recommendations to solve the issue. 

Oliver Johnson's portfolios

1. Yes

This page includes the portfolio's journal entries that show that corporations are held accountab...

2. No

This page includes the portfolio's journal entries that show that corporations are not held accou...

3. Joining the Movement

These journal entries are different to the previous entries because it doesn't answer the questio...

4. Is it time for change?

This page looks at the journal entries that discuss human rights as a whole. They discuss the glo...

5. Conclusion

This page concludes on the overall question. 
5 results