Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Business & human rights: Weekly Update - February 27, 2008

From the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre:
Weekly Update: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - 27 February

CLICK THIS LINK FOR ALL TOP STORIES added past 7 days / Principales
noticias / Articles de premier plan:

The top stories include / Las noticias incluyen / Les articles

* War on Want issues legal challenge to UK Govt. over failure to
introduce law regulating private military & security companies

* Yahoo! asks US Govt. to help free 2 imprisoned advocates in China,
who were arrested after Yahoo! complied with Chinese investigators

* BBC discussion on business, human rights & global standards, with
Lisa Misol of Human Rights Watch & others

* USA: Alaskan native villagers file lawsuit against oil & energy
companies over flooding caused by climate change, & misleading information
- Defendants include BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil,
Peabody Energy

* Dem. Rep. of Congo: Companies consider options as govt. mining review
demands increased revenue & social programmes

* CIDSE (coalition of Catholic development agencies) submission to UN
Special Representative John Ruggie

* Orissa, India: ArcelorMittal pledges $250 million to resettle
villagers who will be displaced by steel plant

* Kazakhstan: Govt. gives ArcelorMittal a month to implement coal mine
safety measures or could face closure

* Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative: 7 new countries become
- Publish What You Pay says govts. & companies "must deliver" - Only 3
of 37 companies endorsing EITI have complied with reporting
requirements: Chevron, Shell, StatoilHydro

* Indonesia: Advocates call for stronger measures against tuberculosis
discrimination in the workplace

* India: New "Action Plan for Companies to Combat Child Labour"
- Developed by "Stop Child Labour - School is the best place to work"
campaign, with input from unions, business, NGOs, ILO

* Tate & Lyle sugar to be Fairtrade - biggest UK firm to do so

* 2008 a "defining" year for business & human rights: Commentary by
James Farrar

* Paper by Doreen McBarnet, Oxford Univ., on increasing role of law in
corporate social responsibility

* New summary profiles of business & human rights lawsuits, provided by
the Resource Centre: cases regarding Apartheid reparations; AngloGold
Ashanti (re silicosis, So. Africa), BHP Billiton (re environment, Papua
New Guinea) - other case profiles also available

* Call for papers: Conference on business, human rights & intl. law -
where next after Special Representative John Ruggie's final report?
Copenhagen, 6-7 Nov 2008

* Español: Colombia: Sindicato denuncia penalmente a C.I. Saceites por
"violación a domicilios, faltas a la libertad sindical"

* Español: México: A dos años de explosión en mina Pasta de Conchos, de
Industrial Minera México, siguen bajo tierra 65 mineros y se critica
la impunidad - Secretaría del Trabajo dice que no existen las
condiciones para recuperar los cuerpos

* Español: México: Foro sobre derechos laborales en la industria de la
maquila en Puebla y Tlaxcala - 28 de febrero, UNAM, México D.F.

* Español: Asepam (Asociación Española del Pacto Mundial de la ONU)
dice que empresas españolas lideran presentación de informes al Pacto
Mundial - ONGs y sindicatos escépticos

* Français : Séminaire sur la Responsabilité Sociale des Entreprises
dans l'espace francophone, Rabat, 28-29 février et 1 mars - organisé par
l'association Francophone des Commissions Nationales des Droits de

* Français : GlaxoSmithKline baisse le prix de ses médicaments
anti-sida pour les pays pauvres

Monday, February 25, 2008

HRW Report - On the Margins of Profit: Rights at Risk in the Global Economy

Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday on the effects of business on human rights. Here is the opening from the summary:
Business activity around the world has a profound effect on people’s lives and livelihoods, but international debates about business conduct frequently neglect to fully consider the many ways that businesses can advance or impede the enjoyment of human rights.

Existing corporate social responsibility initiatives, many of which have emerged in response to specific controversies, typically cover only a limited set of rights and apply selectively to individual companies or industries or particular country contexts, such as conflict areas. There are no widely agreed overarching standards for all businesses, but instead many different standards that address select human rights, select companies or industries, or select countries or situations. The result is a messy and inconsistent patchwork of voluntary pledges that have limited application, generally do not fully align with international human rights norms, and in any case are frequently disregarded in practice.

A common global approach is needed to consistently protect human rights in the face of business-related abuses and promote conduct by companies that respects and advances human rights.

This report—the outcome of a project by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law and Human Rights Watch—helps lay the factual foundation for such an approach by detailing the different ways in which business practices affect human rights. It presents examples drawn from more than 10 years of Human Rights Watch research that describe a wide variety of business-related abuses and obstacles to the justice sought by victims of these abuses.

The findings they reached are summarized as follows:
* Business impacts on human rights are not limited to sectors that have received the most attention to date, in particular apparel manufacturing and the extractive industries. Rather, the activities of all types of businesses—large and small, domestic and international, public and private—in all sectors can implicate human rights. To properly combat business-related human rights abuse, this broader set of actors and contexts needs to be addressed.

* In assessing the impact of business activity on human rights, it is important to focus as much on corporate ties with third parties that commit abuse (such as suppliers or government security forces) as on cases in which businesses themselves directly cause harm.

* Economic interests and other factors can lead governments to neglect victims of business-related abuses. If business-related abuses are to be curbed, greater attention needs to be paid to governmental obligations in the face of abuses perpetrated or facilitated by private actors.

* Individuals whose rights are affected by businesses often are unable to obtain meaningful redress; in too many cases, they face retaliation for even trying. This finding reinforces the need to promote access to justice for victims of business-related abuses and the importance of further examination of the reasons states are not providing appropriate remedies and reparations.

* Many companies have not ascribed to business standards addressing relevant human rights and, even when codes of conduct or commitments to social responsibility exist, they often are not adequately implemented. Additional standards and compliance mechanisms are needed.
Read the full report here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

getting the word out

I've got lots going on over the next couple of days. Tonight, Necessary Voices will be hosting a screening of Tambogrande at Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, in the Alice McKay Room, at 7:30. We will have an information table there.

Tomorrow, I'm going to the Nanaimo Film Festival at Malaspina University College to talk about Amnesty and BHR after the screening of The Curse of Copper. I believe I'm scheduled to speak around 10:35 or shortly after. It's in Room 211.

I've been doing tons of research on Ascendant Copper for my talk, and I'll be blogging about them in due course.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Business & human rights: Weekly Update - February 20, 2008

From the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre:
Weekly Update: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre – 20 February

CLICK THIS LINK FOR ALL TOP STORIES added past 7 days / Principales
noticias / Articles de premier plan:

The top stories include / Las noticias incluyen / Les articles

* "On the margins of profit": Overview of corporate human rights
impacts worldwide, by Human Rights Watch, Center for Human Rights and Global

* China: Fair Labor Association president says new labour law designed
to protect workers is having an impact (Newsweek)

* Burma: Construction of Myitsone dam (China Power Investment, Burmese
Govt.) begins - concerns of extortion & abuse of villagers by army
- We invited China Power Investment to respond but it has not yet done

* Crédit Agricole invests €50 million in new microfinance foundation
with Grameen Bank

* Sexual assault cases against women working for contractors in Iraq:
Barriers to holding companies accountable in USA (NY Times)

* BBC Newsnight video: Pressure on Beijing Olympics corporate sponsors
over human rights in China & Darfur

* Bahrain: Govt. says will improve conditions at labour camps after
strikes by migrant workers in construction sector

* USA: Health & safety abuses at House of Raeford poultry facilities
- House of Raeford response

* Burma: How competing Indian & Chinese business interests impede
engagement on human rights

* Nigeria: RUSAL aluminium company signs memorandum with local govt. &
communities - commits support for education, health, water access

* Signatories to UN Principles for Responsible Investment, representing
$2.13 trillion, urge 103 UN Global Compact companies to report on
their progress

* Declaration of African Private Sector Forum presented to African
Union - recommends that companies adopt UN Global Compact principles

* Pfizer response to Oxfam's "Investing for Life" report (further to
previous Updates)

* Job announcement: Chief Executive, FairPensions, UK (deadline 25 Mar)

* Job announcement: Advisor on sustainable business, Forum for the
Future, UK (deadline 27 Feb)

* Español: El Salvador: Campesinos temen daño a sus fuentes de agua
por proyecto de Pacific Rim Mining – incluye comentarios de la empresa

* Español: Argentina: Tras muerte de 2 empleados, trabajadores de
Acindar piden mejores condiciones de seguridad laboral

* Español: México: Reunión de Fundemex presenta programas para
abatir la pobreza con el apoyo de empresas

* Español: Chile: Conflicto entre salmonera Aguas Claras y
trabajadores por condiciones laborales continúa

* Español: Argentina: Buenos Aires aprueba ley obligando a empresas
grandes a reportar sobre aspectos sociales y ambientales

* Español: Argentina: Datos sobre agencias de seguridad privadas en
Rosario revelan problemas con el uso de armas

* Français : Côte d’Ivoire & Ghana : ONGs disent que peu de choses
ont changé pour les enfants ouvriers

* Français : Crédit Agricole lance une fondation pour le
micro-crédit avec Muhammad Yunus - dotée de 50 millions d'euros

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Business & human rights: Weekly Update - February 13, 2008

From the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre:
Weekly Update: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - 13 February

CLICK THIS LINK FOR ALL TOP STORIES added past 7 days / Principales
noticias / Articles de premier plan:

The top stories include / Las noticias incluyen / Les articles

* Cambodia: CSR-Asia commentary on role of business in forced evictions
for development projects
- Amnesty Intl. report, "Rights Razed: Forced evictions in Cambodia"

* Principles for effective dispute resolution mechanisms between
companies & people impacted by their operations: Summary by Caroline Rees

* Asia: Investment banks such as Lehman Brothers step up efforts to
recruit gay employees

* WHO report says shift of tobacco use to developing world due to
targeting "strategy" by tobacco industry

* Colombia: Case studies of companies employing demobilized combatants
& lessons learned

* (Product)RED & corporate partners have contributed $59 million to
Global Fund to fight AIDS - some criticise advertising costs & lack of

* Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition Nov 2007 discussion paper,
"Corporate Abuse in 2007", proposes changes to UK law
- This paper was recently submitted to UN Special Representative John

* Sir Geoffrey Chandler: "Business and human rights - A personal
account from the front line"

* "Human Rights, Indigenous Rights & the Extractive Industry," Report
on IPIECA workshop, Calgary, Jun 2007

* sanofi-Aventis response to Oxfam's "Investing for Life" report
(further to previous Updates)

* Español: Venezuela: Sindicato dice que deterioro de 10 muelles
petroleros pone en riesgo seguridad de empleados

* Español: Colombia: Casos y lecciones de empresas que emplean a
combatientes desmovilizados

* Español: México: Documental "Maquilapolis" detalla abusos laborales y
daños a la salud de mujeres trabajadoras en Tijuana

* Español: Curso de derechos humanos para la industria del petróleo y
el gas (IPIECA)

* Français : Chine : De plus en plus de travailleurs migrants
protestent contre des conditions de travail déplorables

* Français : Le secteur aérien prend des mesures pour déconnecter sa
croissance de son empreinte climatique

* Français : France : Chantiers de l'Atlantique (ex-filiale d'Alstom)
et Endel (groupe Suez) condamnés pour l'accident du Queen Mary 2 - mais
8 salariés relaxés

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

I've just received some info on the Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival February 28 to March 5. It looks like they have some interesting films showing.

El Ejido, The Law of Profit looks very interesting.

Friday, February 8, 2008

World Community Film Festival

Check out the World Community Film Festival at Langara College this weekend. Of note pertaining to issues of corporate social irresponsibility is The Curse of Copper. It is screened in Theatre 3 tomorrow (Saturday) at 12 pm:

Movie Title: The Curse of Copper

54 min.

2007 Friends of the Earth
Producer: Jenny Sharman

Description: The Intag region in Ecuador is one of the world’s ten most threatened biodiversity hotspots. On the border of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Ascendant Copper Corporation proposed to construct an open-pit copper mine. After a fierce battle in the 1990s between local people and mining corporations, the local government declared the whole of Cotacachi an “Ecological County”, and banned mining activities in the region. Despite this, in August 2002, two mining concessions in the Intag were secretly auctioned off by the Ecuadoran Ministry of Energy and Mines to a private trafficker in mining concessions.
These rights were subsequently sold in 2004 and then transferred to Ascendant Copper Corporation (ACX), based in Vancouver. The communities of Cotacachi have continued to resist the encroachment of Ascendant Copper on their lands and have gained the support of international organizations including Friends of the Earth, Mining Watch Canada and Rainforest Concern.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Business & human rights: Weekly Update - February 6, 2008

From the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre:
Weekly Update: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - 06 February

CLICK THIS LINK FOR ALL TOP STORIES added past 7 days / Principales
noticias / Articles de premier plan:

The top stories include / Las noticias incluyen / Les articles

* "Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights": Report on
consultation for UN Special Representative John Ruggie, Geneva, Dec 2007

* "Export Credit Agencies and the Intl. Law of Human Rights": Halifax
Initiative briefing prepared for John Ruggie

* Statement by John Ruggie to UNCITRAL (UN Commission on Intl. Trade
Law) working group on arbitration & conciliation

* Blackwater, KBR responses to Human Rights First report "Private
Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity" (further to
last week's Update)

* Oxfam comments on pharmaceutical company responses & non-responses to
its report "Investing for Life" (further to our 12 Dec Update)

* "Accountability Mechanisms for Resolving Complaints & Disputes"
involving companies:
- Report of Harvard workshop; mapping of existing mechanisms;
"strengths, weaknesses & gaps"; guidance tool & principles

* Panama: Cultural Survival says AES dams will harm Ngobe people -
"unscrupulous techniques" used to move them
- We invited AES to respond but they have not yet done so

* Lawsuits by Leigh Day against Trafigura, BP & Cape PLC over pollution
& health issues (Financial Times)

* India: Standard & Poor's environmental, social & governance index
launched - includes 50 Indian companies

* Human Rights Watch to launch report on business-related human rights
abuses, New York, 19 Feb

* USA: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley to require coal power
plants they finance to meet anticipated govt. standards on CO2

* Dem. Rep. of Congo: NGOs fear mining contract review process
"hijacked" after deals with Sinohydro, China Railway Engineering - call for

* Bill Moyers programme on Blackwater hearings in USA: Comments by
Congressman Waxman, killed employees' relatives, Blackwater CEO

* Australia's Human Rights Commissioner congratulates IBM for its
commitment to gay & lesbian rights

* Job announcement: Programme Officer - Asia Region, Fund for Global
Human Rights (deadline 18 Feb)

* Job announcement: Canadian Programme Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada
(deadline 28 Feb)

* Job announcement: UNRISD Research Assistant to work on business &
poverty reduction, Geneva (deadline 9 Mar)

* Anti-Slavery award: Closing date for nominations 31 Mar 2008

* French bank responses to Amnesty Intl. call to strengthen policies on
anti-personnel mines & cluster munitions (further to last week's
- Natixis response (in French)
- Clarification: BNP Paribas stated that it prefers not to respond
hastily to the 24 Jan statement by Amnesty France at this time, as it is
currently in dialogue with Amnesty

* Español: Colombia: Fallo de juez contra 2 paramilitares por asesinato
de sindicalista implica a Nestlé - comunicado de la empresa niega
"cualquier vínculo con grupos ilegales"

* Español: Chile: Trabajadores temporeros del sector exportador de
fruta denuncian graves abusos laborales

* Español: México: Crean directorio de productos y servicios
sustentables, buscando generar consumo responsable

* Français : Rép. Dém. du Congo : ONG s'inquiètent du détournement du
processus d'examen des contrats miniers - appel à la transparence

* Français : Suite à notre actualité du 31 janvier sur la demande
d'Amnesty International aux banques françaises d'adopter des politiques de
non-investissement dans les entreprises liées aux mines antipersonnel &
aux bombes à sous-munitions
- Réponse de Natixis
- Clarification : BNP Paribas a indiqué qu'elle préfère ne pas répondre
de façon précipitée au communiqué d'Amnesty du 24 janvier à ce moment,
car un dialogue est en cours entre BNP Paribas et Amnesty

* Français : Inde : Fibre & Fabrics International retire ses plaintes à
l'encontre d'associations de défense des droits des travailleurs

* Français : Burkina Faso : Dons de médicaments valant près de $450
millions par Pfizer, Merck, Glaxo pour soigner les maladies tropicales